November 1st. Halloween is over. Well, it isn’t here. Trick-or-treating was cancelled in my town in anticipation of storms (No, I didn’t know they could do that either) and is rescheduled for tonight. But if the holidays are on track where you live, Halloween is over and November has begun. Which marks the start of NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month. If you don’t know what that is check out the link below. Basically, it’s when writers try to pump out a 50,000 word novel by the end of November. They update their progress, keep track of their word count, and share and lean on the community for support. It’s a big undertaking.
How NaNoWriMo is Good
This event builds a sense of community within participants. It allows them to feel like they aren’t alone because other people are struggling with the same task. It inspires you to believe in your work because for once saying “I want to write a novel” is acceptable. It makes you driven. The short time frame, looming word count, and deadline all force you to work under pressure. It doesn’t allow you to slack off or procrastinate. You can’t just say “I’ll finish that later” because later is only days away. And if you’re successful, stick it out, and work hard, congratulations. You just wrote a novel. In a month.
How NaNoWriMo is Bad
If you’ve read my other post on writing tips that are lies, you know my stance on keeping track of word count. This event is centered around word count. You have to reach at least 50,000. You are supposed to log a certain amount of daily or weekly words. I understand why this is a part of the event, I just don’t like it. Counting down how many words you have left gives you a goal to reach or an ending in sight. But again, are you really focused on the quality of those words or are you just trying to hit that goal? Is the community support beneficial then? Or are you using word counts as a competition instead of your own personal achievement?
The stress can get to you. You may begin this task and realize it’s too big of an undertaking and give up. This is why I don’t like those restrictions that are meant to drive you. If they don’t drive you in a good way, they’ll propel you into madness, leaving you with a sense of being overwhelmed and feeling like a failure. You might totally give up the idea of writing because you realize it isn’t easy and, hey, you tried.
Which brings me to the reason I don’t participate in NaNoWriMo. Writing is a full time passion, job, and goal. It isn’t something you ignore all year and then try for one month. I love how this event puts a positive light on writing and inspires people to really go for their goals. But I hate how in other ways, it’s just a bandwagon to jump on. If you want to be a writer you can’t just think about it or write one month out of the year. You shouldn’t need an event or a community or a competition to push you towards that. While I don’t believe you have to write daily to be successful I do believe you have to write constantly and consistently.
Writing is a struggle. It takes time, planning, and effort. I’m in no way trying to sound like some elitist or dissuade you from taking part in this event. But I am saying that you can be a writer without participating. You don’t need a high-profile event, time restraint, and word count goal to be successful. You can give yourself those goals anyway. The important thing is that you do write. The passion needs to be burning in you, the desire driving you forward. If NaNo’s restrictions don’t fit your writing habits, make your own goals. If you need someone or something to keep you on track and kick you into gear, go sign up for NaNo. How we write is as different and special as what we write. The same methods don’t work for everyone.
The only thing I ask is that when this month is over, whether you participated or not, don’t forget your writing. Don’t stop just because December comes or you reached 50,000 words. Don’t wait until next November to write again. Maybe you’ll learn something about yourself and your writing needs by participating. Take that knowledge with you and apply it during the rest of the year. Maybe you’ll discover new possibilities or ignite a new spark. Grow that into a burning fire. Believe in yourself, in your words, and in your goals. Then put the work in, and see what happens.
What are your thoughts on NaNoWriMo? Are you participating? Have you ever before, and how did it go if you did?