What is NaPoWriMo? + 8 Tips for Participating (With GIFs!)

Fact: April is National Poetry Writing Month.

To celebrate, both amateur and established wordsmiths take on the annual NaPoWriMo challenge of writing a poem a day for the entire month. Then at the completion of the challenge, each participant has thirty poems to continue editing, shelve, or choose to send out for potential publication.

The task is arduous, yet fun. Exhilarating. Mind-boggling. Valuable. Revelatory. It can also be a bit overwhelming if you’ve never done it before.

Interested in trying it out, but don’t know where to start? Want advice on the best way to approach NaPoWriMo? Here are a few tips I’ve compiled based on my own experiences with this 30-day writing challenge:

First, practice beforehand if you can. I participated in NaPoWriMo for the first time in 2016. In order to gauge the level of difficulty it’d require, I wrote a poem a day every day in December 2015. It was extremely daunting at first, but after a while, it got easier. I also learned that I could participate for real in April with confidence because I’d done it before and succeeded.

Two, know that you won’t be satisfied with every poem you write. If you’re writing a poem a day for thirty days, not every poem is going to be your best. Some days, you’ll be excited to write and you’ll produce something great. Others, you won’t be inspired and you’ll scrawl out anything just to meet your quota. (I know I have). And guess what? That’s okay. The object of NaPoWriMo isn’t to write a bunch of poems that would make Shakespeare envious. It’s about consistently building and refining your craft and developing your voice as a writer. Half of your poems might be great and half might not. Write anyway.

Third, do what works for you. Some NaPoWriMo-ers search for writing prompts to help guide them and what topics they want to write about. Some don’t. (I personally fall into the latter category). With that in mind, I advise you to do what you feel will work best for you. And if you don’t have a preference either way, try mixing things up and using both techniques. It’ll definitely make your experience that much more interesting and memorable.

Fourth, decide what medium you want to use. Would you rather write out each poem in your journal or notebook? What about typing your poems in a Word document or a series of posts to share on your writing blog? Again, this is all personal preference. If you have a writing blog, but don’t want to share your poems until you’ve edited them more, keep them on your computer or in your notebook. If you’re ready to share them with the world, then post away. (Pro Tip: NaPoWriMo is a big deal on Tumblr. If you want to share your poems there, use the tags #napowrimo, #spilledink, and #poetry, and you can connect with fellow participants and read their work. They can also read yours–a win win).

Fifth, acknowledge that you’re going to feel like giving up. Whether it hits you on day 5, day 15, or day 28, know that it’ll happen at some point. It doesn’t matter if you’re participating for the first time or the twentieth time, NaPoWriMo is draining, both physically and emotionally. Do all you can to keep pushing through to the end and remind yourself what it is you’re trying to accomplish. Something else that also helps me is telling myself that I’m taking the entire month of May off and 1) not writing anything or 2) writing very few things. A large part of NaPoWriMo is perseverance. Don’t quit.

Sixth, if you do give up, know that it’s not the end. I participated in NaPoWriMo for the first time in 2016. I enjoyed it so much that I couldn’t wait for my second go-around in 2017. That year, I had a nine-month-old puppy. I was also maintaining a volunteer gig in PR and was still trying to land my first post-grad job.  I started the challenge but only made it to day 10 because I had a lot of other things going on. Of course I was bummed that I had to quit–I didn’t want to–but it helped prepare me that much more for the next year. In 2018, my puppy was nearing two years old, and I had my first post-grad job. And guess what? I made it to the end of NaPoWriMo. (!!!)

Seventh, have fun. I continually reiterate how important it is to have fun when you’re writing. It enriches your experience that much more and motivates you to keep learning how to become a better storyteller.  NaPoWriMo is the same. Yes, it can be draining and stressful at times. However, I firmly believe that the fun outweighs the stress if you stay open-minded. It’s not some kind of writing torture designed to make you miserable. It’s actually quite the opposite. I speak from experience when I say that I’m continually reminded how beneficial NaPoWriMo is to me as a writer. Plus, it’s really cool to look through the poems I wrote each year and note how much my style has evolved and how I’ve improved. It can be the same for you.

Finally, congratulate yourself when you reach the end. You did it! You made it! Before you start sorting through what you’ve written and decide to edit some things or send your poems out for potential publication, treat yourself to a celebratory cup of coffee, a good night’s sleep and an entire month–or two–off from writing. You have a lot to be proud of! : )

Have you ever participated in NaPoWriMo? What was your experience like? What tips can you offer your fellow wordsmiths?

