I’ve been conducting a personal writing exercise project during the last few weeks. Partially inspired by NaNoWriMo, I decided I wanted to write 50,000 words over the course of approximately three weeks. That would equate to writing an approximate average of 2,500 words a day every day for twenty days, and possibly giving myself a day or two off if I needed.
For those who aren’t familiar with NaNoWriMo, it stands for National Novel Writing Month and it has taken place every November since 1999. (You can visit their website at nanowrimo.com for more information.) For NaNoWriMo participants, the goal is to write a 50,000 word novel during the thirty days of November. You can write more than that if you like, of course, but apparently the magical minimum word requirement for a novel is 50,000 words. If you plan to participate in NaNoWriMo, you’re allowed to work on plot planning and character development before the month begins, but the novel-writing itself is only meant to take place during November. The challenge also only applies to the first draft of your novel, as you aren’t expected to complete a fully polished novel within those thirty days.
I’ve known about NaNoWriMo for number of years now and have long thought about the possibility of participating, but I had never fully committed to the idea. This year, before I knew it, November was already upon us and I still hadn’t committed to partaking in NaNoWriMo (yet again). Part of me wanted to participate, but at the same time I didn’t really have an idea for a novel in mind, let alone the fact that I hadn’t done any planning or character development, etcetera, leading up to November. Aside from that, I haven’t even read a novel in forever… all my reading as of late has been works of non-fiction. But even though I wasn’t prepared to take on the challenge of writing a novel, the challenge of writing 50,000 words in a month was definitely something that called to me. I had been creatively stagnant and I really wanted to get off my lazy creative ass.
As I mentioned, I didn’t really feel inspired to write a novel just yet, but being inspired to write something, I decided to take upon my own personal writing project/experiment. Similar to NaNoWriMo, I wanted to commit to writing a minimum of 50,000 words by the end of November. But instead of writing a novel, I told myself I could write anything I wanted — anything at all. The main idea behind this project would be to amp up my creative discipline and focus, not to mention getting my creative juices flowing once again. The experiment part of this project comes into affect because I wasn’t really sure what kind of an effect writing so much in a short period of time would do for me, let alone if I would even be able to keep up with the commitment. Since there were a lot of unknowns, I decided that this endeavor was both a project and an experiment. I seem to like that combo, since one of my previous blog posts — The Baby / Human Project: An Experimental Way To Look At Personal Development — had implemented a similar splicing of concepts.
Since yesterday was the last day of November — and hence my self-imposed deadline for me to successfully complete my personal writing project — I’m delighted to report that I have indeed met my goal of writing 50,000 words for the month. Jubilation!
Truth be told, I didn’t even start this experiment until Monday, November 9th. And plus, during the last stretch of my experiment/project, I had taken two days off from writing — American Thanksgiving and Black Friday — not only because it was a holiday (as I was in the United States spending time with Steve in Las Vegas), but also because I happened to be lucky enough to have a horrendous headache bestowed upon me that day, which literally lasted the entire Thanksgiving Day, not to mention a good chunk of Black Friday as well! Ugh! (In the context of this season of giving thanks, you can probably imaging how tremendously thankful I am to have that headache over and done with now!) But because of the fact that I took two days off from writing, that means that I met my goal by only writing for twenty days; and, my daily average word count for those days was about 2,500 words a day. …Woot! That’s totally awesome! …At least I think it’s awesome, especially given my recent creative dry spell for the past couple years.
So, what have I been writing about? Well, a mixture of things. I wrote a lot about memories from my past, especially my childhood. It seems that I have a lot of wounds from that time in my life. It’s amazing how I was able to relive so many instances and elements of my childhood by merely recalling those memories and writing about them. During the days where I happened to be writing about that time period in my life, I tended to feel sad, moody, disconnected, alone, and depressed — which essentially sums up how I felt during most of my childhood and youth, actually. I also noticed that I started to relive a lot of anger and resentment from this time period in my life, too. I didn’t like it. I realized I desperately needed to put my focus elsewhere if I wanted to stop feeling that way. I needed to forgive, but not necessarily forget — otherwise, what lessons would be learnt? I decided I should start writing about something else and leave the past in the past.
