(This post is a two-part series on NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month. Be sure to check out the first part of the series, What in the World is NaNoWriMo. For more information, check out the NaNoWriMo website.)
Should I participate in NaNoWriMo?
Before we begin, we have to establish a few ground rules. You have to want something specific. It may be to get to a goal of finishing a writing project. Perhaps you crave the specific experience of telling life to take ten and diving in head first to the creative genius experience. You won’t finish if you don’t want one of those two in some variation.
Next, creation has to be a passion. Reading, writing, telling a funny story, the literary muse has to be a thing for you. Without that passion, yeah you might finish, but probably not because you really loved it and the end result is likely to be stiff and formulaic.
We aren’t writing a mechanical engineering report, we’re setting out to create a story. Which is a dynamic, multifaceted thing that’s almost a living organism in its own right. And you have to take all these different pieces and stitch them together like doctor Frankenstein and zap it with the energy of creative frenzy, and then sit back in horror as it takes on a life of its own and quite possibly tries to eat you. (For those of you who’ve ever created a project bigger and more convoluted than a doctoral theses, you know exactly what I am saying here)
So how do we tame the beast?
How do we realize this mad passion without it being a suppressed lifelong obsession or a mad hobby that monopolizes all our time and makes us lose our job, girlfriend and get kicked out of school?
The answer is structured pursuit. Great novelists will tell you that consistency, dedication, and hard work are the key. Writing is a strange art in that you can’t just ‘make’ yourself feel creative. You have to have that muse.
But you can’t just wait around for your muse, we haven’t the time. Creativity is a tardy muse, and if you wait on his schedule then he’s going to arrive late, lush, and probably empty-handed. You have to go hunt him down with a butterfly net and a whiffle bat, stalk him up dark alleys and club him from behind, and hope you don’t catch his evil twin cynicism.
Writing is hard work. And it’s time-consuming. You have to do it every day to build the habits necessary to be successful. Creative genius best flows when you have a habit of writing and keep it on a schedule. An hour every morning. Thirty-minute word sprints after working out at night. A corner cafe where you always sit down with your back to the street twice a week. Consistency and dedication are what make the wheels spin.
But hard work takes energy. Emotional, mental and physical. So make sure, 1) you don’t forget to eat, or you’ll crash 2)+3) you have moral support and inspiration.
Here is where community comes in.
We are social creatures, and even when we are drained, praise from our fellows can give us a second wind, and commiserating with fellows who understand your struggle makes even the biggest challenges durable.
NaNo offers a clear goal with a finite timeline that is still large enough to work with. It offers you a way to track your progress and share with other like-minded people, which is accountability and encouragement, 2 things most novelists are lacking in their private lives. There are forums for brainstorming, sharing ideas that you love but don’t actually want to flesh out, or for you to pick up on other peoples ideas. There’s even a facet that lets you share a project with a friend so you don’t have to go it alone.
The NaNoWriMo community offers the structure, support and clear goal structure needed to succeed. It does a lot of the footwork so you can focus on the heavy lifting, and yes, the burden is still on you. You have to apply yourself, you have to challenge yourself, you have to make the commitment of time and energy to succeed.
So why NaNo? Is it a must. It’s not. But it is an invaluable asset and makes the noveling process a lot lighter, more fun, and not nearly so daunting.
Derek Nehring was homeschooled through High School, is in his Senior year of college majoring in Economics and Math, serves in the Nat Guard and enjoys reading, outdoor activities, coffee, and his sarcastic (very funny) family.