Brown text reading NaNoWriMo accompanies the NaNoWriMo logo of a viking helmet alongside icons of a laptop, pens, coffee mug and stack of paper, all appearing on a light blue background.

NaNoWriMo: a cure for writer’s block?

By Rebecca Richard

Health & Wellbeing Editor Rebecca Richard encourages aspiring writers to use the challenge provided by National Novel Writing Month to take the plunge and put word on paper this November.

Writer’s block is the most frustrating phenomenon. I find myself getting really disheartened and not opening my work in progress for weeks, and this detachment from the piece definitely doesn’t drum up ideas. That’s the struggle with doing creative writing as a hobby; there aren’t any deadlines for me to meet and nobody to worry about impressing since realistically nobody is going to end up reading it. It is incredibly easy to stick a half-finished novel into a folder and never think about it again, trying to kid myself I’ll come back to it when my creative energy is charged up. But every November, members of the creative writing community all over the world come together to partake in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). Originally beginning in 1999 as a challenge between friends, NaNoWriMo is an event where the aim is to complete a 50,000-word novel by the end of November, by writing 1667 words per day. There are many successful publications resulting from NaNoWriMo, such as Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell, a firm favourite from my high school bookshelf, or Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus.

As well as the challenge of producing a novel, NaNoWriMo is also a non-profit organisation supporting writing fluency and education programmes in 646 regions globally, opening up the world of creative writing to over half a million people.

I took part in NaNoWriMo once in my teen years after I discovered it through a creative writing class I was attending. It was brilliant to share with the class what we’d completed since we last spoke and to be able to encourage each other when the dreaded writer’s block hit. Granted, it was much easier to complete a challenge like this when I was a teenager and my commitments ended after the school bell rang at 3pm. Nonetheless, as a fourth year student with more responsibilities requiring my attention, I still intend to participate in NaNoWriMo this year to the best of my ability.

This challenge fills in the gaps I struggle with when trying to write a novel normally. For one, there is a deadline and word count! I may not actually have to submit it anywhere but knowing that there is an end goal is so motivating. I’m sure many writers out there can relate to the extremely daunting experience that is opening a blank word document and starting from scratch again, wondering if this could be the one.

This challenge being a worldwide event helps massively. Others are in the exact same position as me, balancing creative writing with their own commitments, but all finding community in this shared writing experience. We all understand each other’s struggles, such as the very essence of being a writer is hating pretty much everything you produce.

Is it hard? Yes. Perhaps a little unrealistic when I have three essays, a dissertation and exams looming? Absolutely. But creativity (once I get the ideas flowing) is a relaxing distraction during stressful periods, with an element of productivity that makes me feel less guilty for partaking in it when I have other tasks I should really be focusing on.

If you too are an aspiring writer that will do literally anything else except actually write, I encourage you to join me next month as I spend it hunched over my laptop with endless cups of tea, frantically getting my daily 1,600 words completed. I recommend that you allow yourself to exceed the daily word limit at the beginning of the month if you can, when the excitement of the new project is fresh and the ideas come to you faster than you can get down on paper. This means if you find yourself in a creative rut by the end of the month, or can’t find the time here and there, you won’t feel guilty for missing out some words on the odd day. A creative outlet in trying academic times is always a good idea, and at the end of the day, if you don’t meet 50,000 words exactly, there is no grade at stake. Getting some writing done is better than none, the point of this challenge is not to enhance stress, but to remove overthinking about getting started. 

Enjoy the process and get typing!


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