What I learned from NaNoWriMo and my 52 Week Blog Challenge 2020

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Recently, I won the NaNoWriMo event and when I say “won”, I mean that I wrote 50,000 words of a novel in a month. Needless to say, it was a mammoth task and I don’t want to take anything away from my achievement by trivialising it or even thinking that in true terms, it was not really a competition where there is one winner. It was the neo-social ideology which talks about everyone being a winner, and theoretically, I do not have a problem with that kind of thinking. In fact, I believe that no matter how insignificant the achievement, it needs to be celebrated. So, indeed, I celebrated. But the critical part of my brain was nagging at me. It wanted me to think about my one-month experience of pounding at the keyboard, typing out thousands of words every single day. What did I learn from this experience?

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Writing every single day is imperative

If I want to think of myself as a serious writer and later, as a professional one, then I need to write a stipulated number of words every single day. Because I stuck with it during NaNoWriMo, even on days when I was not writing the novel as such, I was having conversations with myself about which direction the story would go and how best to go about it. That exercise really helped in shaping the story and taking it forward when I would actually sit down to write. What better way to write every day than through a self-imposed challenge to write a blog post every week?

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Writing publishable work

In Western academia, ‘publish or perish’ is a common mantra that everyone from doctoral students to seasoned professors live by. In a way, it is true that all the hard work put into one’s writing/research will come to nought if it doesn’t see the light of day. Although I wrote 50k words, I was not happy with the outcome. The focus was on writing. It did not matter what I wrote or whether what I wrote would be used in the novel at all. So, I need to figure out a system of editing my work as I go along. By writing a blog post every week, I will be spending time editing my work. My brain is already going, “I am game!”

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Writing is hard work

My mind knows only too well that writing is very hard work. There are days when I find myself staring at the screen, unable to think of one single coherent sentence. I have to get outside my head which keeps saying ‘I don’t want to write right now’. My head knows that it is hard work and wants to avoid doing it. It is an avoidance tactic. I need to find a way of doing some weeding inside my head. I am going to try different techniques like Pomodoro, but with a goal in mind – to write a blog post. This piecemeal approach will help me stay focussed as well as give me the necessary tools to become a serious writer. Murakami stated that running 186 miles a month qualifies one as a serious runner. I wonder if there is a number for qualifying as a serious writer?

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Writing should neither be the slave nor the master

I need to relax about writing. I cannot force it and at the same time, I cannot let it rule my head. After being at it for a week or so, I noticed a pattern emerging. I noticed that I would get a 1000 words typed up in the early hours of the morning, and then the rest of the day I would think about what to write. And then around 6pm, I would start to write till 12 or 1 in the morning. This way, I could control what I write and how much, while also giving my mind the free reign to write when it felt it was ready. The 52 week Blog Challenge fits into this theme beautifully. It strikes the perfect balance.

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Writing consistently calms the mind

As a mother, I always struggle with sleep-deprivation. I am the kind of person who needs 7.5 hours of sleep daily. I can survive on 5.5 but after a few days of this rigour, my body crashes and I end up sleeping 16 hours straight. Being a mother to a six-year-old, that is not a system I can subscribe to. At least, not on a regular basis. So, writing has always taken a back seat. But I noticed during NaNoWriMo that I was doing well with 6 hours of sleep. It was perhaps the excitement of creating something that fuelled me on. During NaNoWriMo I would wake up at a decent hour all fresh-brained from good quality sleep exactly after 6 hours! I was riding a creativity high and like all addicts, it is the high that I would love to chase. Throw in the 52 Week Challenge in this fray, and we could be on the way to brewing the perfect potion for my mind-body-soul homeostasis.

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The 52-week Blog Challenge

I do not believe in new year resolutions. It sounds empty and meaningless. Instead, I would rather have some goals that I can achieve. The goals need to strike a balance between something I can achieve but not something that I can easily achieve. After careful evaluation of my NaNoWriMo experience, I have made up my mind that I will take on the 52 Week Blog Writing Challenge. Essentially, it would mean that I will post one blog entry per week (typically, every Sunday) about something in my life and something about me. There is a lot of chatter inside my head and I have a lot to say about a lot of things. I am hoping that by the end of 52 weeks, I would have streamlined the ideas into something workable for the blog.

Without further ado, as they say, “let the games begin!” 

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