Challenge Your Comfort Zone

This is my most recent contribution to the 100.bloggers project

It’s that time of year when amateur and professional writers all across the world start prepping for National Novel Writing Month. The premise is pretty simple: write a 50,000 word novel in thirty days.

As simple as that.

This will be my fourth year participating in NaNoWriMo.So far, I’ve only failed to meet that goal once, and that was because I became really sick during November that year. Now I help encourage others to complete their NaNovels (the appropriate name for a novel undertaken during NaNoWriMo).

My first year in NaNoWriMo was interesting. I’ve always loved to write. My notes in schools were always an interesting blend of class notes and random bits of stories and poems. I used to drive my teachers crazy, but since I was a great student, they really couldn’t ask me to not write during class. So when some people told me about this program, I jumped at the chance. I figured 50, 000 words in one month wouldn’t be that hard for someone who spends much of her time writing as it is.

Boy, was I wrong! My experience was entirely with short stories. Writing a novel (it’s actually closer to a novella) is a vastly different experience. With a short story, you can present the characters, the conflict, hit the climax, and wrap everything up in a very short space. A novel gives you more room to develop things and to introduce a variety of plot threads and create a complex world.

That first year, I thought I would never get the hang of expanding my normally very concise writing style to meet this challenge, especially when I started the last week of November with 25,000-30,000 words. It was terrifying.

One of the biggest problems for me every year is reminding myself that this is a draft. It doesn’t have to be perfect. It just has to be down on paper. I can’t it to myself every time I hit writer’s block in my own writing. The funny part is that now that I’m teaching writing, I’ve actually found myself telling my students this as they struggle through their own first drafts.

National Novel Writing Month really challenged me as a writer, and I feel like I grow just a little bit more every year that I participate. It’s always important to incorporate activities into our lives that challenge us, becasue it’s through challenge that we grow.


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