Thursday, January 13, 2022

When the Best of Intentions Isn't Enough

 I always thought that it made much more sense to host NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) in January rather than November. Who has time in NOVEMBER to write 50,000 words? Wouldn’t JANUARY be a much better month to set aside for writing a book? For much of the country, the first month of the year brings the kind of wind and cold that encourages folks to huddle under blankets by the fire. But November finds us scurrying about with Thanksgiving and Christmas to-do lists as long as our arm. Not a very conducive atmosphere for hunkering down with a commitment to churn out a book-length manuscript in thirty days’ time.

Well, apparently many writers make it work. According to stats posted on the official NaNoWriMo site, more than 798,000 novelists have completed nearly 368,000 novels since the first month-long challenge took place in July of 1999. In 2000 NaNoWriMo moved from to November “to more fully take advantage of the miserable weather.” While I agree with the sentiment, I still think January is a better option.

Several of my friends took up the challenge this past November, not deterred by the approaching holidays, jobs, family responsibilities, or sundry distractions. I determined in October that there was no reason I couldn’t participate as well. Why not take advantage of the energy surrounding the annual tradition to finish my resisting-completion young adult novel? Why not indeed.

I’m disappointed to report that my good intentions failed miserably. Why? Because those “good intentions” weren’t followed up with action. I wanted to do it. I reasoned that I could do it. But I didn’t approach it with an intentional mindset. My intentions were good, noble even, but not accompanied by an action plan.

Yesterday was a perfect example of how life can and will get in the way of the best intentions. An unexpected four-hour Zoom call sucked up the time I’d set aside to devote to the novel. Today is another day, offering another opportunity to devote time to my characters and their story. It will also present more opportunities for life to interrupt. Like the one hour and twenty-one minute phone call this morning with a friend experiencing a mega-sized medical, emotional, and mental crisis.

The reality is this, if I don’t become much more intentional about bringing this series to a close, it’s not going to happen. No matter that the cover and ISBN number are ready and waiting. No matter that an anxious teenage reader questions me weekly about the book’s progress.

In this case, being intentional will mean removing things from my schedule and replacing them with dedicated writing time. It will mean adopting a no excuses attitude. It will require an examination of the distractions that shoot flaming arrows at my good intentions. It will definitely mean being more intentional about praying for the words to string themselves together in the way that best tells the story.

NaNoWriMo works in November because of intentional action. It would work any month of the year for those committed enough to make it happen. 

Life won't stop so we can pursue our passion. People and things beyond our control will try to interfere. Only those who have wrangled with being intentional will win. Are you being intentional about your writing? What better time to assess our intentionality than at the beginning of new year. Drop your intentionality tips in the comments below.  

Beth's combined experiences teaching high school Sunday School, substitute teaching in the public school, and connecting with the teenage staff at the fast-food joint where (pre-COVID!) she claimed a "back booth office" helped inspire her young adult "Choices Matter" fiction series. She's a "cheerleader" for saving sex for marriage and for "renewed waiting" because it's never too late to make wiser choices. Her "Waiting Matters . . . Because YOU Matter" blog series helps people of all ages navigate the choppy waters of saving sex for marriage and inspired the "Waiting Matters" non-fiction booklet series. Her "Slices of Real Life" posts find GOD in the day-to-day moments of real life. 

As a genetic genealogy enthusiast, she writes and speaks about her experiences as a "foundling" who located her birth parents. Her journey to find and connect with her biological family is chronicled in the blog series "A Doorstep Baby's Search for Answers." All of her writing endeavors can be found on her website:








  1. Ouch! I am so guilty of this! And heartless would I feel if I ignored the needy friend, put off taking my feverish kid to the doctor, or ignored my smiling grandson on the video chat?
    There's gotta be a way to adapt our "Dream, Plan, Act" for each day.

  2. Yes, adapting is the key! Not suggesting we be heartless or ignore the people who need us. But somehow we have to control those things that we CAN control, well enough that the people distractions/interruptions don't completely derail our pursuit of writing goals.

  3. I wrote 53,000 words this past November with NaNoWriMo and over 60,000 in 2020. I set specific word count goals and refused to stop until I met them. To ensure I had time to write, I gave up sleep. I got up about 25 minutes earlier in the morning throughout the month of November and was able to write an average of 750 words. After dishes in the evening, I sat down and wrote until I reached 1500 words. On weekends, I wrote a minimum of 2000 words. Many days, I exceeded the minimums, but only once did I fall short. Of course, I'd already worked on the characters and basic plot before I began, and I always left myself a direction when I stopped writing for the session. Not sure if any of this is practical for the long term, but it works for a 30 day stretch. Sometimes, that's all you need to get a project finished.

    1. A very intentional plan!! And I know you have a busy life otherwise. Well done.