How to “win” NaNoWriMo with Creativity

First off, for those of you who don’t know much of anything (or anything at all) about NaNoWriMo, it stands for National Novel Writing Month and it takes place every year during November. The goal is to write 50k words in 30 days without *completely* losing your mind.

I’ll talk a bit more about this crazy organization/movement/experience at the end of this post. For now, I’d like to take you back a few weeks to a time before my novel, The Festival of Trial and Ember, had been released.

To a time where a creative mayhem tormented my mind day and night, and I ate a heaping bowl of anxiety for breakfast every morning.

Pre-release of TFOTAE

Without going into too much detail (for both our sakes), suffice it to say that deadlines were scary-close, sleep was a long distance relationship on the brink of complete termination, and I had the last 1/4 of the manuscript to rework, revise, and beat into submission – all before the scariest deadline of all arrived.


Because I offered pre-order copies of TFOTAE prior to the release, I had to upload the final version of the manuscript within a few days of the release. Miss the deadline, and the “holding” manuscript I’d uploaded into Amazon would be sent to the awaiting readers. Miss the deadline, and Amazon might very well kick me off their platform for being a naughty author.

(Yes, Amazon can really kick you off. And they will).

Was I stressed? To the point that nausea was my constant companion. Was I determined to meet the deadline, through hell and high water and a minefield of plot holes to fill?

You bet I was.

Now that you know the stakes, let’s explore the final hours before the deadline.

The hours that completely changed my perspective on writing and Creativity.

Creativity is real, and it has spunk

Call me crazy—and there were many times leading up to the release when I thought I might actually be crazy—but I can no longer believe that Creativity is anything other than divine, otherwordly, transcendent.

Like Elizabeth Gilbert, I have come to believe that Creativity has its own entity separate from creatives like you and me. It acts according to its own agenda, rules, wills and wishes. This fact is both fascinating and utterly frustrating.

But most of all it’s relieving.

If Creativity is in fact its own “thing,” then we as creatives are no longer burdened with the task of creating something out of nothing all on our own. We’re also not burdened with the suffocating pressure of playing both Creativity and Creator. That kind of power should not be placed on the shoulders of mere mortals.

And with the belief that creative inspiration, imagination, the muses, come from a separate source, we don’t have to own that otherwordly responsibility. It belongs to something else.

That being said, Creativity can be evasive, relentless, vague and everything in between. It doesn’t play by my rules as a writer. It does whatever the heck it wants to do.

Again, this is both fascinating and at times very, very frustrating.

How to communicate with creativity

Like learning a new language, communicating with Creativity can feel sluggish, tiring, and vulnerable. After all, you might be willing to talk, but then Creativity decides not to show up. For a long, long time.

At the end of the day, what matters is that you get the words out. You create something.

Whether it’s a few sentences, pages, or scenes, getting words out is the best way to show Creativity that you mean business. You are invested in this project, and even when things aren’t flowing perfectly—which they honestly rarely are—you will be present for the work you care about.

Believe me when I say Creativity takes notice of these things, and will reward you when it matters most.

To take your relationship to the next level, consider this . . .

Imagine your mind is like a plot of land. The more fertile and rich the soil, the better the plants will grow. How do you fertilize the soil? Feed your mind. Give it something it can work with.

During the pre-release (my walk through the valley of the shadow of death), I saw a direct correlation between my five senses, and the richness of my creative mind.

I came to rely on simple things like sipping tea, watching an emotionally-triggering music video, or lighting a candle, to bring some life into my imagination and invite Creativity to stick around for a while longer.

Anything I could do to awaken the senses in a few minutes before I got back to writing again.

Rituals and routines can have the same positive effect. Maybe you take a walk every day before you sit down to write. As that ritual becomes a habit, you are training your mind to prepare to write as soon as the walk is over. You are also showing Creativity that you plan on showing up every day, with or without her.

As flighty and carefree as she might seem, Creativity loves that kind of stubborn determination.

creating is hard work

It turns out that the experts weren’t lying when they said you have to go after inspiration with a club, (Jack London) and work hard to turn creativity into a habit (Twyla Tharp).

Because Creativity has its own personality, our job as creatives is to learn how to communicate with the source of inspiration. And on days when the communication lines feel like they’ve been severed, we show up and write anyway.

During the pre-release, I didn’t write “when I felt like it,” or “when I had time.” I wrote because I had to. It’s crazy how much stronger my relationship with Creativity became when we were forced into a small apartment together for days. When I wrote every day, barely stopping long enough to eat – let alone work out, shower, or have a real conversation with someone other than my fictional characters – I showed Creativity that this book would enter the world with or without her help.

At times I also begged Creativity not to abandon me because the truth is, we both knew the book would be complete crap otherwise.

Thankfully for me, and for my readers, Creativity stuck around.

National Novel Writing Month

Whether you’re participating in NaNoWriMo this year or not, I hope that my musings help you to build a stronger relationship with Creativity during your writing process.

Because, let’s be honest, winning at NaNoWriMo isn’t so much about reaching 50k words, it’s about sticking to that habit of writing every day, no matter what.

That’s when Creativity decides to stick around. That’s when I believe the real magic can happen.

(Comment below or message me online if you’d like to ask about NaNoWriMo and/or be writing buddies during this crazy month! My NaNo username is @loganmiehl).

Here are the two main resources I pulled from in this post. Both highly recommended, of course. 🙂

Elizabeth Gilbert: her book, Big Magic and her TedTalk, Your Illusive Creative Genius.

Twyla Tharp: her book, The Creative Habit.

Did you find this post helpful? Share it with a friend and then get back to writing!

The Festival of trial and ember: book one in a new fantasy series
The Festival of Trial and Ember

Order The Festival of Trial and Ember today for just 99 cents!

Click here for distribution links outside the US.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *