Robin Cutler [00:00:09] Hi everyone, welcome to Go Publish Yourself, an IngramSpark podcast. I'm Robin Cutler, director of IngramSpark, and our topic today is writing motivation. Our special guest this episode is Grant Faulkner, Executive Director of National Novel Writing Month, also known widely throughout the world as NaNoWriMo. Welcome, Grant.
Grant Faulkner [00:00:31] Hey Robin, thanks so much for having me on today.
Robin Cutler [00:00:34] First of all, are you related to William Faulkner? I've always wanted to ask you that.
Grant Faulkner [00:00:40] I am not, and the reason I know this is that William Faulkner, when he was born his name was spelled F-A-L-K-N-E-R, and he added the U because his grandfather had written a book and he wanted to differentiate himself. If I am, it's so distant that it doesn't matter.
Robin Cutler [00:00:59] Well, I think you should claim it. I would if I were you, that's for sure.
Grant Faulkner [00:01:03] I claimed it once. I felt like I had been asked thousands of times in my life if I was related, and so I just told a lie once, and it totally, totally backfired. I will never.
Robin Cutler [00:01:16] Okay. Well, the last time I saw you was in New York City at BookCon in early June and we were surrounded by a bunch of very enthusiastic teenage readers, which was really kind of cool to see.
Grant Faulkner [00:01:31] Absolutely, that was fun.
Robin Cutler [00:01:33] Yeah, I loved it. So, let's talk about NaNoWriMo, which takes place every November to help writers find their voices, achieve their creative goals, and encourage community. During NaNoWriMo, writers attempt to produce 50,000 words towards a story. Last year, over 400,000 people participated, which is awesome, Grant.
Grant Faulkner [00:01:56] It is. You know, we have a saying that everyone has a story to tell, and that everyone's story matters, and we see more and more evidence of that every year. We know there are way, way more than 400,000 people who have a story to tell. We hope they'll show up this year, or next year.
Robin Cutler [00:02:14] When did you get started with Nano, and how did you come up with this whole idea?
Grant Faulkner [00:02:19] I didn't come up with the idea actually. Chris Baty, the founder, he started it in 1999 and he really, you know, he was just an avid reader and he wanted to write a novel and he hadn't taken writing workshops or he hadn't read how to write books. He just figured the best way to learn to write a novel is by doing it, and I think there's a lot of truth to that and he's also a very community-oriented guy. And so, he invited 20 of his friends to join him, and they met in coffee shops after work and they wrote together. What I find interesting, is that he had no real intention of kind of starting this creative revolution, this creative phenomenon, but everything that he was doing that first year we still do today, you know? We emphasize community. We have 1,000 volunteers around the world who organize the "write-in’s" in their communities. We work with 1,200 libraries who do the same. It's all about that, set a goal and a deadline, which we call a creative midwife, and just plunge in. Don't, we say, "Banish your inner editor." Write with abandon and do it in a community of others who can provide you with support and help you with your accountability.
Robin Cutler [00:03:31] Well, I love that. I live here in New Mexico, and I can tell you that I've spoken to a lot of different writing groups. Well, actually I speak to writing groups all over the world, but the ones here in New Mexico are proud NaNoWriMo participants in November and everyone talks a lot about it leading up to it. You've done a really fantastic job to kind of get this word out.
Grant Faulkner [00:03:58] Well, thank you. One of the galvanizing aspects about NaNoWriMo is that you can feel like the whole world is writing a novel with you and that extends way beyond the NaNoWriMo website itself where we host everything. If you go on Twitter now, you'll see a lot of #nanoprep or #booktober. We tend to trend on Twitter every day throughout November, and so there is just this feeling that everybody's writing their story and that you, by being part of that, it helps people reach the finish line.
Robin Cutler [00:04:32] Well, I have to share with you that I just went last night and signed up, so I'm part of, part of the community, and I was just talking to some people at Ingram. What I'd like to do is kind of extend this internally within Ingram and put out the challenge for our own associates to take part in this.
