How To Build Virtual Creative Community By Joining Writing Groups This NovemberBy Rita Pike
Oct. 30 2020, Published 4:30 a.m. ET
When we think of Autumn we tend to be reminded of the changing leaves, the crisp coolness in the air, the bright, vivid sunsets, and wisps of fireplace smoke that puff into the sky. We become enchanted with all of these things, which bring such warmth and comfort that only cooler weather provides.
But this year, Autumn feels different. Maybe it’s the lockdowns continuing, the massive upticks in the pandemic, and the weird weather thanks to global warming. I think this year, thanks to that weirdness, more than ever, I am looking forward to participating – and conquering! – National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo).
What Exactly Is NaNoWriMo?
On the surface, NaNoWriMo seems like a crazy month-long writing sprint for prolific writers. In reality, though, anyone can join in on the writing madness. You have 30 days to write 50,000 words on a brand-new novel. That works out to be less than 1700 words a day, which many folks can complete in just a few hours.
This year, I think it’s more than that, though: it’s an opportunity to improve our mental health and build more of that virtual community we need so desperately in times of COVID.
National Novel Writing Month Makes A Sucky Month Way Better
Despite happy things happening in the month, November is kind of that month that a lot of people hate. It’s gray, dreary, cold, and stress loads increase thanks to end-of-year actions required at work, home, and school.
For me, though, November is a beautiful month because of NaNoWriMo. Having this creative project – this dream fulfillment – to look forward to each day helps boost the spirits all month long.
Plus, I snuggle down with cozy sweaters and warming teas for my writing sessions. These increase my feeling of security, safety, and mental healthiness.
My husband also participates every year, so we have this bonded experience as well, making the month that much better.
We also turn it into a proper event in our family. We do a kick-off party with any friends and family willing to join in, we start the month off with a day of writing and sparkling juice, we do weekly events with fellow writers, and then we celebrate every small victory all month long with special healthy treats, words of encouragement, and small gifts – all making this month so much better.
NaNoWriMo Gives You Local And Global Community During Lockdown
When you join the NaNoWriMo website, you have the option to participate in regional writing groups, forums, and other social activities. These have been going strong for years and already virtual, making the NaNoWriMo groups perfect for the lockdown blues. They’re already long-term established, knowledgeable on virtual event planning, and active with hundreds of thousands of folks across the globe who have something in common: a love of writing.
Take advantage of all these opportunities, plus writing mentors, and other supports offered by the nonprofit and you’ll not only walk away with a novel draft but improved writing skills and friends for the rest of your life.
Writing A Novel In One Month Helps Your Hope Levels Rise And Depression Decrease
Depression is rampant these days, especially as we face a long, bitter winter ahead. Loss, pain, illness, social isolation, income drops and jobs losses – they all work out to 2020 being one of the worst years of our lives.
NaNoWriMo won’t cure any of that, but it can give us some hope in the middle of some dark times.
Writing a novel in 30 days is a lot of hard work that happens to also be a lot of fun, but pushing through trials and struggles in your creative work can actually help improve your mental health, reduce stress and anxiety, restore some semblance of hope, and bring joy into your life, all at once.
Tips For Winning NaNoWriMo This Year
I’ve been doing this for eleven years now, winning all but the first one I joined in on. So, I thought I’d share my most beneficial tips with you as you embark on this crazy, wild journey, beginning November 1, 2020, at midnight.
- If you’re a planner, create your outline ahead of time. If you’re not a planner, know that’s good, too. Whatever your style is will work best for you.
- If you’re able to, plan your meal plans, school plans, and other “organizational” efforts ahead of time to save energy and time in November.
- Create a clean, comfortable workspace ahead of time. Gather your supplies and keep them organized and nearby as you prepare for NaNo to kick in.
- Find some healthy snacks and treats you can use to celebrate victories along the way. I like sparkling juice for kick-off and completion, with flavorful teas like Rooibos, Chai, Lady Grey, and black current tea.
- Create a playlist in your novel’s theme or multiple playlists for different types of scenes. I have one for dark moods, bright moods, sentimental moods, and “general” writing for each book I craft.
- Surround yourself with inspiration. Watch movies and television and read books and short stories in your novel’s genre to spark the mood for your story and characters.
- Get and stay active all month long. Commit to workouts, running, walks, or cycling for the month and stick to them.
- If you find blockages are hitting, go take a walk or jog, take a hot shower, or just quietly with a cup of tea or coffee and let your brain take a break.
- Never stop to edit. Just keep writing and writing. Don’t allow yourself to get out the red pen until December 1.
- Remember that your first draft is going to be awful and that’s okay. No one’s first draft is worth reading. Write anyway.
You’ve got this!