Creative Process, Fiction

NaNoWriMo: Serious Fun

I’ve been participating off and on in National Novel Writing Month for close to a decade. I absolutely love the idea that for thirty days in November hundreds of thousands of writers around the world are throwing their hearts and minds into the writing of a novel. Even though I’ve only hit the 50,000 word mark a couple of times, and have bailed/failed far more than that, my own creative commitment has definitely been enhanced by the collective creative energy sparked by NaNoWriMo .

In past years, I’ve been a pretty low-profile participant, occasionally putting up a participant badge on my Facebook profile, but never really engaging in the public culture or community of NaNoWriMo.

This year, I’m changing that up. Going all in. Coming out publicly as a NaNo novelist. I’ve created an author profile, posted a picture, created book covers for my projects, made my profile public. And today, Day Five, I went whole hog for the badges — because what former Girl Scout doesn’t like collecting badges?

Some NaNo badges are earned for writing progress: number of words written, writing streaks and updating word counts, etc. Those are the serious badges. The ones you earn for putting and keeping your butt in the seat, tracking your progress, keeping eyes on the prize.

Then there are the fun badges, the ones that celebrate the creative process. And I love that these are self-awarded. Here are the badges I’ve claimed so far:


When you find the sweet spot between plotting every detail and jumping in blind. My years as an academic trained me for thesis statements, outlines, citations — all valuable things, unless you’re trying to write fiction. So, my first foray into the world of NaNoWriMo, many years ago, was a full-on Panster effort — and produced 50,000 words of pretty random stream of conscious rambling. But I made it to the end, and the process taught me something so profound: that focusing only on quantity, on reaching that 50K word mark with zero commitment to quality, enabled me to let go of my deeply debilitating perfection. Since then I have fully embraced Anne Lamott’s “shitty first draft” advice (if you’ve not yet read that essay, get thee to Bird By Bird asap!) Now I try to start with a road map but stay open to the detours. Which is pretty much my approach to life in general these days.

Nano Rebel

When you bring a work-in-progress rather than a brand-new project to NaNoWriMo. I must confess that I have done this more than once, and it used to feel like cheating to me. So I’m super-stoked that the folks at NaNoWriMo are holding space for those of us who need to take multiple runs at a project, and need time to rest and mulch in between the sprints.


For writing in a less-than-ideal place. I awarded myself this one for scribbling ideas in a notebook while driving, and for jumping out of the gym jacuzzi to jot down a fabulous line of dialogue (which I could barely read later because the ink ran.)

Eureka Moment

The Big Aha! Yeah, baby. TMI to share right now but I’m sure there will be future posts on this. Stay tuned.

Weepy Writer

When your own writing moves you to tears. My academic writing only moved me to tears of frustration so this, for me, is one of the great joys of writing fiction.

Writer Wellness

Because mad geniuses and starving artists are SO passe. Btw, I am ALL OVER this one:

  • walking daily, swimming every other day
  • hydrating like a mofo and caffeinating with green tea only
  • taking a break every hour to stretch and stand in the sunshine
  • avoiding sugar and feeding myself super healthy homemade food

Wrimo Spirit

For encouraging another writer. This year I have a writing buddy, a good friend and former student, and we’re doing a weekly update/writing support call. She’s yet unconvinced of the value of things like project profiles and badges. That’s OK. There’s no one right way to do this. And if there were, would it be so much fun?

As you can see, I still have a couple more fun badges to earn. I think this post counts as Tell the World You’re Doing NaNoWriMo, yeah? Next on my list: BACK UP YOUR WRITING!

Originally published on November 5, 2019 on

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