Discussing NaNoWriMo in January–strange, I know!
I “failed” NaNo—only made it to 30,000 or 35,000 words before other real-life distractions barged in on my life. But, 6 weeks after the end of NaNo and I can still recognise the effect my demi-NaNo it had on me.
I don’t often suffer from the type of writer’s block where I can’t figure out what happens next. My main obstacle is the fear of starting and the fear of putting things down on the page. I used to dither quite a lot. I had a ritual I performed—first check Facebook and Twitter, then check the AbsoluteWrite forums, check my email, check Livejournal, and THEN I’d write. Obviously, if I only had a small bit of time to write, then this meant that many days, I never got around to actually getting words down on the damn page. It was a rare that I wrote more than 1000 words a day. I wrote my first novel in regular but small spurts of 400-800 words.
I had to break that habit, and I had to break it fast. There was no time for pantsing around and checking my various feeds. Words went on the goddamn page, even if they were rubbish.
And that helped me so much as a writer, even if I wasn’t necessarily new to writing. It helped me get over the fear. Because, hey, I had a first draft, and despite all my worry and agony, it still wasn’t perfect. And so what?
While I still procrastinate a bit before writing—damn you, Twitter—I start writing a lot sooner, and now my writing sessions usually average at 800-1200 words at a time, which is a massive improvement. I’ve also worked on my books, planning, or research almost every single day since NaNo ended. Even if it was only for half an hour, I know how to make time for my writing. The few times I didn’t write or plan it felt completely wrong. Writing isn’t something I’ll be able to stop. I’ve had the disease for a long time, but now more symptoms are manifesting
And this is the point of NaNo. Forces you to stop pantsing and actually writing, and to get you addicted so you keep writing in December, and January, and all the other months of the year.