NaNoWriMo is Here!:Guest Post By Judy Clement-Wall
On November 1st, a magical sort of mob mentality will take over, and all around the world, hundreds of thousands of writers will attempt the totally irrational goal of writing a novel in 30 days. Throwing caution (and any semblance of a normal life) to the wind, these intrepid, insane would-be novelists will spend the month of November in the land of NaNoWriMo, ranting, raging, rejoicing… and, yes, writing 1,677 words a day. It is a maddening, utterly ludicrous undertaking – one I firmly believe every writer should do.
I signed up for NaNoWriMo last year on a whim, or at least that’s what I told myself. It was a lark to see if I could actually write 50,000 words in 30 days. I stayed with it – despite the upheaval and the stress of writing hard every day – because the truth is it was never a lark at all. It was about finding inside me the desire, the imagination, the unmitigated, audacious hope that “writing like you mean it” requires.
Ask my family what they remember of last November and they are likely to mention the housecleaning, laundry, and cooking that never quite got done, my increasingly alarming appearance, or the fact that they rarely saw me (and when they did I was usually frantic or distracted or both). When I started Nano, I had no idea if I could write a novel in 30 days, but in the act of trying, something magical happened. Words got onto the page, a story took shape, characters came alive. They were heroic and terrible and dazzling and flawed. They spoke out of turn, fell in love when they shouldn’t, turned left when I thought they would go right. In the chaos of NaNoWriMo, I discovered their story and remembered why I fell in love with writing in the first place.
Here’s what I learned during Nano:
- The true meaning of the word draft. I had never fully understood or appreciated it before, but when you’re trying to write 50,000 words in 30 days, you learn to embrace the messy. Chris Baty, Nano founder, advocates for the law of exuberant imperfection, which says that “the quickest, easiest way to produce something beautiful and lasting is to risk making something horribly crappy.”
- Just write. When the goal is to produce a novel in a month, you have no choice but to sit down every day and start typing. You have to trust the process, have faith that all that typing will turn into writing. Because it will. But only if you do it.
- Fear isn’t always bad. Sometimes it tells you what is valuable, what matters. I’m convinced that we grow by doing what scares us, committing to things we’re not really sure we can do, and then discovering we can do so much more than we ever imagined.
Those were the things I’d expected – or at least hoped – to learn. Here’s the one that surprised me: Being part of a community is powerful. Writing is an inherently lonely vocation (especially when the goal is to get 1,677 words on the page every day) but when I tweeted, Facebooked, and blogged my Nano frustrations and doubts, there were hundreds of thousands of writers there to cheer me on. That is a remarkable feeling. I met so many gifted and generous writers during Nano, and many of us are still in touch a year later.
At the end of the month last November, Chris Baty wrote this to his makeshift family of weary and wonderful writers:
You could have spent this month living your normal life. You could have gone for long walks with your lover or won points with your boss by coming into work without those big bags under your eyes. Instead you agreed to do something dumb. You agreed to try and write more fiction than you ever have in a month… You stepped up to the plate. And there is nothing more admirable in this whole damn world than someone willing to set for themselves the fearsome task of trying something big.
There are a million good reasons not to do Nano. It is grueling, chaotic, ambitious, insane. Acknowledge that, and then do what you always do.
You’re a writer.
(And this year, when Nano ends, there is no need to lose the momentum that comes from being part of a supportive, energized community. The IBC is dedicated to getting authors and their work in front of readers… and having fun in the process.)
After my second boy was born, I checked out of the corporate world and back into school. Plan A (get a programming degree) was abandoned after I took my first fiction writing class. Plan B (get a creative writing degree and live happily ever after) is a work in progress. (The degree was the easy part.)
My short stories and essays have been published in numerous print and online literary journals and websites. I am about to finish revising my first book, Beautiful Lives, a quirky literary novel all about love (and family, and mental illness, and ghosts, and dogs, and commercial signage… but mostly love).