Want to know why I’m not doing NaNoWriMo this year? Let’s back up and start at the beginning…
The first time I ever heard of NaNoWriMo, I was browsing MySpace. (You didn’t think I was going to back up that far, did you?) I was fascinated by a lady’s drawings in her art journals. As I scrolled through her feed, I noticed posts about something called NaNoWriMo. I didn’t know what that meant, but it, too, fascinated me–especially since I was a frustrated, inconsistent writer. By the time I figured out the meaning and mission of NaNoWriMo, I felt supremely disappointed. It was the last week of November. I vowed to participate the following year, and marked a reminder on my calendar.
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The next November just happened to be the tenth anniversary of NaNoWriMo, so I got to ride that joyous wave of celebration. I got the boost of enthusiasm from the tenth anniversary energy, bought that year’s t-shirt (It said ‘author’, ya’ll, and I’d never publicly proclaimed it; that shirt was a big deal to me!), and I won. Me! I actually started and finished a book, and it felt good, and a little painful (because it was a lumpy book), and exciting, and exhausting.
I’ll never forget that feeling: November 30th, wearing the shirt, staring at a screen that read, “You won!”
There was no prize. No cash. Not much glory. But it was, oh, so fulfilling. I proved I could actually write a book. And that meant I could do it over and over again!
I went on to participate in NaNoWriMo every year since then. Some years I won; some years I didn’t. One year my grandmother passed away on November 6th and I stopped NaNoWriMo, then wished I’d kept going. Sorrow is sorrow, and it wasn’t going to go away on December 1st…
Some years there were other tough circumstances, and NaNoWriMo was a bright, beckoning challenge that called to me like a beacon. The days get darker in November, the weather turns, and each year it feels like a migratory instinct for me to burrow into a novel for a thirty-day hibernation.
Which is why it feels so bizarre to bow out of NaNo this year.
I have the best of reasons to excuse myself, though, so it’s bittersweet. I’m devoting more time to writing professionally, and I’m spending the time I would have spent on NaNoWriMo on other projects. In fact, I just launched a book that started out as a NaNoWriMo manuscript 🙂 Now that’s a great feeling.
So even though I’m not doing NaNoWriMo this year, here’s why I think you should:
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Practice, Practice, Practice
Once you get in the habit of writing every day, you’re unstoppable. Even on the days that feel like your keyboard is gummed up with peanut butter and your brain is fogged up as much as a rainy day at Spruce Knob, you’ll look back and be amazed at your overall productivity. The most difficult chapters to write will melt away as your daily habit shovels words, words, words. I think that was a big revelation for me during NaNoWriMo; if I kept writing words, I’d eventually have a finished book. Go figure!
You can’t publish a book if you don’t have a book. So even though I used to love writing first drafts and loathe editing (I did get over that, eventually), I still have a stack of rough manuscripts from all the years I participated in NaNoWriMo. Notice I said ‘participated in’, not ‘won’. Even the years when I bailed long before the 50,000 word goal, I still gained an outline, of sorts. I have characters, setting, motivation, opposition, and an underdeveloped plot. That’s not nothing!
So don’t feel like a failure if you don’t hit 50k. I know that disappointment, and the sinister, discouraging thought: “Why do I even go through all this trouble? Is any of this worth it?” Well, I’m on the other side of that particular mountain, honey, and I can tell you it’s *so* worth it. (And by the way, once you get over that mountain, there are others. So get used to grappling with discouragement and doing whatchu do even when it feels pointless.)
Writing is one of those things that we don’t usually broadcast about ourselves. Your social media following might know your favorite tv shows, restaurants, grocery store, books–but do they know you’re a writer? Maybe.
And even though, when surveyed, most people say they’d like to write a book someday, few of those people will actually do it. So it’s not like you’re meeting authors daily.
That’s why it’s important to connect with other scribes. Attending a local write-in, cafe writing with an accountabilibuddy, or even interacting on the regional NaNoWriMo forums can strengthen your writing network and assure you that, yes, we’re all weird but you’re certainly not alone. (Just don’t spend too much time on those forums, huh? That’s writing time, dear!)
So that’s why I’m not doing NaNoWriMo.
I don’t know what’s going to happen to me this November when I don’t plunge into a new novel on the first day. If I get too uncomfortable, I can always join in some word sprints, right? But I know this much: I’m so very grateful to NaNoWriMo and for the lessons I learned and relearned every November. I hope you’ll consider donating or buying some merch from the NaNo store, because what started out as a fun, ridiculously daring idea has grown to a global support system for writers everywhere.
If you’ve never participated, let yourself do something reckless and crazy and jump right in, even mid-month. You will be amazed 🙂
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