NaNoWriMo 2015 just ended. Here’s what you missed.

I messaged a friend that NaNoWriMo was “both a sprint and a marathon” and although it was just a quick note in passing, it turns out to be quite apt. Here’s a collection of what I learned putting 50,266 words down onto the page over the past 30 days.

1.¬†There are no guarantees you’ll finish if you start, but there is a guarantee that you won’t finish if you don’t start.

You see the marathon runners as they cross the finish lines. They all have something in common: they started at the beginning. They didn’t jump in at mile 23 and pour water on their heads and finish (well, if they did, they’re only cheating themselves–and they know who–and what–they are). They took the first step, then all of the steps, and then the last steps. They may have walked a bit, they may have thrown up a protein bar, they may have thought they were done for, but they persevered and finished. They started.

2. You are your biggest fan.

You need to love this. I’ll go a little woo-woo on your here: you need to love yourself. Note that I’m not saying you need to love your writing (that might suck). You need to, deep down, be your biggest fan, believe in yourself, and push through. You know you’re good, in fact, you know you’re great. If every word of your 50,000 words is complete crap, that’s OK. You’re just warming up. This is a draft. The next 50,000 will be better. You secretly love your writing and if others don’t see it, it might not be for them or they just don’t see it. But you see it. You are your biggest fan.

3. Your characters might take on lives of their own.

You’re writing and you’re writing. Then you write some more. At some point, the words write themselves and the characters take on lives, actions and dialogue of their own and you’re just the messenger, the conduit, the medium through which they express themselves. I swear, no LSD for me this month, but my characters went off on long-winded monologues (even to his friend who wasn’t awake), admitted love for a younger brother (major bro taboo), and swore his friends to a night of dangerous adventure.

4. Creativity can be forced.

I don’t believe that you have to wait for inspiration to strike. Sure, it’s nice when it happens. But it doesn’t happen that often. You have to push it, you have to force it out, you have to sweat, struggle and swim in uncertainty and then maybe the creative muse will rise her darling head and grace you with her presence. But you can’t wait for around for her, you have to tease her out.

5. It’s not easy.

Just like you can’t simply state that you’re going to run a marathon tomorrow and then do it, you can’t just say you’re going to write nearly 2,000 words per day for 30 days. Yes, of course, you could write “nanny nanny foo foo” 500 times per day (see the note about LSD in #3 … ), but if you’re planning on actually writing a coherent story, you’re going to not only use your fingers, you’re going to need to use that brain, too. You’re also going to have to use it every day. Then, when that day is done, you’re going to wake up and do it again. Oh, wait, you don’t feel like it today? Waaahh! Waaahhh! Suck it up, do it, stop your whining. No one said it was easy. In fact, I just told you that it’s not easy.

6. If you’re on the fence about whether or not you want to become a “real writer,” this will help you decide.

You heard about NaNoWriMo and you thought, “I’ve always wanted to write a book.” and you had a bit of a lighter work schedule in November, so you decided to give it a go. By about Day 8, you’re going to have a good idea if this was a bad idea of a good idea. The good news and the bad news is that you can quit. Sure, you’ll probably never forgive yourself, but it’s not like some NaNo gods are going to descend from the heavens and whip you with typewriter ribbon. No, you’ll just quietly stop writing. The really bad news? You might stop writing forever. Hey, that’s the chance you take. Moaning and groaning? See #5.

7. You might accidentally become a novelist.

50,000 words in a month is something like 1,666 words per day. How many words do you write per day now? How many of those are “creative writing?” This is something of a mix of #3 and #4 on this list, but if you can put those together and then add a splash of #1 by actually starting with finally a realistic helping of #2, you might just like this fiction writing thing. You might also not become a novelist and decide this was a big waste of time. But you won’t know if you didn’t give it a try.

Did you do NaNoWriMo? What was your experience? LSD trip? Boredom? Life-altering month of madness? Lemme know!