NaNoWriMo2015 Journal

What Did You Love About NaNoWriMo?

This question was posed by Julie Russell in this post: 

What did you love about NaNoWriMo this year?

I crossed the 50,000-word mark on November 21. 50,133 words to be exact. My first NaNoWriMo challenge. It took me four years to build up the courage to jump all-in, and I’d have put it off for another year had it not been for an encourager from Twitter who called me to the mat. Thank you, @Archimage. 

I Grew
I love that NaNoWriMo seemed like an insurmountable task before I started. I love that it seemed even more daunting about 10 days in when I felt like I’d most certainly spewed all the words I could about my selected story. I love how the hunger to write swelled up inside me and pulled me out of bed at 4:30am almost every single day. I love that the days I met with toughest wringing of my brain forced me to dig into deep, emotional places to feel every letter of my words as I typed them. I can honestly say I’d have never found these words or these places I am capable of writing from without this push.

I love that it seemed like all the conditions of life had to be in place first, but realizing there’s not a single drop of truth to that. The only condition that truly had to be in place was my desire to make it happen, and will to ensure it did. I love that life happened along the way. I love that I ended up with a really weird pile of embarrassing, but very honest words.

I Made New Friends
Friends new and existing came from all over the internet to cheer me on. And I got to cheer others on. It really was like my first marathon experience, running along a strenuous course seeing hundreds of strangers smiling and encouraging me forward. I had no idea that such an amazing, supportive community existed behind this challenge, but participation got me watching the #NaNoWriMo hashtag, which introduced me to all the wonderful struggles and progress others were making. Once I’d discover someone, I’d start reading other stuff they’d written, learning about their perspectives and who they are. There are some beautiful people out there writing beautiful things.

Doorways Opened
A lot of ideas happened while I was writing — a beautiful bonus effect of pushing creative boundaries. I have been doing small monthly challenges for a full year now by breaking things down into tiny, doable pieces. My reason for doing this has been to explore the boundaries of the things I use as excuses and the things that scare me. The challenges are meant to tear down walls, grow and change and try new things. I’ve done everything from writing one sentence a day, to writing for 30-minutes a day, to little fitness things to doing various 30 and 31-day vlog challenges on YouTube. Taking on NaNoWriMo was BIG. If this were running, it would be like running a mile a day for a year then doing a full length marathon and afterward, running *just* a mile each day isn’t enough anymore. I’m working through what this means for me in 2016, I may spend another year figuring that out but either way, I feel changed and a little tired, but I’m hungry to push myself in new ways.

I Took a New Perspective on Fear
For a very long time, I’d put emphasis on things like overcoming fear, pushing through fear and being fearless. The more I thought about it the more I realized I was putting a lot on energy into fighting nature. On Day 04, I wrote a post in my daily NaNo journal titled, “Fear, My Friend, We are Doing This.” I realized that my effort to overcome fear was feeling more like an exhausting wrestling match and I’m not really interested in being a pro wrestler. Fear was consuming good time and energy, and even when I faced the “fight” valiantly, it was still very expensive in terms of energy. So I decided instead, to make friends with my fear and invite it along for the journey. The moment I made that mental shift, Fear was like, “Ok, cool, let me get my shoes.” Fear didn’t block the doorway anymore. I’m not fearless, but I’m much stronger than I thought I was.

That’s a summary of what I learned by participating in my first-ever NaNoWriMo challenge. What an enormous amount to gain in thirty days. If you like to write at all, I recommend participating. Here’s a link to my first post announcing my intent to participate, if you’re interested. Whether you win or don’t quite make it, you WILL grow from the experience. And there’s a whole community of amazing, brave, kind people out there ready to encourage your every step if you allow them to.


On The Road Again

#NaNoWriMo LOG: DAY 10 (A 1st Timer's Journey) 
Another travel day. This journal post is happening in-flight. I had a portion of my regular writing time window available this morning before I needed to shift focus toward gathering things and heading to the airport. I cranked out what I could and decided to feel good about it even though I'd really hoped to get a couple hundred more words out.

This is the week I've been anticipating with some concern in regard to my NaNoWriMo challenge, and the reason I've been trying to stay just a bit ahead on word count. I'm speaking at a conference in Orlando, which means I'm in a different time zone for the better part of the week and my attention needs to be on the conference. It's a talk I've done quite a few times before (one of the benefits of people requesting older talks - yay!) so it's ready to go, no last minute changes or rewrites like there would be with a new talk. But there are 1000 other places my attention needs to be.

