Once upon a time I was sitting in a class at school, I think it was in sixth or seventh grade but it might have been a little later on. A guy, and I don’t remember who, came up to me and asked if I’d ever participated in NaNoWriMo.
“What???” I think was my response.
I vaguely remember going home and looking it up. National Novel Writing Month. Write 50,000 words in the month of November. Cool.
Did I do it then? No. And I mostly put it out of my mind after that.
Flash forward to November 2011 and I was signing up for NaNo because my friend Jayna told me she was going to participate. It sounded more fun with friends. And as time went on, our group of friends that did it every year and even participated during Camp NaNo joined a page for us to vent on, help each other on, challenge each other to word sprints, etc.
I loved NaNo then. It gave me a chance to talk to my friends about writing specifically, and there was a kind of thrill to staying up later than I should have, working on a novel that I chose specifically for November. All the planning in October was fun, hanging out with friends during write-ins was fun, hosting virtual write-ins was fun. I think my friends were the driving force behind me signing into NaNo’s website every November and updating my word count.
Since then, everyone’s gotten busy. Work and relationships have taken up many people’s time. But we still have the Facebook page, and on occasion, one of us will comment on there. But NaNo isn’t what it once was, and not very many of us are even doing NaNo this year.
And that’s okay. I’m doing it.
Why? When the whole driving force isn’t really there this year? We haven’t done a single write-in or word sprint, and I’m definitely not staying up to work on anything anymore. I can’t handle late nights.
I’m still doing it because it helps me remember what scheduling writing time is like. It encourages me to write every day, that it doesn’t matter if the writing isn’t great because this is just an early draft, that the important part is just to get the story out. I like the emails I get with encouragement from other writers, I like the graph that shows me my progress. I know I’ll probably not hit 50,000 words this November, but that’s okay. It’s a lot more words than I’ve had in several months.
Winning NaNoWriMo can be a goal to reach for, but I’m okay if I fall short. The important part is that I’m trying, and I’m showing up at my document every day to give an honest effort. I’m showing my writing that I care, that I don’t want to lose the talent, that I want my head to be full of stories again. I’m giving something to my writing, and hopefully it will give me something back.
NaNoWriMo for me is a whole month of keeping the writing time sacred and pushing through writer’s block because I don’t have time for that nonsense. And maybe at the end of it, I’ll glance through what I’ve achieved and wince at how horrible the plot/pacing/descriptive writing/main character is. But it will have given me material to work with, to improve on, and I can still feel pretty proud of myself that I managed to write all those words with a full time job and a social life and other responsibilities. That I, an adult who is busy, still was able to put something together, even if the NaNo version of that something will never see the light of day.
This is going to be proof that I can still do this. I might not be able to spend hours upon hours pouring over my work like I did when I was younger, and I might still feel the pressure of having to juggle too many things as an adult, but I can still be a writer. I don’t have to give that up to make room for the rest of my life. I can squish it right in there, right in the center of me, where nothing’s going to tear it away.