Nanowrimo: National Novel Writing Month. We’re all in this together. Or not.
This can be that yearly quirky time when writerly people bow to an artificial deadline that forces them to caffeinate, to pull their hair out, and to find millions of other ways of stressing about daily word counts in the 1700 range and a monthly word count of 50,000. They send out announcements, hoping their friends’ and family’s excitement and anticipation will help drag them over the finish line in the hours before December 1st.
Writers send out announcements, post on their blogs, wear buttons hoping their (confused, nonwriter) friends and family will reflect back a little of the excitement and anticipation. We hope that their love will help drag us over the finish line in the hours before December 1st.
Nanowrimo can also be a chance to attend pep talks and write-ins, to rub elbows with fellow writers, aspiring amateurs and published professionals alike. Sometimes we meet in coffee shops or pizza restaurants or library writing rooms, sometimes with conversation, prizes, laughter, and other huge expansive quiet hours where everyone’s laptop keys click-clack in lovely unison. Nanowrimo can be incredibly inspiring as well as empowering.
I love writing circles, and Nanowrimo events are no exception. The introductions around these meetings remind me of birthing classes. There is one mother who declares herself above pain medication or another who one-ups everyone else with plans to give birth while simultaneously pulling in bushels of corn and painting a series of impressionistic sunflower paintings, so long as she can play her favorite Zen meditation song list. Those birthing classes always made me want to shake my fellow moms and sometimes even their significant others, parents-to-be who so overplanned the experience as to seem to forget the main idea was to produce a baby at the end of it. I remember my husband and I, giggling with excitement because we were just happy to be pregnant. I want that joy when it comes to writing; to rise up from my chair after 2,000 words, knees wobbling, because I wrote something raw or amazing or new or real or just plain good today.
In a Nanowrimo meeting, there are the eager-eyed prodigies who can really pump out the word counts. We’re all a bit jealous and a bit suspicious at the same time. On the other end of the spectrum, we nod at the seasoned poets who want to give it a try but aren’t too sure how their consternation over phrasing will ever allow them to get more than a page a day. And what does it matter? We’re all in this together. Sort of.
To me, it’s like any other month: I strive for word counts, but it’s hit or miss whether I even get a chance to write every day. Rather than beat myself up about it, I regroup or reboot or whatever it takes to recharge, and tomorrow is always another day. The only advantage to November is the camaraderie: how we can all commiserate and announce ourselves behind on the word counts or brag about how ahead we are (although show some restraint; you can brag about your baby, but don’t overdo it).
The best thing about Nonowrimo is the experience of being part of a writing community. We get so much out of our combined experience. Writers are the most unsocial of social beings: we need to be human in order to write, we crave contact with each other, but we have to withdraw into our own minds in order to produce our art. It’s great to have that initial author’s advice, the commiserating chats, the inspirational quotes to get us going, but, eventually, the room goes quiet and the writing begins. We have to stop talking to each other and get down to business. Writing is a solitary pursuit. In the end, the rest of the room goes away, and it’s just you pushing out the baby.