What I Won’t Be Doing For NaNoWriMo


(NOTE: There seems to be a bit of hacking or shennanigans happening.  There are several words, such as “complete” and “in one direction” that have links to advertisers.  I’ve tried to break those links and nothing’s happening.  I am in no way affiliated with those advertisers, don’t appreciate their appearance on my blog, and will take up this matter with WordPress.  I’ve paid for upgraded service without ads, and this stinks on ice.  I apologize for what appears to be hustling.  But please do click through to the books and web sites I’ve noted.  They’re well worth it.)

(Second NOte:  I made a typo in the title and wrote “What I Won’t Be Dong For NaNoWriMo”  It was sooooo tempting to leave it there.  There’s nothing more inviting than human error, but that one had me laughing too much.)

NaNo is a beautiful thing, unless I turn it into something more than it is.  And what it is, for me, an entire month dedicated to what I really like doing.  I’ll stop loving it if I turn it into a 30-day trip into insanity.  So, here’s a list of what I won’t be doing before, during, and after NaNo.

It won’t be turned into an abnormal part of writing.
There will be times in any writing life when deadlines are imposed from either an external source or our own internal goals.  Writing a bunch of words in a short amount of time is a normal, expected part of any writing career, but not the grinding reality of every single day.  I’m going to approach this year’s NaNo as practice for those times when a deadline comes screaming at me, and I refuse to back down from the challenge.

Ain’t No Way I’m Seeing This In Terms Of Winning Or Losing

Yeah, I know, you don’t get the NaNo certificate unless you complete 50,000 words in 30 days, and that’s considered “winning.”  One of the inspirational sources I consistently turn to is Coach John Wooden, even though I’m not much of a sports fan.  I only enjoy viewing those things I know I’m going to do, and team sports don’t fall into that category.  As a coach, Wooden’s teams won more games than any other teams under the guidance of a single coach. Ever.  Those he coached, some of the biggest starts in basketball, claim Wooden not only turned them into winners of the game but winners in their lives as well.

John Wooden put heavy emphasis on many things in developing his players, but the one thing he never even spoke about was winning.  He focused on building character, believing that was the real prize.  It is.  With solid character, most will “win” in whatever they set their minds to win.

So I’m not viewing NaNo in terms of winning or losing, but rather as a character building exercise.  Keeping my promises to myself, my promises to others, being diligent in my efforts, never giving up, accepting failure as part of the journey, and a list of other elements of character too long to mention here.  His books are all over online bookstores.  You might want to give them a look.  I’ll be picking up The Maxwell Daily Reader to my morning routine.  If I don’t win NaNo this year, I’ll still win some character, and that’s more important than any tool any of us can gather.

I Won’t Enter NaNo Fried To A Crisp

In the past, I’ve come across post made by people preparing for NaNo and rearranging their lives for this marathon.  Nope, I won’t do it.  I won’t cook and free a month’s worth of food or mow the lawn to a nubbin’ or have a mani-pedi-wax-me-smooth day before November 1.  Things will fall to semi-ruin during the upcoming 30 days, but, hey, them’s the breaks.  I got work to do, and there’s no way I can get ahead of the other stuff in life that will suffer because my focus is in one direction.

Besides, I think a lot of that preparation is a way of burning off anxiety about NaNo and it’s demands.  We can get frightened of “winning” and place our value as writers on crossing the finish line, and that’s horribly uncomfortable.  So we get busy to shut it out of our minds.

It’s easier to stop, ask yourself what’s so frightening about this event, then have a good talk with yourself about the irrationality of the fear, or if you’re the super social type, talk with some friends or fellow writers.  It is never as difficult facing down our fears as running from them, it just feels that way.  We fear if we blow off our jitters by cleaning like maniacs we won’t have to face the devastation of an outline that isn’t coming together.  We’d rather spend money we don’t have on toys we won’t have time to learn than work on character sketches and discover we don’t like our characters as much as we thought when they were living in our minds.

Dig this:  Just as first drafts are often junk, outlines and character sketches and synopses and all sorts of other pre-writing activities can be junk, too.  It’s not the end of the world and it says nothing about our skill as writers.  They’re junk.  Have you seen what people are doing with junk in the DIY movement?  If someone can take empty plastic soda bottles and turn them into gorgeous fairy light art installments, you can re-structure your pre-writing activities into pure gold. Or throw them out because they’re not your process, or the raw material you’ll sculpt into story as you go along.  Maybe not today or by November 1, but that’s OK. Writing is who you are, not what you do, and if you just keep doing you without quitting, you’ll nail it.

