There’s this thing called NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) that some crazy writers participate in every November. The goal is to write a novel in one month — 50,000 words in 30 days. This year, I participated.

That comes down to 1,667 words a day, but you can pace yourself however you like.

The idea is quantity over quality. Nano pushes you to just keep moving, beyond the doubts and the questions and the writers blocks that come up. And just to write.

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I have never written a novel before. I’ve started a few and abandoned them after a few thousand words of garbage.

Novel writing is hard. It’s a lot of decision-making, which is difficult in itself. But it’s also character development and plot creation. It’s an incredible challenge.

I started a novel in summer 2015. That winter, I formed a monthly writing group of friends who are also working on long-form writing. We each write individually and then read a couple chapters of everyone’s work before coming together to offer critique and (importantly) encouragement.

The group was a selfish idea. I crave deadlines, so this was the best way I could think to keep myself progressing on my own writing.

Over the course of the year, I wrote around 13,000 words. Most recently, I’d run pretty dry. I didn’t know quite where I was going, and it felt so amateurish. I just felt like a hack, a fake.

It was almost a whim to work on Nano this year. I knew in my bones that I needed to commit to it, though. I needed to commit to my own writing because it’s a part of my life that feeds every other part.

With daily encouragement at home and frequent writing dates with a few close friends who were also working toward the 50,000-word goal, I did it. I wrote 50,000 words in November! And I did it despite being 14,000 words behind by the time Thanksgiving had rolled around — so I wrote 24,164 words in six days, which sounded truly impossible on Black Friday.

The novel isn’t complete. 50k is certainly on the low end of novel length. I need to organize all the chunks I’ve written and then finish the plot line. And then I have a lot of editing ahead of me, if I decide it’s worth all that work. I haven’t been thinking of this as a book I will publish — that’s just too much pressure. I’ve viewed this whole thing as a fabulous opportunity for practice, clinging to this quote from Ann Patchett:

If you want to write, practice writing. Practice it for hours a day, not to come up with a story you can publish, but because you long to learn how to write well, because there is something that you alone can say.

I do long to write well. I ache to master the craft.

I love writing and the power it wields. For self-discovery, for mental and emotional processing, for healing, for creative expression, for remembering — there is just nothing quite like writing.