I haven’t participated officially in NaNoWriMo since 2008, but I was a winner that year and I got the glory of owning this beautiful badge on the left. I will admit, it felt good–really good. That sweet rush of victory was like a breath of fresh air followed immediately by the reality that final exams were in two weeks and I had things to get done that had been on the back burner for the past 30 days. Oops.
I don’t do NaNoWriMo anymore for a few reasons, but I don’t want to discourage anyone from taking the leap because the process comes with some great perks.
1) It makes you write. I mean seriously–all you’re thinking about all day is writing. You HAVE to meet that word count. You can’t sleep until you do because the guilt is so strong. No ideas? Keep writing. Not sure what to name your character? Keep writing and call him Joe, you’ll change it later. The mentality is to just keep writing, no matter what kind of awful writers block you may have. And the truth is, this is the only cure for writer’s block, and it’s a good habit to get into.
2) It teaches you commitment. NaNoWriMo teaches you to do what every creative writing professor tells you to do: write every day. It requires some serious dedication and commitment to the pursuit of 50,000 words so developing this habit is the only way to win.
After the Jump: More Perks to NaNoWriMo
3) It teaches you time management. The year I won, I somehow had to manage friends, class, homework, and this novel I decided to write. What was I thinking? Well, I still went out on Halloween, but came home after midnight, knocked out 300 words before going to bed, only to get up the next morning and write 2,000 more. I wrote in class pretty frequently (not that I suggest this), and would spend any time I wasn’t working on homework working on my NaNoWriMo project. You have to learn to set aside what’s not important so you have the time to write–but to also reward yourself with a little free time (only after you’ve met your daily word count!)
4) It makes you realize what it takes to write a novel. Before this experience, I had never undertaken quite that long of a project. I’m not sure I had ever actually finished anything substantial before then either. But what I learned was that a novel takes more than a bare bones outline and some free time–there are plot twists and left turns that you need to take to keep your characters busy during those 50,000+ words. One singular story line is a novella, a novel needs subplots. And I’ve never appreciated books more than after finishing NaNoWriMo, it’s damn hard work to come up with that kind of genius.
5) NaNoWriMo has a fantastic community. Part of the reason I finished at all was because I wanted to post my work count on the forums and receive praise. I love having writing buddies and pushing others to finish in return for them pushing me. Everyone is enthusiastic and wants everyone around them to succeed. You can’t beat that kind of encouragement considering how many people in your daily life think your foolish for writing a novel anyway.
Why I (Probably) Won’t Do It Again
1) It is a once-a-year crutch for my bad writing habits. I wrote out a list a 5 reasons, but realized they all fall under this umbrella. NaNoWriMo is great. It’s motivational and inspiring, and spectacularly productive. But while some people are glad it only comes once a year, that’s not enough for me. I don’t want to limit myself to writing one month out of the twelve–I want to write every day all 12 months of the year. I want to be motivated enough for NaNoWriMo to be my every day, not my every so often. NaNoWriMo was the perfect way to show me that I can finish 50,000 words in four weeks. It can be done! It showed me that I can write every day. It showed me the kinds of writing habits I should have, but don’t because I can reason with myself that I will just wait till next year to do it again.
Now it’s on me. I did NaNoWriMo and had a fantastic experience. Now it’s time to take what I’ve learned and apply it to my every day. Maybe I won’t churn out 50,000 words a month, but the fact that I know I can is motivation enough to sit down and write. That being said, I am not counting out NaNoWriMo in my future. Maybe someday I will need that fast-paced insanity and strong community encouragement to get me going, but for now I need to make these habits my every-day habits, not my “November habits.”