Why I did Nanowrimo 2015
Month of over-eating and college sports.
A little dash of thankfulness and then consumer stampedes at the mall. It’s an interesting time of the year indeed.
But the eleventh month of the year has come to mean something else for me.
This month also happens to be famous for a ludicrous and audacious writing challenge known as Nanowrimo (a.k.a., National Novel Writing Month).
I first heard about Nanowrimo back in 2012 and decided to give it a whirl. The goal is simple: write 50,000 words in 30 days and log your words onto a website. It certainly sounds simple enough–write a bunch of words consecutively over a bunch of days.The completion of said plan, however, is quite a challenge.
Turns out, typing 50,000 words in that time frame takes a concerted effort, a little sacrifice, and a whole lot of perseverance.
The last two times I attempted Nanowrimo (all the way back in 2013 and 2014) I came up short. This year, I thought I’d really push through and it was well worth the effort. Challenging yourself to do something difficult and then completing it is quite a grand experience. Self discipline, they say, is good for the soul. I think “they”–whoever they are–are right.
As with most things, Nanowrimo is not without its fair share of criticism. Some have balked at Nanowrimo, wondering if novels and stories really come from the exercise. The answer is yes and no. My first Nanowrimo effort is still sitting in my desk drawer, a story that was enchanting for a season and now it’s collecting dust. Truthfully, I’m just not that into it anymore. So it goes.
The other projects from past Nano’s have suffered a similar fate. Stories that were given life and blood, typed out with Times New Roman 12 point font on recycled paper held together by large metal clips, now reside on a shelf next to other stacks of unpublished manuscripts.
But at the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter. The thing about Nanowrimo is, it teaches you that writing isn’t about the end product, but the process itself.
Every word and every story and every page is doing something significant for the writer, reminding him or her that to sit and write is a gift to a behold, a magnificent pursuit worth pursuing with every fiber of your being, even if you never find the destination.
I once heard about this writer who wanted to feel ‘greatness’ flowing through him, so he sat down and typed out The Great Gatsby word for word. Before he could write his own book, he wanted the experience of writing a book. You know, that thing called practice is important and what not.
Sometimes you have to write a bad book to get a good book. Sometimes you have to log your ten thousand hours Malcolm Gladwell style, before you start seeing any real progress. Sometimes you have to publish stories on Creepy Pasta and Reddit just to see your name behind something other people are reading (Don’t judge me).
Looking back over 2015, it truly was a great writing year for me. I made some great connections with other writers and got some good feedback too. I also started a journey of editing a book with the help of one of my dear friends. The process was unbelievably fun and I’m excited to see what happens next.
And Nanowrimo was there for me yet again, providing a time to just let loose. Every morning, I approached the computer with reckless abandon, letting words fly and sentence flare, dreaming in scenes and times gone by and far away places. Stories give me life and that’s what Nanowrimo did for me. It reminded me of the beauty of the writing.
You might not fancy yourself a novelist. Perhaps you have a few stories and characters flowing around in your mind, but you’ve never put them on paper. I think you should. I think you should sign up for Nanowrimo next year and give it a go.
You might reach the goal. You might fall short. You might only make it a week in and then realize that talking about writing and actually writing are two totally different things (thanks for that scathing insight, Steven Pressfield).
Regardless of how things pan out, you’ll learn something along the way… and that is a beautiful thing.
You know that part at the end of Gatsby with the green light, and the boats, and beating on against the current? Writing is kind of like that. The infinite sea of blank pages calls us to row onward, typing as we go, creating something out of nothing.
There’s resistance, of course, pulling us back, but we keep moving forward, believing what we’re doing matters.
Write on, friends.