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How to Use Nanowrimo to Change Your Life

You might think that the only thing you’re going to get from writing a novel this month is a horrible first draft, some pretty web graphics, a cramp in your neck and a high caffeine tolerance. Of course, taken at face value and used in the most basic way, this might be all you get from Nanowrimo. But used properly, Nanowrimo can change your whole life in ways you might never have imagined.

So how can you use Nanowrimo to change your life? Well, for starters now you can call yourself a novelist, which should give your ego a nice boost. But the changes I’m talking about here are deeper changes. Nanowrimo, used properly, can be a tool to teach yourself discipline, discover what you really want in life, and create a happier future for yourself. Today I’m going to show you how.

Discipline. Nanowrimo is all about meeting goals. For the next 30 days you plan to force yourself to write 1, 667 words per day or whatever is required to meet your goal. Even if you’re more like me and you plan bigger writing days specifically so you can take days off, you’re still focused on meeting goals. For me, daily goals fluctuate due to scheduling and tendonitis, but my weekly goals don’t change. And every week–even if it means staying up until three in the morning on the last day of the week–I meet that goal.

The discipline it takes to write a novel in a month can be carried over to your life in December. Let’s see how this works with the most obvious example, your non-Nanowrimo writing and editing goals. If you know you normally don’t spend enough time writing, but during Nanowrimo you spend so much time writing you alienate friends and family, your goal for December should be to find a happy medium. Say regularly you spend only a half hour writing every day, but during Nanowrimo you spend three hours writing every day. That’s still enough time to get a fair bit of work done, and it shouldn’t cut into your other duties so much.

Why does Nanowrimo help with this? First off, it gives you an idea of what you can accomplish in three hours. Second, it gives you the momentum you’ll need to continue writing every day. Third, your family’s grown accustomed to losing three hours, so an hour and a half won’t seem like such a big deal. And it doesn’t have to be writing–you can allocate the now freed Nanowrimo time to anything you’ve been neglecting, like art projects or exercise. After all, you’ve already started forcing yourself to be productive every day, so why not keep going?

Discovering Priorities. If you pay attention to how you feel throughout the month of November, you’ll learn a lot about what really matters to you. You’ll discover whether or not you care enough to maintain a strict writing routine every day. You’ll also discover which things you missed when you sacrificed them to devote yourself to Nanowrimo, and which you didn’t. I bet, if you’re really paying attention, there’s at least one TV show you never really loved that much–which gives you at least half an hour of free time.

As you sit and reflect on what you do miss and what you don’t miss about regular life, you can figure out what things were missing from your regular life. If you’ve decided to give up that one TV show for good, what will you do with the time you gain? Maybe you want to read more. Maybe you want to keep that as writing time. Maybe there’s another long lost passion that you want to explore again, like sewing or running.

As the month wears on, seriously consider your new schedule. What about it do you like? What about it don’t you like? How could you adjust your post-Nano days so you get the most out of each one? Your intense focus on writing during the month should help clarify what you really want out of life.

A happier future. Over the course of this month you’ve given yourself a strict routine and become more disciplined. You’ve also written a novel–no small feat–and discovered what truly makes you happy–or at least what doesn’t. The important thing now is to take your new found knowledge and discipline and put them towards creating a better life for yourself.

What does that look like? Well, it’s different for everyone. For me, it looks like re-evaluating my writing goals and deciding how much time I can really afford to give each project. For some, it looks like taking a class in something like yoga or dance. For others, it means returning to their passion for art. December first might even be when some people realize that they’re dissatisfied with their life as a whole and decide to tear up their roots and start over someplace else.

Creating a better life looks different for everyone, because everyone has a different idea of what that better life will look like. But no matter what your better life looks like, you’ll never get there if you aren’t disciplined and constantly re-assessing what you truly want and how to get it.

If you take anything other than tendonitis and a horrible novel away from this experience, I hope you’ll walk away knowing that anything is possible if you try hard enough, and that there’s never a better moment than now to get disciplined and create a better life for yourself.



This year most of my goals revolve around one thing: discipline. In past years I have fallen off of the writing bandwagon. I have forgotten to blog for weeks on end, and I have failed to finish several projects. I have not made the amount of time for my writing that I should have. In short, I have not been disciplined enough.

