How I Became A Writer & 10 Things I Learned From NaNoWriMo

I have a story to tell. Long story short: in 2010, NaNoWriMo changed my life.

Now the short story long. In 2010, I was attending university but when I entered the third semester, I knew I no longer wanted to continue with my studies. History of Art was sorta fun but I couldn’t imagine what I’d do with the degree after three years. So instead of seminars, I went to the movies. New day, new movie, a new story to think about.

It was fun for a week, but when the week turned into a month, it started to feel like I lost perspective on my life. I wanted to do something meaningful and when I finally had a long conversation with my then-partner, he asked me: “And what do you think would make your life complete and satisfied?” I paused for a moment to think it through. The answer wasn’t hard to find. I said: “You see, I’ve been keeping those stories in my head for so long…I think I always wanted to write.”

Writing a story felt like a big challenge, though. By that time I was only writing articles for internet magazines (including my own) but I soon started to realise that fiction writing was a different cup of tea. Where to start, I asked? Again, my ex had given me an answer: “I’ve just read about this thing called NaNoWriMo. It’s a platform that supports you to write a novel in a month. You need to write 50,000 words in a month. Maybe you could join?”

So I did. I’ve decided that if I could write 50,000 words in one month, I would become a writer. I guess I wanted to become a writer really bad because I met the goal and embraced creative writing ever since. I published a collection of short stories and a children’s book, The Girl Who Wanted to Catch a Cloud in a Marmalade Jar. I’m still far from how much I want to contribute with my writing to people but I’m at least on my way.

In case you’re considering that being a writer is for you but not sure, I hardly recommend NaNoWriMo. And if you’re still not convinced, read my 10 reasons why it will support you to become one.

1. The End Can Be Scary

When I started writing, I learnt that putting a lot of work into something you care about is scary at the beginning. Now let me tell you a secret: it’s the scariest in the end! Once I wrote the novel, I knew I could be a writer. How amazing! But…oh-oh. Now what? Here I was, facing a new chapter of my life.

2. Next Time It’s Going To Be A Little Easier

I wish I could say a lot easier but it’s not always true. I discovered that the more knowledge and skills I gained, the more courage I had to do it again. Eventually, I stopped worrying about the big stuff (50,000 words) because I learnt that I can cut things into smaller chunks.

3. You Can Accomplish A Lot In 30 Days

I love challenges. In writing, in running, in life. If you push yourself, you’ll see you can make a huge progress in very short time. It’s amazing what you can do. You may not sleep a lot and some things in your life will get neglected, but if you keep the distractions down, you will see a huge progress.

4. You’ll Be Inspired To Do New Things

When you learn you can write for 30 days every day almost 1,700 words, you can definitely do other things and get the most of them. It took me about 8 hours of writing daily. When I stopped writing so much every day, it felt like I had 8 hours of free time. 

5. You’ll Get Patient

To put away almost everything for 30 days in your life is going to give you a whole new perspective on being patient. You won’t have time for fun. No TV, no video games, and maybe even no friends. In order to go on, you’ll need to be very patient with yourself. 

6. Focus

This is pretty self-explanatory. Just like patience, you’ll gain a lot of focus.

7. It’s 50,000 Words, Not A Novel

Many people think that if you complete NaNoWriMo, you have a full novel to publish. The truth is quite the opposite. In NaNoWriMo, you don’t write an actual novel. What you write is a draft consisting of 50,000 words of the novel you intend to write.

8. Writing Is A Creative Process

I know this is obvious but the trouble with creative process is that you never know where it takes you or how it turns out. And that’s the most beautiful part, too. So every time you sit to write or create something, no matter how strong your vision is, your creativity can lead you somewhere else. Action creates inspiration.

9. Live Now, Not In The Future

Every time I started worrying about what the hell I’m going to write about today, I got frustrated with my writing. I worried about next scenes, about middles, about ending, about everything. I learnt that I needed to plan what’s coming next and not worry about it.

10. Have Fun

I think that sometimes as a writer I forget to have fun. I like to complain that writing a story is hard, or other writers even say that writing feels like having a homework for the rest of their lives. When you’re writing, creating, working hard, never forget to have fun! It’s the only way to stay completely satisfied with what you do. In the long run, that’s the only thing that matters most.

If you ever tried NaNoWriMo or any other 30-day challenge, what have you learnt from it?