One Word at a Time: NaNoWriMo and Advent?

by | Nov 24, 2017 | Holidays, Spirituality

A funny thing happens every November called NaNoWriMo—everyday people attempt to write a 50,000 word novel over the course of the month. And, strange as it might sound, the process has a lot of connections with the upcoming season of Advent.

Since November is a busy time for graduate students, I did an adapted version of the challenge with fellow TJP contributor Colten Biro, SJ, in the summer of 2016. What started as a fun challenge quickly became a bit of a marathon… much like Advent. A long period of waiting and expectation until its completion when we can guiltlessly sing Christmas carols, not that some of us don’t sing them year-round anyways.

But sometimes the process felt like it never went anywhere. I had to keep readjusting each day. Stories seem to have a life of their own, a life that can beat you down on busy days. And much like the Advent story we encounter every year, they can feel difficult to continue, close, or even hold our interest for weeks.

It can feel like a bit of a slog to stay with the narrative. Some days, I would write, forcing  myself through another thousand words that felt useless, waiting to get to the next plot point on the outline. When I was done writing for the day, it felt like nothing had happened. Sometimes the journey to the next place seemed slow or the dialogue felt bland and unimaginative, but I pushed through.

This movement is a lot like Advent. We go through the same motions every year, reliving the story, moment by moment, paragraph by paragraph. From one to the next, and maybe over a long stretch, it may not seem like anything happens, but we eventually get there.

Slowly, we trudge through the story we all know, a story of journey, mystery, and relationship. It’s a story of waiting and working in hope—even when that hope is something we don’t quite understand yet. Like that hope of finishing the novel. When we get to the end, we can look back and see this tremendous journey, even when it was taken one monotonous step at a time.

Little by little, even through reruns, we get a little closer each time. Closer to the wordcount, closer to the Birth of Jesus, and even closer to the mystery of waiting and living in a relationship with God.

Candle by candle, this journeying brings us closer to the story and characters we all know so well. In the end, it’s worth it. At the end of our stories, Colten and I each had a novel. And at the close of Advent, we have the start of the story of God present with us. Deep down, it is all about God’s daring love for each one of us.


A special thanks to Colten Biro, SJ, for your help in crafting this piece and for your role as antagonist for our shenanigans—his work for The Jesuit Post can be found here.

The cover photo is featured courtesy of Mario Sormann of the Flickr Creative Commons.