NaNoWriMo and Neo-Ren

If you read this title and thought NaNoWriMo is some weird hybrid animal that’s a cross between an alien being from the planet Ork and a rhinoceros, then you probably aren’t a writer and you don’t know that the inflated acronym stands for National Novel Writing Month.

I first heard about NaNoWriMo several years ago. As a newer writer, I thought it was mainly a gimmick.

Last year I tried it…and “won.” Winning means writing a 50,000 novel during the month of November. I won’t pretend that my writing was good enough to be published. The same can probably be said for 99.9% of the writers who succeeded at NaNoWriMo (NNWM) last year.

Getting published is neither the point nor the goal of NNWM. The goal is to write.

Every day for 30 days straight. Or at least often enough to write an average of 1,667 words per day. And for that purpose, NNWM is a great tool and motivator. But it’s darn hard.

I joined again this year, and despite a late start, I’m slowly catching up. Last year I wrote about half of the sequel to my first novel, An Inconvenient Death . This year my goal is to finish the first draft of that sequel,  Castle Danger.

Why is the discipline of writing 50,000 words a useful exercise for a Neo-Renaissance guy like myself? Several reasons.

First, it takes self-discipline to write for a few hours a day no matter what. And when the inevitable day off from writing happens, it takes even more resolve to write extra words on the remaining days to catch up. Neo-Rens are successful because they force themselves out of their comfort zones on occasion, which often gives them new perspectives on themselves and others. Writing that much reinforces that being an author is hard work, writing takes time, good writing takes more time and revision, and any old Joe with a good story to tell won’t automatically hit the NY Times bestseller list after he slaps his memoir into a manuscript and self-publishes.

Second, creative writing is a unique skill set worthy of exploring for the exercise it gives one’s mind. I try to have a good plot outlined and define my main characters well enough to know how to proceed during NNWM, but even then, letting ideas flow onto a page and turning that into a rudimentary story is quite liberating. It’s similar to improvising music on an instrument. You’ve prepared by practicing the basics, but once you start playing, you let your imagination take over while your logical brain sits back and watches. Creativity is a huge part of a Neo-Ren life because generating new ideas and new ways of thinking is at the core of how civilization improves and succeeds, heck, survives! The world needs as many creative people as we can get in order to solve the problems we’ll encounter in the future. Problems we don’t even know we’ll have.

Third, the self-satisfaction that comes from reaching a defined, challenging but attainable goal. Even though I was only half-done with my novel last year, the fact that I had cranked out 50,000 words into half of a coherent story was a great boost to my self-esteem. That manuscript is measurably better than the first draft of my first novel, so I have concrete proof that I’m improving as a writer.

Bottom line: challenge yourself, get out of your comfort zone, strive for something you don’t know you have inside. Do something new or different. You’ll be better for it, and maybe the world will be better off in some small way thanks to your effort.

My question to you: What have you done or are planning to do that will challenge you and/or take you out of your comfort zone?

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