Grant Faulkner [00:04:55] That's great, and I think when you're writing with others like that, it's a great thing to do together as co-workers. We've had families write together, you know, friends form their own writing groups, and why not do it, especially in a company like yours to explore the creative process. And we also find that people…writing a novel is transformative for people as creators and writers, but it's also transformative for people just in terms of their personal lives. We hear from so many people that after they've finished a novel with us that they go on to make other big changes. The creativity that happens on the page, it also goes beyond the page.
Robin Cutler [00:05:35] It's a jumping off point. I totally agree with that. A lot of people are probably just fearful that they've never thought of themselves as writers and not good enough. What kind of encouragement would you offer to that sort of person?
Grant Faulkner [00:05:52] That is a huge stumbling block, a huge obstacle that people put in front of themselves. Often when I'm talking to people about NaNoWriMo and encouraging people to take part, I'll hear somebody say I'm not a creative type, and I always say, "You are a creative type because the definition of being a human being is to be a creative type." We are creators by definition. We're also storytellers by definition. Everyone does have a story to tell. We tell stories. That's how we make meaning in the world, by the stories we read and hear and the stories we tell. Everyone does have a story and my definition of being a writer is, you're a writer if you write. Many people hold back because they think, "Well, I'm not published, so I can't call myself a writer." But you're a writer just when you sit down and do it, and so I just encourage people to do it and to redefine themselves and to really think of that creative mindset, and part of being a creator is believing in yourself and taking that plunge.
Robin Cutler [00:06:50] Especially people in social media today. You see these very eloquent posts, especially on Facebook and, even to a limited degree, in Twitter, but you see so much creativity just in what people are offering up to their social sites.
Grant Faulkner [00:07:09] Yeah!
Robin Cutler [00:07:09] You know it's true what you just said that everybody is creative, just being human.
Grant Faulkner [00:07:15] I think so, Robin, and we are living in the golden age of writing. That's what's so fascinating about social media, is that everyone is writing. Every day more than ever, I just view…like you gave the perfect proof point. A lot of people don't think they're writers when they're writing on social media, but they are. They're making jokes, they're offering stories, they're being persuasive, you know, all of those crucial things about what makes a writer a good writer.
Robin Cutler [00:07:41] Do you think that being a good writer requires a certain amount of routine, when you set yourself down to actually do the writing?
Grant Faulkner [00:07:53] Routine can help. Routine helps you be accountable to show up every day if you have a certain time and place to write. Stephen King writes really eloquently about routine, as essentially a muse. He writes that when you sit down at your desk, you're receiving signals. You're training your brain. It's like your brain is triggered into creativity when you sit down at a certain place and a certain time to write every day. I also know though that a lot of us have such busy lives that it's really hard to establish a routine. And so, I feel like if you can't establish one of these wonderful, sumptuous routines that there are other ways to go about writing, and I've written during the half times of my daughter's soccer games. Sometimes I'll pause in my car when I park before work and write for five or 10 minutes. People who are leading busy lives, you've got to snatch it. I think somebody came up with the term time confetti. There are all of these little bits of time in our day that we can actually make a lot of good use of. You have to find what works for you.
Robin Cutler [00:09:01] Yeah, I actually am working with someone right now. Do you know Orna Ross who's--
Grant Faulkner [00:09:04] Oh, yeah.
Robin Cutler [00:09:06] The Alliance of Independent Authors, I saw her recently and she recommends like an hour and a half and you just create that time block. I'm like you. I can't do the same time every day. I got up early a couple of days ago and wrote for an hour and a half and then last night, I wasn't able to get back to it until after dinner. I definitely wanted to get that hour and a half done before it was time to go to bed.
Grant Faulkner [00:09:37] One of the benefits of routine for NaNoWriMo is it's more about…I think having a strategy of how to use your time and being conscious of how you're using time, because time, how we use our time is a matter of a series of choices. And sometimes we're choosing ways to use our time that is actually working against the way…what we want to do with it. What I hear from you is that you're being very conscious about fitting writing into your life and that's what I think really helps people be successful in NaNoWriMo, is being attuned to how they spend time and then finding time to make their creative dreams happen.
