Here it is. The last day of NaNoWriMo 2014. And….

I didn’t reach my word count goal. I didn’t even come close, really. My goal was 50,000 words. As of this moment, I’m at 35,006 words. Not too bad, but not where I wanted to be.

In past years of NaNoing, I used the Thanksgiving holiday to get a huge chunk of words written. This year, I wrote less this Thanksgiving weekend than I did in each of the previous three weekends. Having a husband and infant child means that holidays are spent watching the kids, conversing with family, and traveling. In years past, I didn’t have these responsibilities, so it was no big deal to sneak off after dinner and write for three hours. This year… not so much.

So alas! I really thought I could hit 50K this year. I still have plenty of time to reach 80,000 words by December 30, so I’m not panicking yet. But it would’ve been nice to only have 30,000 more words to go than 45,000 words.

I will say that this year’s NaNo was a success for me in terms of my discipline as a writer. I managed to write every day (except Thanksgiving, and that’s a national holiday, so I don’t feel too bad). Writing every day was my personal goal for NaNo 2014, and in that sense, I “won” NaNo.

I’ve also learned a few things about my habits and preferences as a writer:

1. I’m actually a morning writer. This surprised me because I’ve always been such a night owl in the past. But now I find that if I can get 1,000 words written in the morning, my day goes much better and I spend the rest of the day thinking about the story and getting ideas. I still end up writing a little in the afternoon or evening, but the morning is where my fingers really get flying.

2. I NEED to write every day to keep my imagination flowing. Even one day off breaks the momentum and messes with my flow. As Kerouac said, “Write while the heat is in you.” I’ve got to write every day to keep the fire stoked and burning hot.

3. I need to read on a regular basis. Reading also stokes my creative fires, and I need the stimuli of other people’s stories to keep my own story going. I haven’t done much reading for pleasure since becoming a teacher because so much of my time is devoted to reading for class or grading papers. I have made a concerted effort to read for pleasure this month and I think it’s really inspired me with my own writing.

4. I need to jump around in the story and not write linearly. I found myself getting stuck earlier this month when I came to a part of my story and didn’t know where to take it. This caused several wasted hours “thinking” instead of writing. Once I started jumping around and writing whichever part of the story I was most interested in at the moment, I found that my writing time was actually spent WRITING and not sitting around waiting for inspiration.

5. I need to do other types of writing beyond just working on the novel. Doing these blog posts (and also blogging elsewhere with some of my students who are doing NaNo) has helped give my mind a rest, particularly when I’ve had to plow through some rocky patches in the novel. Blog writing is easier, and it’s not really “creative” in the same sense as fiction writing is. But it’s still writing, and it’s a nice way to keep my fingers moving and words flowing. Sometimes I need that warm-up (or cool-down); it’s almost like stretching before and after a run.

As a final note on NaNo 2014, I’m always amazed with how NaNo helps me stay focused and gives me a purpose. No one needs a “contest” like NaNo to write a novel, but for some reason, these 30 days are so special. Somehow, the month of November has a magical quality; it lights a fire under us and keeps us honest. 50,000 words or not, I’m proud of what I’ve done this month.