I crossed the 50K-word NaNoWriMo finish line yesterday morning, writing 51,262 words in 28 days, so I achieved this goal 2 days ahead of schedule.

When I updated my word count yesterday, I received a congratulatory video, a bunch of links to claim the NaNoWriMo “prizes” (discounted promotions for various writer tools and services), and this completion certificate.

The way I framed this goal, however, was to add at least 1667 words per day to the novel for the full 30 days, so I didn’t stop after 28 days. After this morning’s writing session (Day 29), the novel is at 53,007 words. So tomorrow I’ll likely land around 55K words for this 30-day challenge.

Completing NaNoWriMo

This was my first NaNoWriMo and certainly a good year to do it. It was a great way to get started on a fiction book. I’m way further along now than I would have been if I hadn’t signed up for Nano. It’s been a rewarding experience overall.

One aspect I found less exciting than I expected was connecting with the Nano community. I thought it would be cool to connect with other novelists during Nano, but I felt a bit disconnected from that aspect of the experience. I didn’t feel like connecting with other writers while working on my novel. I browsed through some of the community posts but largely found it to be a distraction from actual writing, so most days I just did the writing on my own.

I enjoyed the challenge more when I stuck with introvert mode. It may be nice to connect with other writers before or after Nano, but I wasn’t inspired to do that while in the midst of figuring out the novel. I felt more motivated to connect with the characters I was developing.

I had no trouble feeling motivated to write each day. I didn’t write at same time each day, but I normally got each day’s writing done before 10am, often before 8am.

Most people who sign up for Nano don’t finish, but I never had any doubt that I’d do it. I do my best to win 30-day challenges in my mind before Day 1, and Nano was no different. The same goes for 365-day challenges like my 2020 daily blogging challenge (which is more than 90% done now). If you combine the blogging with the Nano writing, I probably wrote around 75K words this month.

Overall the combined writing experience flowed pretty well. Some days I blogged first and then did Nano, some days I flipped the order. But usually I finished both in the morning. Last Monday and Tuesday, I also did some batch blogging, queuing up several posts in advance, so I could enjoy the 4-day holiday weekend with a bit less daily writing – that was extra nice.

Leveraging the Fundamentals

One thing I love about having a career focused on exploring personal growth is how much time I have to spend practicing the fundamentals and how nicely that investment pays off over time.

This helps me leverage what I’ve learned to explore something new and be relatively productive from the start – and have fun doing it. Even when I’m a total newbie diving into an area where I have tons to learn, it feels like I have some extra advantages going in. A big one is just knowing that I can trust myself to follow through.

I expect to run into some difficulties or surprises along the way, and I also expect that I’ll be able to handle them. I’ll take action, persist, and learn as I go. I’m not afraid of failure, and I don’t tend to have issues with perfectionism. I prefer to just go, explore, and experience.

I like to play life the same way I like to play video games. Rachelle and I are about halfway through the new Zelda game, Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity, and I like that the game rewards my style of play – Rush in headfirst and slash away at every obstacle like there’s nothing to fear. We also pace ourselves, playing a little bit each day instead of rapidly binging through the whole thing.

The point of playing games is to have fun. This is a good way to approach life experiences too, including writing a novel.

I saw so many people in the Nano community struggling in ways that aren’t specific to writing. They struggle with personal development basics like setting clear goals, establishing productive habits, adopting empowering frames, creating confidence, eating healthfully, and so on.

But most of all, they struggle with making the journey fun, engaging, and rewarding each day. They inject far more suffering into the experience than necessary. Then they try to exert more discipline to push through that self-created drag, which can be very draining. I saw a number of “I give up” and “I’m quitting” updates along the way, and it looked to me that those people had already lost before Day 1. They approached the challenge in a way that was doomed from the start.

I saw plenty of uptightness in the Nano community. Some participants got bogged down in over-analysis and perfectionism. I think they could progress faster if they lightened up and learned to reframe failure as part of the fun. Some play the game so tightly that they prevent much of the joy of discovery from flowing through. It’s like playing a video game with someone who’s deathly afraid of losing a life, so they make the game more work than fun.

I actually found it stressful to read some of the community posts, but it was a good reminder that a long-term investment in personal growth fundamentals really does pay nice dividends. When you don’t practice the fundamentals enough, you’re likely to experience a lot of friction whenever you try to do something outside your comfort zone.

Practicing the fundamentals isn’t always sexy, but it helps us grow stronger, more capable, and more flexible. What good does it do to train up your writing skills if you can’t get yourself to apply those skills consistently? What if you lack the courage to create something unique that adds value to people’s lives? What if you aren’t able to handle criticism?

You can soak up domain-specific knowledge and skills, but what’s the point if you can’t get yourself to use it to create results?

This Nano experience helped me appreciate just how valuable it is to keep investing in the fundamentals. They grant access to new life experiences that would otherwise seem too far out of reach.