I remember hearing all the hype about National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). I had given up the dream of writing fiction years before—in fact, when I was a junior in high school—but an experience in 1989 birthed the idea for a novel.
I started writing the manuscript in 2013 and produced about 3,000 words, which I had let sit in a folder on my computer for nearly a year.
I knew little about novel writing or fiction craft. My degree in magazine journalism had led me down the nonfiction path, but I felt a strong push to write this novel.
When I heard yet another writer talk about NaNoWriMo, I decided to enter the fray and produce 50,000 words on top of what I’d already written. I wanted to write a book in a month. And I did, indeed, complete the manuscript in that amount of time.
The Birth of a Nonfiction Writing Challenge
The next year, I wondered how nonfiction writers occupied themselves while everyone else was writing fiction. I discovered many of them in a NaNoWriMo forum for “rebels.”
“Well, that sucks,” I thought. “I don’t want to be a rebel. I just want to legitimately write nonfiction in November.”
And that birthed the idea for the Write Nonfiction in November (WNFIN) Challenge, often also called National Nonfiction Writing Month (NaNonFiWriMo).
The WNFIN Challenge is a personal challenge to start and finish any work of nonfiction in 30 days. No one counts your words or tells you if your manuscript is long enough or done. You decide what to write and how long it will be when completed, and then you write for 30 days, completing the project by midnight November 30.
Why Take a Challenge
But why bother taking a personal challenge like WNFIN? What’s the point of forcing yourself to produce a completed manuscript in 30 days?
You take the WNFIN Challenge—or any challenge in any area of your life—to push yourself to the next level. That’s why the event I created is a personal challenge rather than some sort of contest with winners and losers.
A challenge motivates you to try harder to fulfill your potential.
Think about the times when you felt challenged in some way—maybe you had to stretch big time. As a result, you grew psychologically and spiritually. Your self-concept changed as did your skills, beliefs, mental—and maybe physical—abilities. Why? Because you demanded more of yourself during that period.
You demanded of yourself more focus, belief, concentration, creativity, consciousness, craft, productivity, presence, will, strength… And, as a result, you grew and changed. You leveled up. And you likely felt a higher degree of passion, excitement, enthusiasm, and fulfillment.
You take a challenge to become a better version of yourself—in this case, a better writing version, one you know you have the potential to express.
What Challenge is NOT
A challenge is not the same thing as a goal. Goals are things we knock off a to-do list. And while some goals require that we stretch, others do not.
The goal of writing a book in 30 days can leave you feeling overwhelmed and stressed. The challenge of writing a full manuscript in 30 days inspires you to become the type of person who can do that. A challenge provides the push that helps you move toward your aspirations and become your best self. And that’s exciting…not stressful.
The Three Cs
I often think of a challenge as closely associated with creative expression and contribution—especially when I speak about the WNFIN Challenge. In his book The Charge, Brendon Burchard includes all three “Cs”—challenge, creative expression, and contribution—in what he calls the “forward drives.” These keep us moving toward our dreams and feeling fulfilled and on purpose rather than bored, restless, and directionless.
Let’s look at the drive for creative expression. Writing helps a writer express thoughts and ideas as well as feelings. That’s why starting on a new book project, which requires special effort, focus, thought, and creativity, makes you feel alive. Plus, writing gives you a creative outlet—a way to express yourself in written form, and that’s fulfilling and exciting. All writers have a strong drive to express themselves creatively. That’s why they write.
Now let’s look at the drive for contribution. The act of writing itself feels like a meaningful pursuit for most writers. Writing may serve as a way to fulfill your purpose and make a difference. As you write, you gain certainty that you can have a positive and meaningful impact on readers solely with your worlds. The act of writing is a way of being of service. Thus, it’s easy to see that contribution lies at the core of why a writer writes and publishes.
Together, the human drives for challenge, creative expression, and contribution push a writer forward toward a completed work that can be released into the world.
Why Challenge Yourself to Write a Nonfiction Book in 30 Days?
You don’t have to write a book in 30 days to take the WNFIN Challenge. But you do have to stretch yourself to start and finish a work of nonfiction in a month.
Look at that last sentence again… Notice the word “stretch.”
You take up the WNFIN Challenge to prove to yourself you can do something more difficult than you have done before, to grow into your potential as a writer, and to reach your next level of achievement. You do it for yourself…as a personal challenge…to prove to yourself (not to anyone else) that you can do what you say you want to do now or at any time in the future. You do it to become a better you and a better writer.
Indeed, the number one reason to take a challenge of any type is to realize your potential.
It’s easy to remain comfortable, but from a place of comfort, you won’t fully express yourself creatively or make as significant a difference. You can opt for the 6-month or 6-year plan for writing a book—that’s comfortable.
Or you can decide to write a book (or something other work of nonfiction) in 30 days—that’s uncomfortable. And in the process, you achieve another degree of potential, take another step toward fulfilling your purpose, and realize the satisfaction of being of service through your creative expression.
From that place of discomfort, you grow. You change. You step into your best writing self. And you feel enthusiastic, confident, and alive.
And once you reach that next level, you will always know it’s possible. That makes it much harder to step backward and much easier to continue stepping up and into your next level of success as a writer.
Are you ready to take a writing challenge…like the WNFIN Challenge? Tell me in a comment below. And, please, share this post with other nonfiction writers you know!
This post is part of the 2019 Write Nonfiction in November (WNFIN) Challenge, also known as National Nonfiction Writing Month (NaNonFiWriMo). Find out more about how to participate by clicking here. The event is sponsored by the Nonfiction Writers’ University. Get a 1-week trial membership for just $1!