Clearing space for National Novel Writing Month

November is National Novel Writing Month, otherwise known as NaNoWriMo.  Beginning on November 1st, some 30,000 participants from all over the world come together, if not physically then in spirit, each one to produce 50,000 words by midnight on November 30th. Writing groups and libraries open their doors days and evenings and sometimes even all night long, in support of NaNoWriMo.

Anticipation and excitement is the air right about now, amongst new and experienced writers alike.  Having a national event gives participants added structure – focused writing times, organized groups, a goal of 1600+ words per day on average to “win”. It also gives us permission- you’ve got to drop some other stuff in order to do this-it’s part of the plan! The go big or go home mentality keeps many writers tapping away at their keyboards for these thirty days.

Many writers prepare by creating a detailed outline of their intended novel. The idea is that by the end of the month, you will have completed a first draft. Having the outline ready allows you to jump right in to writing the book on November 1st. Rules are flexible though, since writing really is an individual activity. Several writers that I know of, myself included, are using the month to continue- and hopefully finish- the first draft of a work already in progress. I’m still writing the book I was writing last November, a literary memoir. I’ve been tapping out the words, day by day, but nothing tethers my attention to it like NaNoWriMo.

My preparations include simplifying everything I can in order to ensure the most productive month of writing that I can. The fact that I have an idea for my next book tugging at me is a reminder that I need to bring my current project to completion. Instead of completely suppressing my new book idea, I started a file of notes to refer to later. I refuse to give this much attention though, until my current project is complete. By nature I am not a multitasker and therefore focusing on two big projects at once is counterproductive.

So it is with a sense of urgency that I will be caught up on all pesky chores, and my surroundings will be organized. For me, the days leading up to NaNoWriMo mean cleaning out a closet, dusting my writing table, doing every last stitch of laundry; phone calls are returned and emails are answered. Shopping is done, plants are watered, and rugs are vacuumed. I’ve mentally scheduled in yoga classes and walking my dog. Habits that free up my creativity will be as important as food and water.

Because approaching National Novel Writing Month requires more than a book idea. What it asks of writers is to clear up space, both physically and psychologically. It demands that our creativity take center stage in our lives, if only for thirty days. I am always amazed and impressed with people who successfully tackle this month on top of a very busy schedule. They inspire me to be a more disciplined writer, which is a stretch for someone who requires so much space that I can get writer’s block just from the sound of someone else chewing.

Here’s to November. I look forward to the inspiration, the camaraderie and hopefully, finally, the finished draft. I am excited to complete this project I’ve birthed, and launch it out into the world, however difficult that particular launching road may be. Like an adult child who hasn’t left home, my current book needs a little push and National Novel Writing Month can do just that. So I’m returning my library books, sweeping my floor and generally getting things in order. Like so many others who will begin investing extra time in their writing on the first of November, I’ve invited in the muse and the spirit of the month to come through all open doors and empty spaces. Bring it on, November. The writers are ready.

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