It's already November, which means NaNoWriMo - or National Novel Writing Month - is upon us. Worldwide, over 200,000 amateur novelists (and some professional) begin a race against the clock to complete a 50,000 word novel by the end of November. Having taken part three times, and now starting for a fourth time, these are some of the insights I've gained:
1. You can always find the time
Whether it's a leisurely Saturday afternoon at one's desk, or 20 minutes grabbed in a café on a laptop or iPad, everyone has spare time to think and jot down ideas, for a book or business plan or anything else. You can even dictate into your phone's voice recorder while driving (don't try this on public transport).
2. Peer motivation is key
Having a "buddy" is always a huge motivator, as humans are naturally competitive. Whether it's diet, exercise or giving up smoking, pacing yourself against someone else's progress always helps, whether an individual or another team.
3. Writing is tiring
People think of physical exercise as tiring, but your mind gets exhausted too, and NaNoWriMo really shows you this. You'll pump out 1,000 words in an hour, and struggle to write even half that in the following hour. Studies show that productivity in "white collar" jobs falls faster than in more physically arduous "blue collar" jobs. If you've been doing excessive overtime at work, you're probably wasting your time. Everyone needs breaks and sensible limits.
4. Breaking mental blocks
You can't afford to have writer's block when you're trying to write an entire novel in a month. So you find strategies to get more inspiration. It might be taking a walk, having a coffee, doing some research, or even a Story Dice app. These strategies can be applied to your regular work. If you're sitting there, stuck, staring at your screen, try a change of scenery.
5. Hitting goals is a huge boost
Breaking up a goal into stages, with achievements along the way, is a great motivator. With NaNoWriMo, you generally aim to hit a daily total of slightly more words than you need (50,000 divided by 30), to keep your head above the progress line. That means every day is a battle and a potential win. And the final battle - to pass 50,000 - is a major achievement. You've just written an entire book.
Even if you're not a wannabe novelist, why not use NaNoWriMo to make a commitment to your corporate blog, such as aiming for at least one new article every weekday? Or use it to write that eBook you've always planned to publish.