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November is for writing!

Lots of things I wanted to write about since almost two months ago: 1) Greenbelt festival in the UK–amazing speakers on subjects from injustice to creativity, and thousands of people from all backgrounds and ages engaging with issues. 2) Spoke at a women’s conference in Montana, and also to teens there, and felt overwhelmed by the generosity and willingness to care. Also hiked in Glacier National Park after the first snowfall and LOVED being in the mountains. 3) Have signed up to join NaNoWriMo!!!!!!!

National Novel Writing Month was birthed in San Francisco (like me!). This is the 10th year that writers all around the world (over 100,00 participated last year) will be plunking down 50,000 words during the month of November, either adding to their swips (supposed works-in-progress)–like me, or starting (and for some, finishing) a  whole new book! Loads of positive and creative energy encircling the globe in November as authors from Australia to Alaska will be writing novels.

As the NaNoWriMo Team said in their welcoming email (with the subject line, “NaNoWriMo loves annedegraaf”–gotta love it!): 1) It’s okay to not know what you’re doing. Really. You’ve read a lot of novels, so you’re completely up to the challenge of writing one. If you feel more comfortable outlining your story ahead of time, do so. But it’s also fine to just wing it. Write every day, and a book-worthy story will appear, even if you’re not sure what that story might be right now.

2) Do not edit as you go. Editing is for December. Think of November as an experiment in pure output. Even if it’s hard at first, leave ugly prose and poorly written passages on the page to be cleaned up later. Your inner editor will be very grumpy about this, but your inner editor is a nitpicky jerk who foolishly believes that it is possible to write a brilliant first draft if you write it slowly enough. (Anne here: That’s me!) It isn’t. Every book you’ve ever loved started out as a beautifully flawed first draft. In November, embrace imperfection and see where it takes you.

3) Tell everyone you know that you’re writing a novel in November. This will pay big dividends in Week Two, when the only thing keeping you from quitting is the fear of looking pathetic in front of all the people who’ve had to hear about your novel for the past month. Seriously. Email them now about your awesome new book. The looming specter of personal humiliation is a very reliable muse.

So this is about all the things I love: Letting go to lay hold, trusting the process, knowing the creative Child inside each of us is really, really good at . . . creating, and writing for the sheer joy of it!

The creator of NaNo, Chris Baty, says there were 21 participants in 1999. He came up with the idea partially so he’d have a good pick-up line at parties: “Hey, did you know I just wrote a novel in a month?” Just what I need!!! Everyone’s on their honor that they won’t just download the U.S. Constitution into the word-counting space. Supposedly, flying monkeys will attack if we count words that were written before 1 November.

I have been writing well in October, but I plan to write like the wind in November and finish the first draft of my novel. There. I’m saying it in public so all of you can ask me about it. Check out the NaNoWriMo website. There are fantastic pep talks by famous authors and loads of tips and even ways to procrastinate, including instructions about tasting your desk. (Also something I really need.)

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