What is NaNoWriMo, you ask? It stands for National Novel Writing Month, which occurs in November when millions of people take on the ridiculous task of writing 50,000 words in 30 days. Never mind that second only to December, November is one of the busiest and most stressful times of year (there is Camp NaNoWriMo in July as well). Would-be authors from all over the world commit to the task and write at a furious pace.
Why would anyone attempt this strange feat? Challenges are a great way to get things accomplished. Many published books where first born in NaNoWriMo including Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen and The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern.
So what does this have to do with working at home? Many of the aspects that make NaNoWriMo successful for authors can be used to help you work at home.
1. Get started. Although pre-planning and plotting is allowed in NaNoWriMo, during the month of November, it’s all about the writing. Whether you’re ready or not, you need to crank out an average of 1,667 words a day to meet your goal. Over the years of running Work-At-Home Success, I’ve met many people who want to work at home. They research and plan, but for some reason, they never get started. Days, weeks, months and then years go by and they’re no closer to working at home than when they first thought about it.
But what if they set a goal that for 30 days, they did something related to working at home everyday? That’s the genius of NaNoWriMo, it takes a daunting task (50,000 words in 30 days) and helps you take small steps (1,667 a day) that can add up big if you just keep at it. At first 1,6667 words or 3,334 on day two, don’t seem like much compared to 50,000, but then on day 15 you realize you have over 25,000 words. But it only works if you get started.
2. Get out of your own way. The only way to succeed in NaNoWriMo is to accept that the first draft will be bad and not worry about typos, poor writing and other issues that can create writer’s block. I see people sabotage and slow themselves down all the time in effort to work at home. They’re waiting for the stars to align, inspiration to strike or perfection. Meanwhile, people with poorer circumstances and materials are out there doing it.
3. Learn to trust the process. I write mystery fiction during NaNoWriMo, and while I go in with a plot idea, many of the important elements such as clues and herrings aren’t yet developed. However, after writing four mysteries, I’ve learned that often these issues are resolved by writing. Characters who I never thought would be suspects all of a sudden do something suspicious. The act of doing releases the creative juices to help you solve problems as you go. The important take away is that you don’t need to know everything. What you need to learn and do will reveal itself as you start doing the work.
4. Habits create results. Probably the biggest lesson from NaNoWriMo is how doing a little bit everyday adds up. The work-at-home goal is big, and I hear many people say they’re going to wait until the kids are in school or the end of the year or whatever reason they use to put off their goal. However, if you find a little bit of time everyday to search for jobs or market your business, you’ll create a habit and build momentum that will pay off. Waiting only delays your success.
5. Get closer to your goal. I’ve done NaNoWriMo for five or six years, but have only succeeded in reaching the 50,000 mark twice (I’m on pace to reach it this year!!). That might seem like a failure, except even when I haven’t reached the goal, I’ve ended up with more written words than I would have if I’d not done it. How long have you wanted to work at home, but you put it off? What if you’d done a little bit every day (#4), how much closer would you be now? Even if you don’t make the amount of money you want as fast as you want, wouldn’t even a little bit help? Wouldn’t it give you confidence to keep trying? Wouldn’t be proof that you can do it, you just need to keep at it, however long it takes?
6. You never know until you do. As November approaches, I talk to a lot of friends encouraging them to do NaNoWriMo. Most tell me they don’t have time. Many are overwhelmed by the challenge. But one friend, decided to try anyway, and she’s been surprised that while it’s a challenge, it’s not as scary or difficult as it might seem. If you have an hour a day, you can write 1,667 words. Just like in an hour a day you can search for jobs or start a business. If you’re feeling like it won’t happen for you, you’re right, unless you start doing. Only through action will you discover all that you can really achieve.
If you listen to the WAHS podcast, you know that in October and November I gave myself several challenges. For the most part, I wasn’t able to meet all of them (although I think I’ll make NaNoWriMo this year), but I have gotten a lot more done than I might have otherwise. It’s helped me prioritize so I’m focused on the things I want to accomplish and eliminate the unimportant stuff. It’s helped me understand the problems and issues I have in meeting the goals so I can fix them and find success.
I know this is a crazy time of year, but what if you challenged yourself anyway? Even for just a week? What if you said you were going to search for jobs and send a resume everyday for the next 7, 14 or 30 days? What if you spent a little time everyday building and marketing your blog or selling your info-product? What if you called one person in your network every day and told them about your skills and see if they or someone they know need your services? So how about it? Give yourself a challenge, even for just this week. Share it in the comments or at the WAHS Facebook fan page.
Leslie Truex is an ideaphoric writer, speaker, entrepreneur, social worker and mom trying to do it all from the comfort of her home. Since 1998, she’s been helping others create careers they love by providing work-at-home information and resources through Work-At-Home Success.
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