Managing Your Expectations During NaNoWriMo

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In this #NaNoWriMo article we talk about how to manage your own expectations during NaNoWriMo. 

Are you participating in NaNoWriMo this year? If you don’t know, November is the National Novel Writing Month, and the challenge is to write 50,000 words during the month of November. If you start on November 1st, it means you’ll have to average 1667 words per day in order to make that goal a reality. 

For a lot of people trying to become full time writers, 1667 words per day is a significant increase in the amount of productivity that they have during the month. Sustaining that becomes draining over a long period of time, especially once the excitement of the project and the stress of life gets in the way. 

I’ve done NaNoWriMo many times. I’ve won some years and lost some years, and I knew going into this year that I probably was going to participate knowing full well that I wasn’t going to win. The challenge is still fun, and the spirit of NaNoWriMo is still very exciting for me, so I decided my participation was going to be worth doing on it’s own, so this year especially, I am reminded of the need to manage my own high expectations.

So let’s dive in and I’ll tell you what I’m telling myself to keep my own high expectations in check.

  1. Learn from your setbacks. Just because you’ve ‘failed’ once doesn’t mean you can never achieve again.

Failure is often something that’s frowned upon. In truth, we all fail at some things sometimes. It’s often the best way to learn. Fear of failure can be crippling, and lead to avoiding challenging tasks and taking away our motivation and our desire to achieve. Instead, adopt the mindset that you haven’t achieved that thing… yet. It doesn’t mean you never will. This opens up a level for growth instead of shutting you down completely.

  1. Give yourself credit for the steps you take toward completion. The small successes add up to a finished product no matter how long it takes to get there.

Did you know that if you did the math, even writing 200 words per day would add up to over 70,000 words written in a single year? You don’t have to be all or nothing, and you don’t have to devote large chunks of time and effort into your goals. While the challenge of 1667 words a day in November is certainly a fun one, any progress at all that you make toward your goals can add up in the long run. 

  1. Keep track of your word counts throughout the year. It will help you gain insight and understand what word counts are realistic and what word counts are not.

1667 words per day is not a realistically sustainable goal for a lot of people who are also working full time jobs or have other extenuating circumstances. While I am not saying use that as an excuse or an out, I think it is extremely useful to find out exactly what is a realistic measuring stick that you can hold yourself accountable to most of the time. Realizing that the month of NaNoWriMo probably exceeds a normal output can help you to stay mindful of what realistic goals and outputs look like for you so that if you find you’re not meeting them, but you are still meeting your normal output levels, you can still have something to be proud of. 

  1. Acknowledge your successes, no matter how small. 

Winning NaNoWriMo is hard. Whether you come out at the end of November with a win in hand or not though, you should acknowledge any progress you’ve made during the month as a success. You are that much closer to a finished product than you were before you started. If you hadn’t attempted the challenge, you may not have pushed yourself as hard or gotten as much done as you did. Acknowledge the effort you put forth, no matter what the outcome of the effort was.

  1. Focus on what you can do moving forward, not what has happened in the past. Keep moving forward.

On a similar note, it’s not the end of the world or the end of your writing career if you don’t do well this November. You can totally bomb out during NaNoWriMo month. You can choose not to participate at all. If you have the worst November of your life, and you get to December and haven’t added a single word to your count goal, it’s totally okay. Every day is a new chance to keep trying. To keep getting new words in. To keep moving forward. Because you never really fail at anything unless you quit.  

So those are some of the things I’m reminding myself this year during NaNoWriMo. I hope you keep in high spirits and that you have an extremely productive month of November.

Discussion Questions

  1. Have you ever failed a goal you were trying to achieve, and how did you get yourself back on track after the failure?
  2. What are your successes this month that are worth celebrating about?
  3. What are your best tips and tricks for making 50,000 words in November?
  4. Do you know what your normal output is, and how much more or less is it than a 1667 day of NaNoWriMo? 
  5. What questions would you like to see me answer in a blog post or podcast episode?

Click this link to hear this blog post as a podcast with your favorite podcasting app!

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