For writers, November is all about participating in events that challenge them to write a book in a month. For many, this is a once-per-year chance to be a productive writer and make time to finish a manuscript. Some succeed. Some do not.
The positive impact of succeeding can be great. On the other hand, failing at this endeavor can have a long-lasting negative effect.
Plus, the once-per-year push to write consistently and productively for 30 days isn’t enough to help a you develop a writing habit or the confidence to publish your work. Powering through is not the answer, but choosing to be a writer and author is.
I participated in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) in 2005 and completed a 33,00-word novel in a month. In other words, according to NaNoWriMo rules, I “won”—along with many other writers. Probably a larger number of participants “lost.”
In the nine years that followed, I wrote three traditionally published nonfiction books and four self-published ebooks…all without a 30-day writing contest to motivate me. Yet, I completed these manuscripts 30 to 90 days each time.
How did I accomplish this feat? I identified as a writer and author. Those identities fueled everything from my mindset to my habits making it much easier to write a book.
I know I can write a book quickly any time I choose to do so. Since I’m not that different from you, I am confident you can do the same—even without a book-in-a-month challenge or contest to motivate you. In fact, starting and not finishing your manuscript during such an event ultimately might stop you from writing your book.
Before I take this subject further, let me provide a little more backstory.
A Labor of Love
The year after I participated in NaNoWriMo, I gave birth to the Write Nonfiction in November (WNFIN) Challenge, aka National Nonfiction Writing Month (NaNonFiWriMo). I’ve run it every year since in one form or another. (Learn more about the history of this event here.)
WNFIN was always a labor of love. I started the event simply to give myself and other nonfiction writers a legit challenge of their own while novelists were doing NaNoWriMo. Even when I sold coaching programs or a summit during the event, the income generated barely covered my expenses, time, or effort.
While people joined WNFIN from all over the world, the challenge didn’t attract thousands of participants—more like hundreds. Yet, most got something out of their efforts to start and finish a work of nonfiction in a month.
I’ve considered shutting down the challenge for several years now. However, I felt terrible about doing so. Some writers adored it and accomplished a lot. I would receive grateful emails afterward from writers who finished a book…finally…by participating in the WNFIN Challenge.
Some of those who didn’t complete the challenge were happy with what they accomplished. Yet, others felt discouraged and disappointed in themselves.
I could relate.
I knew there were better ways to consistently write—or start and complete a nonfiction project—than with a 30-day writing contest or challenge.
No Writing in November
Honestly, I never got much writing done in November—blog posts and emails, yes…book manuscripts, no. The event took too much of my time and energy even when I pared it back to just a semblance of its original self. Plus, at least for me, November is a lousy month to participate in (or run) a writing challenge. Not only do I have to navigate the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday, but I often travel to Germany that month.
Other writers would bemoan the fact that November was not the greatest month for a challenge for them either. They would start the WNFIN Challenge strong and then, as Thanksgiving Day got closer, peter out and quit. That discouraged them from trying again at another time during the year, the next November…or ever.
I could see how starting and quitting—rather than finishing—a nonfiction book writing challenge was harmful to an aspiring writer’s or author’s confidence and self-esteem levels. Events like NaNoWriMo and the WNFIN Challenge are meant to increase productivity and confidence, and they do…if the participating writers succeed. But, if participants fail to finish writing a book in 30 days, their participation has the opposite effect and lowers their confidence level. In general, the inability to complete the challenge makes them feel lousy about themselves.
Being a Writer and Author
Failing at such a month-long writing event can impact a writer for years—even forever. In fact, any setback can cause an aspiring author to hang up his writing hat for good.
Believe me…I know.
And that brings this story to the present.
As a Certified High Performance Coach and transformational coach, I want to help writers and authors succeed long term…not just for a month. I want to help them become writers and authors.
So, this November, I am challenge nonfiction writers, like you, to simply focus on adopting those identities.
Be a writer.
Be an author.
Don’t try to finish a writing project in 30 days. Just do the things a writer and author would do.
That’s how you will accomplish your goal of writing a nonfiction book and be able to repeat that accomplishment at will.
Let me explain.
Identity Helps You Write and Publish
After a few of my own writing and publishing setbacks, I lost my mojo. It took a long time to get it back…a very long time.
