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NaNoWriMo for Academic Writers: 30 Days to Change Your Life

Lily Wilson

Lily Wilson is a frequent contributor in our blog. An experienced freelance academic writer, she definitely has some experience under her belt and she eagerly shares her points of wisdom with other academic writers. The last 30 days have been a great self-proclaimed writing challenge for her. And today Lily shares her insights, findings and discoveries.

I have participated in many writing challenges throughout my 16-year freelance career and they all have been very interesting and helpful. The challenge I remember most of all is the famous NaNoWriMo, in which I participated a year or two ago. However, all the writing marathons concentrate on anything, but academic writing. Why should academic writing be deprived of its own monthly challenge? - I wondered. And so I decided to create my own NaNoWriMo for academic writers. And believe me it was a mere coincidence that both challenges happened simultaneously - this November.


The tasks for my challenge are quite similar to ones from NaNoWriMo, with just one difference - they are all focused on academic writing. My list includes tasks that are tightly connected with writer’s everyday life and academic related assignments that you have to do during the whole month. The latter vary from general listings of academic writing advantages to specific tasks involving referencing, paper types, etc. And, because of the variety, it has its important effect: academic writing merges with your routine and becomes inseparable from your everyday life. And that’s the beauty of it.

You’ll say “That sounds great, but why do I have to take this challenge?” and that’s a good question. But I have a good answer too: over these long 30 days a lot of changes happened to me. You can read a detailed account in my blog or you can read 5 most important changes I’ve described in a concise manner below. I assume that my report will  convince you to start this 30 day writing challenge right away and without any hesitation.

1. It made me more goal-oriented.

When you write every day, you become more organized with clear goals and purposes. You know that you have to produce some text constantly and it doesn’t become your routine; it can be compared to having tasty coffee in the morning or watching some interesting movie in the evening. Without writing your portion you feel uncomfortable because something is missing. So, you have an aim to achieve: make your life complete. Moreover, tasks like “Write about something that really matters to you” make you understand and categorize things that are really important to you. So, you know what you have to do to reach that goal and how to involve all your resources for it.

2. It made me stronger.

There are daily tasks like “Share something you struggle with” or “List the most difficult things for you in academic writing”. They uncover your weaknesses and you realize that many “Achilles’ heels” need to be overcome. For instance, having completed these assignments I found out that I’m not very good at writing case studies. Earlier, I tried to avoid them or use some tools that would simplify my tasks. But now I take case studies up with full determination to breach the barriers I have and believe me, it makes me much more professional.

P.S. I haven’t felt so proud of myself for a long time. So, it’s good not only for your writing career but for your self-esteem too :)

3. It made me more aware.

As I mentioned before, I have 16-year experience in academic writing. Thus, without realizing it you start considering yourself an expert after such a long time. Of course, the will to research and find out something new doesn’t vanish. But you stop revising and reviewing because you don’t feel that you need it. But it’s not correct. Human beings tend to forget everything and academic writers are not an exception. When I came across the task “Take any reference and change it according to MLA, APA and Chicago style”, I did it very fast without consulting the necessary sources, because I thought I perfectly knew these styles. But then, just before posting my report I decided to check this task and it appeared that I had made quite a few mistakes. Now, I take a random reference and change it according to all citation styles that I use while writing. And I do it every day.

4. It made me more determined.

30 day writing challenge helped me to organize my thoughts and desires. I understood that I have too many goals and I can’t achieve them all at once: I need to prioritize. I’m sure that you have had a similar situation when you want to do so many things but there are only 24 hours in a day (and moreover you need to sleep). But when you do everything step by step, you become more determined to achieve one goal first and only then continue with the second one. Tasks like “Write about an area in your life that you’d like to improve” and “Conversely, write about something that’s kicking ass right now” help you to understand what requires more of your attention and what can be put away for some time.

5. It made me better.

Once again I proved to myself that academic writing is my cup of tea. I am really happy that I have chosen this occupation because it makes me smile every day. In addition, this 30 day writing challenge showed me which skills I need to improve, what knowledge I lack and why I’ll never quit it. I think it’s wonderful.


I hope that I gave you the answer to your question. I truly think that the person who made up writing challenges is a genius because they help to sort out our feelings. I urge you to try it. Believe me, you will not be disappointed!


About the Author:


Lily Wilson is a 34 year-old homestay freelance academic writer. Lily runs her personal blog AnAwfulLotofWriting and works as a contributing academic writer at


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