Robin Cutler [00:10:12] The accountability that you mentioned before. I'm now aware that I need to report back in when I get started with NaNo and also with Orna. I have a…I have higher powers that I have to respond to, which is really good.
Grant Faulkner [00:10:30] It's great. Other people can really hold you accountable in so many ways. They say the best way to quit smoking or if you want to quit something or change, is just to announce it to people. Just the act, or, you're projecting them asking you questions. If you put that on Facebook or just tell a friend, you're just more likely to hold yourself accountable.
Robin Cutler [00:10:53] The other tip I'll give you, I'll share with you that Orna gave to me, was to stop in mid-sentence. Don't finish out, because your mind will take you right there and you'll be thinking about that story, even as you sleep during the night. I love that idea.
Grant Faulkner [00:11:14] It's a good one. Hemingway wrote about that. That was his process. He would always make sure to stop when he had more to say and it was that, the premise was that he would be able to return the next day with momentum, and like you say, somewhere in his mind that story is still cooking.
Robin Cutler [00:11:30] I've found it to be true in just this limited time that I've gotten started writing.
Grant Faulkner [00:11:35] Yeah, good.
Robin Cutler [00:11:37] What other things in terms of people signing on for NaNo should they know about?
Grant Faulkner [00:11:46] Yeah, I think when you, I mean, it's free. We're a non-profit--
Robin Cutler [00:11:51] That's good.
Grant Faulkner [00:11:52] You have nothing to lose. We want everyone to tell their story and we want everyone to believe that their story matters. Once you do sign up, just the logistics, I encourage people to identify the region they live in so that they can connect with their local liaison and attend some of these writing events, because I think community is really important, not just in November but beyond, you know? It's a way to form a writing community that you can be with these people throughout the year and beyond. We're right now in what we call our "NaNo prep season", and so we're hosting a lot of webcasts and podcasts and posting a lot on our blog, and we have even a daily email with a NaNo prep homework. And so, we're really trying to help people start to think about their novels, to go a little bit deeper, to think about what kind of creative process works for them, to get tips from successful writers. That's what we're doing now in October. I would just sign up on the NaNoWriMo site and start engaging in all the things we offer.
Robin Cutler [00:12:56] Just to spell it out, it's N-A-N-O-W-R-I-M-O. Just like it sounds, NaNoWriMo.
Grant Faulkner [00:13:05] Exactly. Thank you for spelling it. A lot, sometimes people pronounce it Nano Ree Mo, or other ways, but it's NaNoWriMo, emphasis on the writing.
Robin Cutler [00:13:14] Yeah, so, well, I'm a big fan Grant, and hopefully I will also be a great writer through this endeavor. Thank you very much.
Grant Faulkner [00:13:24] Yeah, absolutely. I'm going to look for you at the 50,000-word mark finish line. I'm going to put it on my calendar and send you a congratulatory email.
Robin Cutler [00:13:37] Okay, well now, no pressure there.
Grant Faulkner [00:13:39] Yeah, and I look forward to your weekly, you can send me your weekly word count to hold you accountable, how about that?
Robin Cutler [00:13:45] That sounds great. Thanks so much everyone for listening to Go Publish Yourself. If you're ready to publish today, please visit the IngramSpark website. We're offering a special free title setup code valid November 1st, 2018 through March 31, 2019, in collaboration with NaNoWriMo. Check the description of this episode for how to get that code, and there's another special offer for everyone who reaches the 50,000-word mark in November, so good luck. If you like what you hear, please subscribe and leave us a review on iTunes. The more positive ratings and reviews we receive, the more authors and publishers like you will be able to discover our podcast too. For more tips on publishing like a pro, check out our weekly blog and free online self-publishing courses available in the IngramSpark Academy. Thanks so much everyone, and talk to you soon.