If you follow my blog, you know I’m a voracious reader and I like to talk about books and bookish culture. Also, along with reading, I write stories – novels even. Throughout my life, I figured, if I could read someone else’s creation with admiration, why couldn’t I do the same?
No. I do not necessarily want the admiration. But, I would not mind seeing others read my work and experiencing the chills and thrills authors give me.
Does that sound cocky? I hope not. It’s not my intention. To me, writing feels like paying it forward to readers and their souls alike in the same manner authors share with us. I’m a book addict in need of constant books and I want to feed others’ addictions. Not so bad, right?
Of course not.
Writing, for me, allows me to creatively talk to myself without seeing further therapy (I’ll tell you my story in another post) and prescription re-ups. I get to create worlds and characters without shame and with plenty of abandon. Writing is a joyful release from the world’s tantrums and its a way for me to vent without scorching another’s ear off their face.
What writing is not for me is a stressful endeavor or an empty competition. Yet, each November, I find myself racking my brain over whether I’ll perform in NaNoWriMo.
This year, I willfully submit a big fat “NO!”
From November 1-30 of a given year, people from around the world sit at their laptops, agonizing over 50,000 words of a first draft during a month deemed National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). Each day, participants set a goal towards said word amount, while others cheer and support them. Check out NaNoWriMo!
Do you win anything? If you count completing a first draft as winning, sure. But, there’s no concrete prizes. You even have to buy a winner’s shirt. It’s cute. I bought a shirt when I won and wore it amid curious onlookers and those souls in the supermarket between organic and non-organic melons wondering what in the hell my shirt meant.
Well, Ma’am. I wrote 50,000 words and all I got was the chance to buy a winner’s t-shirt, which I tossed in my closet ever since.
Well, you get plenty of pep talk and emails about prepping, if you require them. I enjoyed such talks and meeting writers from around the world. Also, you feel part of a grand literary moment, even if other writers that you know in real life disregard the month anyway. But, hey, you feel good being part of something special.
More so, if you’re someone in need of constant tracking and accountability, the month helps you set a goal and stand by it to the best of your ability. If you need these supportive measures, grab the bull by its horns and jump in feet first.
Look, I won one and bailed on others. So, I made and beat the challenge. But, there’s some caveats I found.
- I’m a pantser and march to the beat of my own manic drum (As a member of that tribe, yes, I can use manic. Don’t explain how problematic my vocabulary is). Sometimes, my writing literally comes in the midst of an episode and I run with it. Full-fledged outlines and me go like oil and water. Not gonna happen. Not all all. Give me a skeletal outline and I’m good. But, I’m best at pantsing, especially during first drafts.
- Daily word counts of at least 1300 words do not work for me. Some days, the ghosts of Zora Neale Hurston and Jane Austen work through me and give me 1500. But, some days, Oscar the Grouch comes through and I’m looking to plop 250. I don’t like pressure, especially for non-monetary reasons. Alongside reading, I have my family and work to consider. Scrambling them with a non-necessary writing challenge leaves them with the short end of the stick.
- I had to buy my own winner’s t-shirt. Yeah, I get that it’s a non-profit organization and all. But, something, well, didn’t sit well with me. It’s buying your own Christmas gift from someone else via your own funds (Your own children excluded!)
- The timing’s terrible. November. You know the month with Thanksgiving, Vet’s Day and family travel? Yeah that one. Not good. Give me the name of the person selecting that month and I’ll give him a mouthful once I find my Roget’s. A daily word count’s the last thing on my mind as I pluck giblets out of a frozen turkey’s rear end.
- Many of my writing friends do not participate. They write great stories without partaking. Granted, I’m not a “Do as My Friends Do” kind of person, but I do not recall Hemingway’s or Morrison’s name on the participants’ list.
- Writing is a painstaking craft. I laugh. I cry. I’ll cry over my laughter. Rinse. Repeat. Rinse. Repeat. Tears in hot tea does not a great evening make. But, my point is that NaNoWriMo values daily word counts and pep talks over the craft itself for little benefit other than headaches and pressure.
- I don’t feel like playing this ridiculous game new writers feel they need to play. I’d rather chill at Starbucks and talk about writing with other writers, new and experienced, and cry over our work. That beats calloused fingers and headaches any day.
There you have MY OPINION. If you like NaNoWriMo, go forth and enjoy yourself. Make sure to massage your wrists every one hundred words and get some sleep. If you do not win, you’re still a winner and you’ve saved yourself twenty dollars on your own winner’s shirt.
Yeah, I’m quite bitter on that aspect. Don’t worry. I’ll get over it.