I wrote some reflective musings about philosophy and the nature, purpose, and meaning of life, the universe, and everything. And, somewhat related along those themes, I also wrote down a lot of great ideas for a script I’ve been wanting to write for a long time — character histories and traits, plot ideas, and various other possible details. I’m really excited and pleased with the progress I made in that area, and plan to start writing the script really soon… I’ll probably make a commitment to start writing that script come January, but who knows, it’s possible I may start earlier. (It will probably become a screenplay, although I’ve been wanting to turn this idea into a potential stage play as well… Ideally it can be adapted for both stage and screen.)
Some days I wrote about my various dreams, goals, aspirations, and ideas of how to possibly accomplish said goals. And, on some other days still, I’d simply write the equivalent of journal entries, wherein I wrote down my various ponderings and observations on a variety of thoughts, events, and emotions that were going on in my life during that given day or week. …And the other day, for example, in addition to some other captured thoughts, I wrote this very blog post. (Although I saved the tweaking and editing for today.)
The main idea behind my writing project was to simply write. It didn’t matter what about. In part, I wanted to give myself this freedom so as to get out of my head and just get in the practice and flow of writing. If I had worried too much about what I was writing, I could have easily let my often debilitating perfectionism set in and sabotaged this project. But without putting any restrictions whatsoever on what I could write about, I liberated myself from having to stick to any kind of rules (other than the rule of simply writing, that is). And without any rules or structure to potentially get in my way, I didn’t have any excuses to latch on to as a potential form of procrastination, nor specific topics or formats to get my way of seeking that ever-elusive perfectionism. (For what it’s worth, I figure that I had learnt this habit of striving towards perfectionism when I was a fairly young child. Perfectionism is how I learned to gain approval from others, such as by becoming the so-called teacher’s pet, and striving towards earning straight A’s and perfect scores on tests all throughout grade school so that I’d gain approval from a parent whom might otherwise seem perpetually disapproving.)
Going through this writing project / experiment reminded me of a time in my life from about ten years ago or more when I used to journal somewhat regularly. I was reminded of how I definitely felt a stronger creative flow in my life back then, but on the other hand, going through this writing exercise also made me recognize that feeling (or sense) of being in a creative flow once again. It was like reuniting with a dear and close friend from my past that I haven’t seen in way too long. “Ah, yes. I recognize you. How I’ve missed you! Welcome back!”
Another thing that I learned or realized by going through this personal writing project / exercise is the importance of just writing anything to get into a creative flow — or perhaps even to create that very sense of flow itself. Something that’s been holding me back for so very long is this desire to be perfect from the very get go — this longing to simply write the perfect script or the perfect dialogue or the perfect scenes on the very first try. But writing is a process, it isn’t magic. Writing is like life — you have lessons to learn from it, and very rarely are you going to get things 100% perfect and right on the first try. But with persistence comes clarity and forward motion, and from that forward motion, you suddenly find yourself in a space of creative flow, building momentum, and suddenly coming upon the realization that, “Hey! You know what? I really CAN do this! My creative goals and dreams really are attainable, after all!” And maybe even, “Holy shit!!! This is awesome!” 🙂
In conclusion, to anyone else out there who feels like they too have been in a creative slump as of late, I’d definitely recommend taking upon a similar personal writing exercise-project of your own. Simply give yourself a word count goal, and a limited number of days to reach that goal. That’s it. You can decide to give yourself a lot of flexibility and freedom in terms of what you write about, or you can limit your writing to cover a specific range of subjects or topics. It’s up to you. Limiting the range of your creative subjects can certainly help you get stronger in a particular area where you might desire to make gains or improvements. But as far as I’m concerned, that would just be a side benefit. The main benefit and goal of this type of writing exercise is to just do exactly that… exercise your writing.
Yep! …Just write. That’s it! Pretty simple, wouldn’t you say?
As the ol’ Nike slogan goes… Just Do It. 😉