NaNoWriMo: What Test Takers Can Learn From It
NaNoWriMo, for those of you who may not be aware of it, stands for National Novel Writing Month. Since its inception in July 1999, the monthlong event for creative writers has produced hundreds of thousands of novels and billions of words. The goal is to write 50,000 words — the length of a short novel — in just 30 days time. Organizers are careful to emphasize that most NaNoWriMo novels — if not all — are unready for publication at the end of the month, but that isn’t the point.
The point is that you finished your first draft; that you have something you can now hone and shape into the novel that it’s supposed to be — one meant for public eyes. As a test taker, it may not seem like there is much to learn from the NaNoWriMo challenge, but if that’s your perception, think again. Here are X things you can learn from these zany writer people.
1. You learn the value of deadlines.
In a recent blog post, we noted the benefits of setting deadlines for your work, no matter what that work is — a project at school or a study schedule for your professional exam. NaNoWriMo is the deadline on steroids. It forces you to write a novel in 30 days, which means around 1,667 words per day if you are to hit the target. In order to reach your final deadline, you have to set 30 smaller deadlines. You have to hit each one or have a contingency in place should you come up short a day or two during the month. This is essentially a masters class in how to work TO a deadline and how to make adjustments so life doesn’t get too much in the way.
2. You learn how to maintain the flow of energy throughout the study process.
By having an overarching goal that is timely, you know exactly how much energy you’re going to need to complete the task at hand. You don’t make the mistake of starting too soon and wasting a lot of time. You focus with razor precision not on the larger goal but on the things that you have to handle TODAY in order to meet your deadline. Energy and enthusiasm is important every step of the way, and since you know where the endpoint is — and you don’t give yourself too much time to get there — you’re able to do much more in a smaller amount of time.
3. You learn how to think on the fly and how to properly store information for a rainy day.
NaNoWriMo participants may not write the same amount on every day. Some days they may be firing on all cylinders and unwilling to stop at the 1,667-word daily goal. Other days the ideas might be extremely sluggish and so not to “force it,” they may stop early and pad the leftover words into subsequent days. They also learn that it’s best to retain information as it comes to you so that when you need it, it’s there. This happens when a challenge participant finds a piece of research that isn’t immediately relevant to the writing chore of the day, but they know it will be as the project progresses. They may even get into a state of inspiration and skip the parts that are giving them trouble in the writing in order to focus their creative energy where it’s needed the most. You can use this same strategy in studying for a test. If you don’t know how to tackle a piece of material or you don’t have the patience for it in the present, then you might focus on something less taxing in order to keep your forward momentum when it comes to productivity.
4. You learn that the task isn’t over with the last day of your challenge.
If you’re studying for a test, then you may think that it’s all over whenever the test is actually taken. This has never been a beneficial mindset when it comes to improving your education and marketability. Just like a NaNoWriMo participant isn’t going to stop with the last word of their first draft — they’re going to keep going over the material and fixing things that are problematic; they’re going to reach out when stumped; and value what others have to say — you are not going to stop trying to improve yourself once you’re done with a test. Ideally, you’re going to score well and use those scores to further your education or you’re going to feel you could have done better and end up taking the test again as a more knowledgeable and disciplined person. Success in education and success in your career share this one thing in common — the learning process never stops.
5. You learn that excellence cannot be bottled down into a 30-day period, but you get close enough to it to reach higher than you would have otherwise.
NaNoWriMo books are never ready for publication at the end of the monthlong period. Most of the writers themselves will tell you that. They haven’t reached greatness at this point, but they’ve felt the thrill and exhilaration of the process enough to know that greatness is out there, and they can have a piece of it if they keep working on the book and using the tools and resources they can get their hands on to make it the best it can be. While you may not learn all there is to know while studying for a test, you will learn more than you knew before, and when you can translate that knowledge into a good test score and/or a more impassioned understanding, you are well on your way to reaching that next level. In other words, finishing a goal you have set for yourself is great motivation to setting and accomplishing more goals. From that point, success can be very addicting.
While you may never write a book or try out a NaNoWriMo, you can learn a lot from what these dedicated souls do during the month of November each year. Heed the lesson and channel your efforts into beating whatever academic endeavor is in your future. Best of luck!