Comment below or tweet me at @cmsellers14.

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Remembering Why I Started + 5 Tips for Combating Writing “Burnout”

Honesty hour: Writing has been really difficult for me lately and I haven’t enjoyed practicing my craft.

When I started this blog last July, I was excited to have my own space to grow and develop my voice. In more recent months; however, I’ve felt the pressure to keep producing and pushing content, so that this space stays “current.” I’ve also been obsessively monitoring my blog’s analytics and have felt preoccupied by clicks, likes, comments, and new followers.

As if the quality of how “good” my writing is rests on how many people read and respond to a particular post or don’t. As if this should influence my decision as to whether or not I continue to maintain this space.

Validation culture in 2019 is a dangerous thing for creatives. It makes us doubt ourselves, it impacts our ability to create for the pure joy of doing so, it sparks feelings of frustration, sadness, and even jealousy. It pulls our focus from what’s truly important.

I admit this is something I’ve had to remind myself of a lot lately. I don’t write for Internet validation–though it is nice when my words connect with others and they share this with me–I write because I like telling stories. I write because I enjoy sharing my knowledge and perspective on certain topics (see Music Journalism). I write because it’s therapeutic.

I write because I find happiness in creating. 

And you know what? That’s enough for me.

In thinking about why I started this platform again, I still say that I wanted a space where I could grow and develop my voice as well as hold myself accountable, “show up,” and commit to my craft even when I don’t always feel like it. I’ve done that, and in my opinion, that’s the true measure of my success. (The power of positive thinking, am I right)? Pursuing a creative life isn’t easy–as I’m often reminded–but continually “showing up” and cultivating my craft is how I’m going to become a better storyteller.

I believe in myself and I am my primary audience. If I write for me and with the intent of  becoming a better storyteller–if I just be myself–then I’m confident I’ll connect with people who believe in me and in my words. And if not, then that’s okay, too. No matter what, I always want writing to be a part of my life.

So then, how do I combat writing “burnout” and continue practicing my craft for the pure joy of it? How can you?

First, I suggest finding a platform to practice your craft. That could be a blog, journal, or even a freelance gig at a website or newspaper. There is no right or wrong choice here. Determine what you want to write about and where.

Second, disregard validation. This is a tough one, but if you focus on just the recognition aspect of writing, you won’t be happy. Write for yourself. Write to improve. Write because there’s joy in creating. Believe in your own abilities and grow as a storyteller. If people like what you have to say, then they’ll find you. Just relax and be yourself.

Third, take breaks when necessary. It’s okay to step away from your work if you need to. A lot of the time this is helpful and doing so gives you perspective. Maybe you’re writing something and you just can’t get the words out the way that you want to. Stepping away and shelving your work for a day–or a week–can give you insight on what might not be working and how you can correct that.

Fourth, connect with fellow writers. Do you have friends who also write? Trade anecdotes about how your writing is going over coffee or lunch. Or if you maintain an online blog, seek out writers with similar content. Read what they’re writing and figure out what you can learn from them. They may even offer you valuable tips on how to improve your craft.

Finally, have fun. Writing is no good if you’re not having fun. Take creative risks and embrace your artistic license. Experiment with your style, voice, and form. Experimenting with your art can show you exactly who you are and what you want to say as a writer. It may also help you develop an appreciation for a writing style you previously disliked or never considered utilizing. (For example, I used to hate poetry. Then I read more poems. Soon after, I fostered a deep love for it and now I write poems for fun). You’d be surprised at what can happen. : )

If you’re a writer–or other type of creative–how do you keep practicing your craft when you’re struggling? Do you combat creative “burnout” or seeking validation? What tips can you offer your fellow creatives?

Comment below or tweet me at @cmsellers14

 

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All in

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I started writing seriously at 16.

I fell in love with writing so much that it was all I wanted to do. And no matter how much I had going on in my life, I always made time to do it. I always made time to write.

Then, I got older. 

Making time to write got harder. Make excuses as to why I wasn’t writing got easier. “Inspiration” became a fickle “friend.” I lost the discipline I once had.

To be honest, I still haven’t quite gotten that discipline back. Sometimes, I’m scared I never will. Most of the time the fear of writing something “bad” prevents me from even picking up a pen or sitting down at a computer (like I’m doing right now).

But not anymore.

I’m done making excuses for myself. I’m done letting fear hold me back.

I’m establishing my own platform. I’m finding my voice. I’m growing into the writer I’m meant to be. And I’m doing it with every ounce of passion and determination I’ve got.

I’m all in.

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