Part of me wonders if it'll be possible to get any words out this week, and part of me feels confident I can keep my morning writing rhythm going despite the time zone change and goings-on. I also realize it's kind of lame that what I am considering a "rough patch" in my writing challenge is... going to DisneyWorld. So no complaints here!

What I'm learning about participating in NaNoWriMo, is that it is a labor of love. It's something you do while navigating through your regular day-to-day. You make time for it however and whenever you can. I know for me, every day of this challenge is fun and a little mysterious and scary. Will I hit my word count? Will I have any idea what to write today? Or tomorrow? Where will I be when I write tomorrow?

Who knows. I'm learning as I go and doing my best to keep it fun along the way. If it's not fun, there's no point. Write ON, friends!

Today's stats: 
Started writing at 4:40a
Stopped writing at 5:18a

1577 words today, bringing my current total to 24,101
I feel pretty good about where I'm at overall. (And there are two more hours of this flight which seems pretty prime for more writing.) 

Is This a Travel Hangover?

#NaNoWriMo LOG: DAY 08 (A 1st Timer's Journey) 
I made a very deliberate decision last night when I went to bed. I decided that since tomorrow (today) is Sunday and my kids are at their dad's house, I would go to sleep without setting my alarm and wake whenever my body decided it wanted to wake. 

I woke at 2:30a. This is way too early. I checked my phone for emails and social media murmurings, turned on a movie (which is how I like to fall asleep), drifted back to sleep some time later. 

I woke at 6:20a to the light clamor of pots and pans and other kitchen things and the smell of something delicious being prepared. I pick my kiddos up at 5p this evening, I smiled and just laid there, knowing I had alllllll day to write my words. 

I ate breakfast. I prepared the top half of myself for a video call with friends I'm working on a side-project with, I filled the time between checking website stats and researching another idea I recently had -- which sounds semi-productive but what I'm actually saying is I was procrastinating on writing my NaNoWriMo words. I'm typing this journal post today BEFORE having completed my writing sprint for today. I'm doing it all backward and proving to myself that I absolutely need my little pocket of 4:30-6am morning time to do this. I hoped to write more yesterday, but kind of knew early on that the 1305 words I wrote in the morning was going to be it for the day. I'm always super exhausted after I speak at a conference, and I'm always super exhausted after I fly on a plane. Silly me for thinking I might have enough ambition to power through any of that so late in the day. The good news is NOW I KNOW. I know what I need to do to succeed here for absolute certain. And I still believe I can do this. 

I'm going to go and write my little heart out now so that I have some stats to share. ;) 
---Later the same day---

Today was a bit wobbly until I sat down and started writing. Once I did, my heart poured out and out and out. NaNoWriMo is pushing me in ways I hadn't expected. Now that I'm beyond the surface layer of getting the basic outline drafted out, I'm digging very deeply into my own emotions and memories and feelings. THIS is writing! I always feel like I put a lot of heart and feeling into my writing, that is exactly why I love writing so much, but when you pick a moment, or a person and really dive into the depth of detail, it's a truly moving experience. All this stuff that comes from inside us... I'm floored. I'm excited to see what happens tomorrow.

Today's stats: 
Started writing at 12:15p
Stopped writing at 2:05p

3029 words today, bringing my current total to 20,339 (I'm so in this!)


#NaNoWriMo LOG: DAY 07 (A 1st Timer's Journey) 
I'm headed to California this morning to speak at CocoaConf-San Jose. I had to cut this trip a little short, doing a same-day out and back, offering the closing keynote at the conference in between flights. I'm a little sad I didn't get to go out on Thursday as originally planned, parenting responsibilities took priority and required a little schedule rearranging. Ultimately, it's all working out. And, I was able to get 1305 words out this morning before I had to pack up for the airport. 

I learned two things about today:

  1. Today is #NanoSelfieDay2015. I didn't realize there was such a thing until an email happened this morning, but a part of my journaling project has been to include a daily "selfie" so I'm covered on that front. Hooray!
  2. Today is Double-Up Donation Day, an all-day opportunity to write, inspire one another, and support NaNo nonprofit programs. Double your word count, double your donation, double whatever you see fit to double. I'm not sure I'll get double my words in today, but there's no harm in trying if I can squeeze a bit more out on my return flight home, for now I need to keep my head in the "I'm about to give a talk in a few hours" space. With the 1305 words I wrote this morning, I'll feel pretty good even if I don't push more words out before the day's end.

I took a few minutes yesterday combing through my content thus far, and extracted a few headers to elaborate upon. I also had an excellent handful of comments from yesterday's post with tips and pointers and things other NaNoWriMo-ers have done to succeed at this challenge. I LOVE the support that has come through this community. 

Extra thanks to @Archimage again for the continued encouragement. And extra special amounts of gratitude for my boyfriend, who makes me breakfast while I'm typing away at my word count, drives me to/from the airport, and who supports and encourages every single crazy idea I have (in addition to about 1,000,000 other tiny things that amount to me being the luckiest friggin' girl I know.)

Today's stats: 
Started writing at 4:40a
Stopped writing at 5:23a
Got a ride to airport
Flew to San Jose for conference
Wrote more on the flight (To be continued?)

1305 words (so far), bringing my current total to 17,310



It’s been almost a full year of 1-month challenges for me. Tiny 30 or 31-day sprints (28 days in February) of things to push me outside my comfort zone and stimulate ideas and creativity in my lil’ ol' brain. It’s become something I love and look forward to every month. 

We’re very rapidly approaching NaNoWriMo month, which is one of those things I’ve been excusing myself out of since 2011 when I first learned about it. Last year instead of feeling guilty about it and waiting a full year to try again, I decided to start my own smaller challenges, to build up the muscle of taking on and completing challenges. NaNoWriMo still feels daunting and intimidating. I’m not ready for it at all but like most things in life, if we wait until we’re ready, it’ll never happen. 

Through my little monthly challenges I’ve learned a lot of really valuable lessons that I think may apply, especially in the department of mental preparation. The things my tiny challenges have taught me:

    I can make excuses why not to all day long. If I really, REALLY want to do something I do have the time, I simply need to make it happen and stop telling myself stories about why I can't.

    For me, waking up a little earlier than normal was the key. There are days when it’s really hard. To be perfectly honest, there are days when all the desire in the world to accomplish my thing is still not enough to peel me from the comfort of my cozy, warm bed. I miss days. I kick myself for missing days. I remember to celebrate the days I actually accomplished my goal. I start again. I seek the finish line. I cross it.

    New challenge. Rinse. Repeat.

    Monthly challenges that are so small I can’t avoid them have helped me get really good at starting things. I’m no longer afraid to start. I’m starting things all over town. I’m not always super great at finishing, but the practice has certainly made me better at it. I’ve become pretty good at completing my monthly challenges. When I scale the challenge, sometimes I leave it hanging. Unfinished. A list of domain names. A 90% completed idea. I know that becoming an even better finisher is my next step. 

    Maybe I end up overwhelmed, or full of excuses. I’m scared I won’t finish. I’m scared that if I do “finish” I’ll end up with a pile of embarrassing, unshareable drivel. And you know what? I'm scared, but... I'm exhausted at being scared. For all the unknowns there is one very certain known: If I don’t do it now, I’ll never really know what it takes to start or to finish this challenge. 

    If I’ve learned anything at all it's that there are a few people out there that have been huge supporters of my little challenges. To each and every one of you, I thank you so sincerely. Sometimes it feels like I can do it all on my own, maybe I can, but you make it better. You make it exciting. You hold me accountable and you encourage me to cross the finish line.

    Even though my focus for the smaller challenges has been wide and varied, it has electrified my creative juices. It’s almost like I have the opposite problem than I had before. When I had burnout, the thing that started me on this journey in the first place, I had very little desire to even live, let alone do productive things. I started with gratitude and it literally opened floodgates in my little brain and made me hungry to create more. The more I do in my small monthly experiments, the more doors of opportunity, the more ideas, the more excitement, and inspiration seem to flood in. That can get overwhelming too, but I’ll take that any day over what I felt during burnout. Because the more I experiment, the more I learn, and the more tools I have in my magical Mary Poppins bag of problem-solving skills. Those tools apply to every aspect of my life.


All this is to say, I’m openly committing to participating in NaNoWriMo for the first time this year. I’ll begin on Nov. 1. 

I figure the best thing I can do is to document where I’m at, share what happens along the way, and follow up with how it went when I’m done. I land where I land. Most importantly, I need to remember I’m doing this for me. No matter where I land, I come out on the other side having learned something, who knows what that will be.

I’m doing a bit of planning now. I would love for anyone else interested in participating - go sign up at and "buddy" me, my username is: " jaimeejaimee". We can support and encourage each other, maybe even poke fun at each other’s excuses if we want to get silly. Let’s keep it fun! But let’s DO IT.

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Here are a couple of my favorite small challenges:
Music Wormholes