Depending on who you’re friending and following in the social sphere, you may or may not be aware that November is National Novel Writing Month. NaNoWriMo, as it’s known, is an annual drive to get people writing and thinking creatively as they work to write novels. In order to be a winner, you must have at least 50,000 words complete and submitted to the official NaNoWriMo site word-counter by 11:59 pm on November 30th.

While it takes way more than 50,000 words to actually finish a novel (in many cases, at least twice that), the challenge affords writers with the opportunity to experiment with different techniques and styles, as well as to explore their creativity. The competitive spirit drives people (and the fact that they can compare daily word counts with their friends and “writing buddies” doesn’t hurt) to shoot for 1,667 words every day for the entire month.

That seems like a lot, and it is, but that’s the pace you have to keep if you want to hit that 50k mark in 30 days.

Cool story. What’s it got to do with content development and my business?

We’re all looking for ways to improve our content development. We want to have blogs and other resources that bring in traffic, educate our customers and prospects, and keep people coming back for more. As more businesses allocate larger percentages of their budgets for content marketing, it becomes even more important that we’re successful in those endeavors. Success means conversions.

But we all ho-hum over our blogs, start with good intentions and then let them fall apart. What we need is to be seriously motivated.

And that’s where NaNoWriMo comes in.

No, you can’t count blog posts and white papers toward your 50,000 words. And yes, it will take a lot of your time. Especially at first. If you want Thanksgiving off, for example, so that you can blissfully fall into a deep, tryptophan-induced sleep while watching football, you’ve got to work extra hard earlier in the month to make up those words. Likewise if you want Black Friday off to spend all day shopping.

So it takes some planning.

You can take a day off if you really want to or need to, but then you’re just going to have to work twice as hard later. You might think that you have nothing to say, only to realize when you get started that the ideas start flowing as you go.

So it takes some persistence and perseverance.

But here’s the thing about using NaNoWriMo as a means to help you improve your content development and overall content strategy: As a creative individual (and a writer especially), it changes you.

You think that you can’t possibly write 1,667 words in one day, let alone 50,000 words in a month. But then you get started, and you keep writing even when you don’t necessarily feel like it or have any “good” ideas. You see where the story takes you. You let yourself be as creative as you want to be and you take chances because what have you really got to lose?

As you do that, you begin to build momentum. After the second week, you know that you’re in it to win it, and you find that you want to keep that momentum going. At the beginning, you maybe struggled to write a few hundred words a day, but as time goes on, you’re not only meeting your daily 1,667, but you’re exceeding it.

What you thought you knew about yourself as a writer changes.

You may think that creative writing has nothing to do with your business, but then you realize that it actually helps quite a bit with content development and generating fresh ideas. In fact, many businesses are beginning to seek out creative writers to help with such efforts.

You may think that writing 1,667 words a day has nothing to do with your business, but then, when you sit down to write that 500 word blog post, it suddenly doesn’t seem so daunting anymore. You’ve written far more than that before – and on a daily basis!

And speaking of a daily basis: NaNoWriMo helps you get into the habit of becoming a daily writer. If your business blog was only updated sporadically before, this is a great way to train yourself to write more frequently. We’re all aware by now that search engines value fresh, original content. The more often you’re producing it, the better your traffic will be. With traffic comes, we hope, leads and conversions.

NaNoWriMo will motivate you as a writer. It may even make you remember why you loved writing to begin with. After fulfilling the requirements for my creative writing minor in college, I went for a few years without writing much of anything besides lesson plans. In 2009, a friend convinced me to participate in NaNoWriMo. It was definitely a struggle at first, but I stuck with it. It gave me a routine and goals, and I could tell I was improving every day. By Thanksgiving, I had my 50,000 words finished. By the beginning of July I’d written a complete novel and was blogging all the time because I had so many ideas for that outlet now, as well. I hit my 50k on a second novel in 2010 before I realized what I could be doing with all the lessons I’d learned and skills I’d gained from NaNoWriMo.

Now I’m writing professionally and it’s great. Definitely one of the best decisions I’ve made.

The point here is that, sometimes, in order to improve, you have to think outside the box. Writing a novel might not seem to make much sense for your business at first (unless you’re going to write a business book, of course – eBooks are still part of content development!), but it helps you to expand your creative horizons and grow as a content creator.

You’re down about six days now, but people have come back from bigger deficits. How about giving it a try? Even if you don’t reach 50k, you’re bound to take away some valuable content development lessons.

Have you ever participated in NaNoWriMo? How has it helped you as a writer, both personally and professionally? Did you see a change in your content development? If you haven’t participated, what’s holding you back? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

photo credit: national novel writing month