But things are changing this year. This summer I turn eighteen and I will finally be old enough to sign a book contract. This year I have to put in the effort. This year I have to pull myself together and finish, edit, and submit. I have often said that I do not have a part time job because I spend the time I would spend at such a job writing. But this is only an excuse unless I am actually trying to make a living off of my writing.

My goals this year are much smaller than my goals last year, but they are also more focused. By the end of this year I want to have one novella out on submission and one novel about to be sent out for the first time. It’s time for me to stop procrastinating and start really writing. This is my career, this is my future and I have to take it seriously.

So how am I going to become more disciplined this year?

Breaking Down Big Goals

Breaking down big goals will allow me to focus on individual tasks-what I need to do right now rather than what I need to do by the end of the year. Preparing Moonshadow’s Guardian for submission doesn’t seem so daunting when I have a timeline for the big rewrite, the second rewrite, the final proofread and creating the query package. Having Some Secrets Should Never Be Known ready for its final proofread by next year seems just a bit easier when I have a timeline for pre-work, writing, and rewriting.

Break down your yearly goals into monthly goals. If you need to make even smaller goals, think about weekly goals and daily goals-for example, if you write a page a day, will you meet your monthly timeline? How about if you write a chapter or two each week? Writing two chapters a week, even if it means finishing your novel by the end of the month, doesn’t feel quite so daunting as ‘finish my novel by the end of the month’.

Changing My Mindset to Change My Life

Last summer I learned that there really is something to how you think about things, that it actually does influence your life’s course. I challenged many of my beliefs and I have become a better person because of that. I have overcome former weaknesses, though I will never be perfect. I have accomplished what I wanted and needed to accomplish.

This year I am going to do much the same thing with my writing. Here are some of the beliefs I have to challenge:

I don’t have time to write If I have time to go out and see my friends and plenty of time to spend with my boyfriend, I have time to write. I just need to spend less time socializing and more time writing. I have to make the time and I have to say no to last minute plans.

I won’t make a living as a writer until I’m old If I focus hard enough, if I truly dedicate myself to my craft, if I put in the effort, I can get published sooner rather than later. I am a good writer, and though I will always be learning, I know enough now to start making a career. And if I focus hard enough and I get published soon, I can probably be making a living off my writing by the time I’m 25.

I need more life experience to get published I’ve had a lot more life experience than many people my age. I have matured as a person and as a writer. I am quite capable right now. Life experience will always help make my writing better, but I can’t wait for life to happen. I need to make the writing happen sooner rather than later.

Paying Attention to Small Accomplishments

Giving yourself a pat on the back every time you accomplish something small is more productive than thinking about what you still have left to do. You may have heard the advice to live your life in the moment; well, to a point, writing should be much the same way. You should focus on the scene or page or chapter that you are working on rather than the whole book. Whole books are a lot scarier to think about.

Next time you finish your writing for the day, congratulate yourself. Think about what you’ve accomplished and how well you’re doing. Don’t think about the next day or the day after that. Just sit down with a cup of something warm and tasty and enjoy yourself.

Applying Butt To Chair

Any writer worth his or her salt knows that the most important thing about being a writer is applying your butt to the chair and actually writing. This is also the hardest part of being a writer. Calling yourself a writer and having great ideas are easy; sitting down and turning those ideas into stories is hard. There are a few things that I need to do to help myself apply butt to chair:

Spend more time at home Lots of writers don’t have this problem. There are many shy writers and I would go so far as to say that the majority of writers have problems socializing. Personally I am extremely social and though I don’t hang out with many ‘normal people’ (by society’s standards) I do hang out with a lot of people. I need to spend more time at home to ensure that I have time for both homework and writing stuff.

Take My Writing Seriously the other part of this is to make sure my friends take my writing seriously. I need to learn how to say no when I’m invited out. I need to make my friends aware that I do need time for writing. I don’t need to schedule specific writing time every day-but I do need to make sure that I have a little bit of time to write every day or almost every day.

Focus on the Dream When life gets me down and it gets hard to find time to write-or hard to write-I need to remember my dream. I need to close my eyes and imagine my future-preferrably in a little house somewhere near or on the cliffs of Scotland, writing books with a couple of cats and hopefully the same man I have now. I need to remember why I put myself through the pain of forcing words onto a blank page. I need to remember that it’s all worth it in the end.

This year I need to focus on becoming a real, professional writer. It’s time to stop messing around and start treating my writing like what it is-a career, a future. It’s time to be a little more disciplined. And when I am my future will fall into place.

How can you be more disciplined?