It’s also OK to lose control over other things in your life when you have a tough deadline in front of you, and that’s includes losing control of your bushy eyebrows or nose hair.  Both you and the world will survive if a little imperfection enters the picture.


One of the most common emails I get from writers is one asking how I find time to write.  One of the most common suggestions I see for finding time for any kind of writing is to make time–get up an hour earlier, stay up and hour later, or skip that regularly scheduled afternoon nap.  Hey, yeah, that’s a terrific idea.  Go into a demanding situation in a constant state of sleep deprivation.  That’ll make it a wonderful experience.

No, it won’t.  Sleep deprivation is shuts down parts of the brain you need most when you’re under perceived or concrete pressure.  Don’t do it.  Instead:


This is a wonderful opportunity for building the character it takes to say “No” to the demands around you and let other people take as much responsibility for their needs as you’re taking for yours.  Believe it or not, kids really do want to do it for themselves.  It’s called autonomy, and it’s pretty scary.  You’re facing your fears, let them face theirs.  Kids also need to feel needed.  One of the biggest problems kids enter adulthood with is the insecurity that they can’t take care of themselves and/or they don’t have value.  They’re useless decorations. They’ll scream and yell and pull a snit because you’re not doing everything for them, but it’s human nature to fight for what you need, and that’s often manifested in children by creating fights where they’ve learned there is no fight.  You’ve taught them they can’t, or won’t, have their hard-won autonomy because you’re doing it all for them.  It brings peace in the moment but disaster in the long run.  This is a great opportunity to practice letting your kids make a mess as they fail their way towards mastery of small skills, and help them earn their sense of value by being valuable to you in meeting your goals.  There is no child so evil that they’ll enjoy your heartbreak.  If you can’t meet your goals because you’re constantly catering to their every little need, you’re not doing them any favors.

Ditto with partners and significant others.  I’ve already started telling my husband he’s got to pull a little more weight around this joint, and much to my gobsmackedness, he’s enjoyed doing something nice for me.  All people are inherently good, but too many of us aren’t generous enough to give them the chance of proving it.  Of course there are big jerks in this world, and you might be stuck with one.  Use this month to test your perceptions of that jerk.  Maybe they’re jerks because you’re such a tough broad or big bad breadwinner you don’t dare let them take care of you for a change.

Declare existing time for your goals and needs.  You’ll learn a lot more than how to write a novel in a month by doing so.

I’m Not Going To Stop Reading And Blogging And Learning

Hello, world, blogging is writing, and I’m still finding my voice as a blogger and exploring its possibilities.  I’ve got several other blogs out there with different voices and different objectives, and all of them are long-term commitments.  Even if I spend just a half hour a day or a week on those projects, they won’t be forgotten.  I’m having too much fun exploring the options and the writing, and whenever the lines between work and pleasure fade, you know you’re where you belong.  I’m gonna turn my back on that for an externally imposed goal I’ve accepted for the sake of building character?  I’m sorry, that makes sense how…?

I won’t stop reading, either.  Too many good books out there, too little time.  Again, even if it’s just a few minutes a day or week, I’ll keep my finger in the digital page and marking my spot.  It’s a monstrous lack of character blowing off friends, and books are the best friends I’ve got.  Not gonna do it.  Besides, some of that reading is research, and I stop, I’m lost.  Not good.

There are a pot load of blogs I read daily, but that will be narrowed down for the month of NaNo.  I’ll continue reading the ones that feed me the most.  They are:

Kristen Lamb’s Blog.  She’s generous with her knowledge and she spreads a whole lot of love into this world of indie publishing (and, boy, do we need that!).  Besides that, she says, “Dig this,” which is a peculiarity of my own writing I thought was weird.  Seeing someone else use it makes me wonder if there’s something in the Beat Era that’s calling to us right now.

Roz Morris’s Undercover Soundtrack  By now it’s fairly clear that I admire Roz Morris and value her book, but in this loud and crowded world of indie writers, she features some of the best writers of the best books in the Undercover Soundtrack.  It’s pretty frustrating right now finding books I really like in the indie world, but Roz tracks them down every time.  I’ve yet to be disappointed with the writers she features.

My Own WordPress Stream.  The writers I’ve connected with through WordPress are all very important to me, whether they’re mega-stars of the bestseller charts or people just starting our on their dream of writing.  They’re the biggest VIPs I’ve come across yet on this journey, and I’ll claim extra time for checking in with them.

So there it is.  A partial list of things I won’t do for NaNoWriMo.  There are more things I won’t do, but this list has been enough for helping me define why I’m doing NaNo, why I want to do it, what I intend to get out of it, and how NaNo will be what I want it to be.

