What I learned from NaNoWriMo

This year I had wanted to write 30,000 words in the month of November. I’ve failed horribly this year. But in some ways, I’ve succeeded.

I have indeed written more this month than I usually would. I have written a few thousand words (many in letters) and I’ve remembered how much I like to write, so in those ways it’s been successful.

Especially since my goal at the start was not as much about word count as it was about building a habit of writing and a desire to do it. (Though I suppose the goal itself testifies to the pre-existence of the desire).

But what have I learned from it?

One of the things I’ve learned is that as much as I want to, I can’t write at a computer. The words don’t flow the same on a keyboard and I will always find myself distracted by a “just check”. I’ll set aside the writing for a moment, but never pick it up again. Instead I much prefer older, more elegant analog tools. A nice pen and good paper.

For myself, I think I also equate writing and thinking. It’s how I reason things out.

If I don’t write something down I won’t move past it. I will keep thinking the same thought over and over. Not like a stuck record, but more like a nagging reminder of an unfinished task; an incomplete thought.

And since I am able to write so much more effectively on a notebook or loose paper than on a computer I think I’ve started to view a notebook as a thinking tool. While I think of a computer or iPad as a distraction, an entertainment tool. The computer is an idea generator, being exposed to other people’s thoughts and ideas through their own writing, videos or podcasts. The notebook is where I flesh out my own thoughts on these ideas with which I would not otherwise have contact.

Beyond just utility, though, I’ve found that I take far less pleasure from writing at a computer than I do with a fountain pen on nice, heavy paper. And the pleasure I derive from pen and paper is a big motivator to return to writing once I’ve started, and to start in the first place.

I’ve also decided to try out a Baron Fig notebook. I’ve been using Moleskine for a few years and I may go back to them, but I’ve heard great things about Baron Fig paper and the shorter wider proportions of the notebook intrigue me. Plus, they are attractive notebooks and cheaper than Moleskine.


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