NANO … a model for life? Part I of II posts…

You may have heard me go on and on about NANO, (National Novel Writing Month) – and sure, if you take it at face value, 50,000 words in a month, why would I torture myself. Good question. Except, there is more to it than you’d expect and that is where the treasure lies. Yes, I learned the hard way about this yet, the ore I participated, the more I realized how much of a bigger picture there is. I think the best way is just to first dip into the commentary that was a live talk tonight with founder of NANO, Chrisy Baty and current operations manager, Grant Falkner. I think you will realize, ESPCIALLY if you are not a writer, how big a deal this actually is.

Blurb and Livestream, two very cool services, help support this Nano endeavor and I really, really like how technology services jump in to support literacy and especially such a cool project like Nano and The Young Writers Program. Think if other major companies jumped in and found ways to launch and support academic endeavors to not only advertise their services but to promote such project-based learning??

Blurb, is a very comprehensive and dynamic platform for helping to publish books in many, many varieties!   This can be found through National Writing Month at and also simply at to see what they are all about.

I liked the background into how NANO became NANO. Chris Baty stated there was no greater thing than novel writing and smacktalk, and I have to say having a group of peers challenging each other, wow, just like in Cross Country when you have someone run with you – we always noticed those being some of the greatest gains – and those conversation would stick through us at a meet and push us further than we thought we could! Writing in groups and now, that activity of creativity endorsed, so cool!

Starting with only 8 people in the main office of NaNo in Berkeley, CA,(that conduct a international endeavor!) and friends putting together a month for just writing; in 1999 starting with 21 friends that believed in this dream, and now, I mean look! It reminds me of how small we started as a magazine, 6 people, yet that dream to make art be a centerpiece and let others know how important a communicative tool is, we now see it reach hundreds of artists, and sometimes, they do not realize they are artists until this experience. We had this dream that became a reality thank to others that believed in it, and the same with NANO, it is exciting the challenges and the realizations you make as a person when you devote a month to that purpose of rediscovering yourself

I have been there and heard the, “I can’t do that, no way.” I was one of them, trust me yet, I discovered some amazing things about myself through this process as well. I liked how Stephen King also commits to writing 2000 words a day, and this idea of a novel being the clay you can mold, shape, etc., and not sure what it will turn out to be, yet along the way growing with it as it grows.

Chris Baty now has the edited version of his book, that original came out in 2004 titled, No Plot No Problem. I love this title because some of the hardest things are to put aside planning and just take the leap. This applies to roadtrips, (Adi Alsaid’s book Let’s Get Lost!) risks at work, risks with relationships, and overall, risks on how you will live your life. Yes, you can minimize the importance of something like NANO, yet, it simply is a tool for you to bring out some pretty great things in your own life and make it better. I feel, and have always felt, as an educator the most powerful tools to bring success up, whether it be just grades, test scores, or the self esteem needed to succeed in school overall, are projects that put the learner in touch with dealing with the world around them.

When Chris stated, “The biggest things separating people form their ambitions…is a deadline”, I do agree it is like you have to make a date with yourself to give yourself permission to explore, to discover and to truly live. I see NANO as doing this and this leads to other things that will make an impact.

When it was said, it is “…hard to prioritize when you see what other things they are up against,” I could not agree more. You see mega distractions today with technology, and imagine when you are writing and have a lull! The tendency to check your blog, check Facebook, check this, check that, it is GRUELING! This same analogy exists when you have to carve time out for something that puts you back to a time where you did do things to discover yourself all over. NANO is one way to do this in one period of the year.

The following points did point to NANO directly:

-People need more creativity in their lives!

-Life presents these obstacles to prevent this much of the time.

When you begin to see this as a doorway to excuse yourself from the treadmill of tasks, and you experience such a sense of freedom for one month, this experience becomes even more personal. In looking at the other NANO events such as Camp Nanowrimo that occurs in April and July, last year 60 000 participants and then alongside NANO the Young Writers program –where 100,000 writers, which is easily 2000 classrooms, you realize, WHOA.