More than anything, I’m tackling NaNoWriMo as part of my never-ending quest of building character.  With character everything is possible, and most things are probable.  There’s magic in writing, and writing this post has uncovered one of my most important quests.  From my other writing I’ve discovered the importance of living my life with bold, clean lines, the value of paternal love in our personal worlds, and the thoughtful rebellion that is my nature.

NaNo hasn’t even started and I’ve already won.  Whatever medium of artistic expression that calls to you, answer that call with everything you’ve got.  It’s the magic key that unlocks the door to the secrets you keep from yourself.

PHOTO CREDIT: kharied via photopin cc

9 thoughts on “What I Won’t Be Doing For NaNoWriMo

  1. Running from Hell with El

    I dig your take on NaNo. I may or may not join the fray, but I refuse to view writing as a competition. Oh my, I sense a list of my own rules coming on, lol. My primary one is that I won’t sacrifice quality for quantity. 50,000 words of total shite is not worth writing. I have lots of other “will not dos” but this is about your list, and I think you make good points above. Write well, my friend, and be well.

    1. cydmadsen

      Thank you. I’m VERY happy that you’ve got your own list of dos and don’ts. The last thing I want to do is even suggest how others are supposed to do things. I don’t like the idea of a competition, either, which is why I don’t like the idea of “winning” NaNo. I think you can “win” if you jump in, realize your process and priorities, and say “This is crazy” then go about your business. In general, I don’t like the direction writing is taking–do it fast, self-pub a lot of books, market, market, market. I’d rather write one quality book in a lifetime then 40 money-makers in a year.

      NaNo is what you make of it, and if you make the decision it’s has no value for you, then you’re that much closer to knowing your process. You write well and be well, too. I’ll catch up with you blog as part of my weekend pleasures.

      1. Running from Hell with El

        I found myself thinking about this a lot last night, and I woke up thinking about it. I swore I would never play NaNo because it does a few things I don’t like that you touch on above. For example, it turns writing into a competition and it feeds into this “churn out quantity not quality” concept. I agree: I’d rather write one good novel (deep down I hope for excellent but have learned not to put that much pressure on myself) than 40 cruddy ones (oops, you wrote”moneymakers”).

        I am tempted to sign on to this anyway because someone invited me and I am a joiner. LOL. But I write literary fiction, so this is pretty crazy. 50,000 words would only get me one-third or at most one-half of a first draft. But I might still do it, just for the company and the fellowship. After all, this is a lonely job . . . but I will not shoot for a word count that takes me from creating good content.

        I hope you’re having a great Saturday. It’s soccer Saturday here (three kids, four games).

  2. Alison Smith

    Great post. NaNo seems so overwhelming when you start overcompensating in a race to the word goal. I want to finish, but mostly, I want to have writing as a normal part of my life, not just a one month frenzy of stocking up on caffeine and snacks and locked doors in order to push through. This is just a part of me and the extra kinship added during Nov is a wonderful thing.

    However, I must add that, leaving your post, I can only think one thing: I cannot read the words “not gonna do it” without hearing Dana Carvey in my head. Strange what we keep linked in our brains over time.

    1. cydmadsen

      I know! For months “Footloose” has been going through my mind, and I don’t know why. It’s so odd what sticks and what slips away on the teflon of our thoughts. I’ll be honest and say I’m doing NaNo this year more for the social side. We’re new to this area and it’s been difficult finding my “tribe.” I’m hoping NaNo will help. It’s pretty lonely living out here in the country. It’s been good for the silence of letting thoughts settle, but I’ve reached my limits. Not gonna do it. LOL See you at NaNo? We can hook up with writing buddies. I’m not sure how, but I’m off to the site and dig in. Thanks again for stopping by and commenting. Greatly appreciated.

  3. Pingback: Countdown to NaNoWriMo | Rena D. Burgess

    1. cydmadsen

      Hi. Thanks so much for dropping by and commenting. I really appreciate it. In any career or pleasure plath we choose, there will be times of difficulties, but how difficult those times are depends on how we approach them. Even if there are big challenges, we can develop a sense of excitement and even fun in dealing with those challenges. It’s good to hear another person say they’re bringing enjoyment to NaNoWriMo. It sure makes the days and words pass by with more pleasure.

  4. Pingback: Countdown to NaNoWriMo : Temporary Midnight

    1. cydmadsen

      It is fun, but we can always make it a misery 🙂 I hope you had a great time and got out of it the experience you wanted. Thanks for stopping by and commenting. It’s good to meet you.

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