Adopting—or, in my case, reclaiming—the identities of “writer” and “author” made the most significant difference in my ability to write consistently and feel courageous enough to begin contacting literary agents.
Writers write, and authors publish.
If I am both a writer and an author, I am someone who writes consistently and takes action to get my work published. Thus, I produce nonfiction book manuscripts and proposals and send query letters to agents. And that’s how I get published. (Or I could self-publish my manuscripts.)
These identities are not just alter egos I adopt to help me write a book in November. No way! They are who I am every day, week, month, and year. And as I step into being a writer and author again, I do the things necessary to write and publish my work.
Since I am being a writer and author now, I am focused on writing and publishing. That means I also am committed to not letting anything get in the way of writing my book—not even the writing challenge I created.
Challenge Isn’t Enough to Form a Writing Habit
I have coached many writers privately and in group programs, and I know the value of challenging people. That’s why I created the WNFIN Challenge in the first place.
It’s important to stretch yourself past your comfort zones; that’s how you grow and learn. And when you accomplish a big goal, like writing a nonfiction book, your self-esteem and confidence increase tremendously.
With this in mind, I also know there is another way—a better way—to complete manuscript and develop a sustainable writing habit. Those goals can be accomplished by stepping into the identity you really want: writer or author.
I challenge you to do that: Decide to be a writer and an author.
Take that challenge—and “win”—you won’t need NaNoWriMo or the WNFIN Challenge to motivate you to start and finish a work of nonfiction. Instead, you can write a nonfiction book in 30, 60, 90, or 120 days—or by whatever deadline you choose. And you can do so confidently.
Again, the point of NaNoWriMo and the WNFIN Challenge is to finish a manuscript in 30 days. You can enter one of these events just for fun…or to see if you can do it. You can push through and get a rough draft of a full-length manuscript in 30 days, but does that make you a writer? Does it make you an author?
So make the point to be a writer and an author.
Writers Write and Authors Publish
If you want to write a nonfiction or fiction book in whatever time period you choose, be a writer. Writers write…consistently. They are in the habit of writing.
And when you write consistently, you will churn out books with or without a writing challenge or book-in-30-days contest.
When your identity is “writer,” your habits align with that identity. After all, what do writers do? They write. You will have the habit of writing consistently.
Then achieving your goal of completing a manuscript becomes part and parcel of your identity—who you are being.
You won’t be a writer when you have written a book. You have to be a writer to write the book.
Identity first. Action second. Results third.
The same goes for being an author. As an author, you habitually write and submit work for publication. That’s how you end up with published books.
Identity first. Action second. Results third.
With this Be-Do-Have strategy, you don’t have to wait 30 days to develop a writing habit. Instead, simply choose your identity and do what someone with that identity would do today.
Boom. Now you have writing and publishing habits.
I have adopted the Be-Do-Have strategy, and it’s working like a charm. If it weren’t, you’d probably be getting emails from me about the 2022 WNFIN Challenge. Instead, you are reading this post, which I wrote only after I had spent a few hours working on my nonfiction book project.
I have chosen to be a writer and author. Many of you see me as such already, but I have not perceived myself that way for at least six years. As I said, I am reclaiming these identities and the habits that go with them.
In alignment with that identity, I write…no matter if it is November or another month. I am committed to writing and publishing, and it is my priority. So I won’t let anything get in the way of writing my book(s).
The only surefire way to write no matter what is going on in your life is to choose to be a writer. With that as your identity, you will always find a way to write—even for a few minutes.
And being a writer will serve you better in the long term than any write-a-book-in-30-days challenge. (But it will also serve you if you decide to participate in one!)
Choose to be an author, too. That identity will help you get published faster than any how-to-become-an-author course.
Are you being a writer and author? Tell me in a comment below. And if you want support adopting an identity that will help you write and publish your work, let’s chat. You can schedule a 15-minute discovery call with me here.
Would you like to write and publish nonfiction work, like articles, blog posts, books, or reports…and become a successful author? Join the Nonfiction Writers’ University. Get the basic education you need and the group Author Coaching to help you succeed as a nonfiction writer.
Enjoy a 30-day trial membership for only $1. If you’ve felt the desire to get coached and be supported as you pursue authorship, this program is for you. Participate in monthly group Author Coaching sessions and gain access to an extensive archive of writing and publishing resources.
Photo courtesy of: iakovenko