What I Learned from NaNoWriMo 2016

What I Learned from NaNoWriMo 2016

I hope you all had a great Thanksgiving, and for those of you who participated in NaNoWrimo, I hope you had a fantastic experience and were able to meet your writing goal for the month.

Instead of drafting a 50,000 word novel this November, I opted for an alternative NaNo project and wrote 30 poems. The idea was to write one each day, though some days I wrote more, and other days I didn’t write any. But thankfully, I hit my goal of 30 poems! I wrote them by hand, and, in keeping with NaNoWriMo tradition, they are very rough drafts! But I think in all the messiness there are a few gems I can pull out.

This experience with NaNoWriMo has taught me a lot about my personal writing process, and I want to share with you what I learned. Hopefully, it can help some of you with your own writing.

  • I learned the importance of keeping a writing journal. I write thoughts, images, snippets of stories, and other things I think might be meaningful to have documented. But I rarely take the time to read what is now thousands of pages of journal entries. But this month, I found myself flipping through old writing journals from time to time to get inspiration for poems. I realized that I could turn to almost any page, and there would be an image or story that would spark a new poem.
  • I learned how to write on demand, to write because it’s time to write, not because I have the inspiration to write or because I’m in the mood to write. When you set a goal and strive to keep it, it pushes you out of your comfort zone and makes you write regularly, even when you don’t want to. This has taught me that you can’t simply wait for inspiration to come to you. You have to chase after it.
  • I learned how to dive into writing about a topic without knowing whether that topic will sustain an entire poem. I am sometimes timid about starting a poem unless I feel pretty confident that I know the poem will be a success, which means I don’t write a lot of poetry. This month I learned to be bolder and leap before looking. I decided that it was okay if some—or most—of my poems were failures.
  • I learned that a story or image from one part of my life can often be related to a story or image from another part of my life. When I throw both experiences into the same poem, the juxtaposition often leads to unexpected epiphanies and some nice writing.

That’s about it! This project was a great experience, but I’m glad it’s time to move on to something else. I plan to type up all my poems and revise the ones that deserve the most attention. And I’m going to turn my focus to reading for a bit, so I can get more inspiration for future projects.


How did your NaNoWriMo project go? What did you learn?

4 thoughts on “What I Learned from NaNoWriMo 2016

  1. Congratulations on achieving your NaNo goals. Whether they are in the form of a novel or poems, you set a goal, worked toward it, and learned a few things in the process.
    I made 54K in November and am closing in on “The End”. Writing all the good parts (angst, conflicts, the sense that all is lost) is motivation to finish. I don’t know if I’ll make my self-imposed deadline of December 8th, but I’ll be close.
    What I learned? I outlined it on my blog, http://www.cherylsterlingbooks.com, but the most important things was to have an accountability partner. Without reporting to her every night, I would have skipped a few days. The guilt of not posting word count spurred me on.
    Congratulations again, and keep on writing!

    1. Cheryl, thank you! And nice work hitting 54,000 words during November! Partners can make writing goals much more doable. That’s one thing that has been nice about keeping this blog with my wife. -Brian

  2. What an excellent goal for NaNoWriMo. I’m glad you were successful at it.

    I found the political turmoil of last month to be draining and demotivating, but I was able to struggle through it (with a week off right after the election) and hit the 50K mark before the end of the month. It was more about grit and determination than about art. But, if I can write through that kind of turmoil, I can sit down and write through most events in life.

    I’ll be able to remind myself that I can do it the next time I’m feeling too overwhelmed to write.

    1. Congrats on hitting your goal despite the challenges the month brought (the election was stressful for us too, by the way). Sometimes we must push through hard things with that grit and determination before we can find the art. It’s an important lesson for all of us who write to not wait for an ideal time to write, but instead to making the writing happen even when our lives are a bit chaotic.

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