A lot of people say, “I do not have the time, the ideas, the talent, …” to do such a project and a GREAT response is, “Nobody has the time but you can make the time.” If it is important enough to you. The same thing applies to reading something of your own each night, or carving out that brief period each day that is YOURS.

In saying that NANO will change your creative life, and change the way you read books and the way you will see the world, you night say, um, seriously? From something just like NANO? The amazing part is when you take in the other sources of inspiration, seeing people on video writing with you, hearing authors take time to share with you their experiences so they can push YOU, and so many people alongside you willing to take time WITH you to see you and themselves succeed, you start to realize the power of groups, and writing, and seeing the world differently.   Then you se this is a powerful tool to get you to that point, to be able to change your perspective for the better.

Oddly enough, I do agree that the busier you are the easier it is to approach it with a“anything goes” attitude you need for NANO. I often found the days I woke up and did not plan the classroom as much as I did for a week ahead of time, I was so tired in those cases, I had let down a lot of pretense and did not have the energy to b worried, anxiety-filled, etc, and the class went better than the times I spent planning, planning, planning. Such is the case with NANO, instead of planning everything before it happens, when you take that leap into the inknown, some pretty cool things happen as a result.

Going for quantity of words at a madcap pace and not thinking of anything else, often give you the quality you look for later as you have liberated yourself from an inner editor! Even with some years you do not like what you wrote, you grow and learn from the experience overall ad have given yourself the freedom to stretch and explore what you have to offer in one of many areas.

I also love that some (like 10!) pretty great New York Times Bestsellers have come out of the NANO experience, some such as Books out of Nanowrimo like:

Night Circus and Water for Elephants just to name to of them!

The idea of – Exuberant Imperfection! – giving yourself permission to be creative, to NOT know ahead of time, to not edit and just write, write, write and not even THINK about any mistakes made, I think this makes a huge difference in you as a person by the end of November.

If you create 1667 words a day that equals to make 50,000 a month, but of course this varies on typing speed, people tend to write as fast as they can type. Chris was stating he writes 5 night a week, 2 hours per night, and this gives him the space to reflect and think in between. This whole experience lets you organize your month, and lets you put on your project manager hat.

Some amazing aspects to NANO become that a slow cooker is an amazing tool and the support you can expect from that significant other during the month of November. Important advice for people new to the whole endeavor is to take breaks – after Grant mentioned statistics being looked at for the past years of NANO, he stated when people hit 25000 words, 85% were likely to finish to 50000 words and beyond.

I do agree we discover our books as we write them, and not knowing the end, or thinking you know the end and a character surprising yourself halfway through is part of this journey. Encouraging yourself to wait until you make it perfect – well wait until you finish to do that, because the best part is just ripping out what you see, hear, smell, and feel until the very end!

Some additional tools that help are the advent of the writing buddies you can find, both in the site forums, from the liasons that are in different geographic regions, to the constant Virtual Write-ins NANO provides, to write-ins you an create with people that have an interest in developing their writing, to the inspirational materials that are provided for you, there are limitless supplies of tools that help transform you into someone you were not when you started!

Some NANO vocabulary of interest to leave you with for a part TWO post in a day or so!:

Snowflake Method

Writing totem

Plotting vs a Pantser

Virtual Write In

Plot Bunny

NANO Wrimo Rebel

Traveling Shovel of Death


About Harry Brake

Employee of Woodbridge High School, Library Media Specialist, Media crazy! :)
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5 Responses to NANO … a model for life? Part I of II posts…

  1. Harry Brake says:

    Reblogged this on PAVEing a Blog and commented:

    National Novel Writing Month Philosophy – larger than the story itself…

  2. karen says:

    Harry, I saw this subject line tweeted out and it inspired me to write a whole story (fictional) on “Nano, a Model for Life.” 2500 words. (Also trying to get into shape for November!) I can’t wait to read what you are writing on this subject.

    Thanks for the inspiration!

  3. karen says:

    Great post, Harry! Well done.

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