As I mentioned before, one of the key reasons i’m starting up this new blog is that I am participating in NaNoWriMo for the first time this year and I wanted to give my technical readers the option as to whether or not they wish to have to read about it.
I’ve been thinking about doing NaNoWriMo for probably ten years or so now. I first heard about it back in 2000 during my first year of university. I was taking writing pretty seriously then, primarily I guess because I had an awful lot more free time than I currently do. I was a member for a time of an online community called Forward Motion, then run by Holly Lisle. I met a number of people who had an influence on me in the short time I was there which I will no doubt talk about at a later time.
One thing I do remember was the excitement that swept the chat-room one November, and everyone was talking about this thing called NaNoWriMo, the National Novel Writing Month. 50,000 words in a month. There was tradition in the chat room of “word warring” anyway, chatting while we wrote and trying to out-do each other’s word count before we ran out of steam, so the idea of NaNoWriMo found a number of enthusiasts there immediately.
I was too late to begin taking part that year, though at the time I was writing at least 1000 words a day as a matter of course. By the time the next year rolled around much had changed, and I wasn’t as common a visitor to Forward Motion as I had been in the past. November came and went without me even noticing NaNoWriMo, and as things changed so did I. I wrote less, some poetry, some articles for the student magazine, but not as much fiction. I focused on my studies, on the abstract word of code, algorithms and logic.
By the time I graduated, I was barely writing at all. I focused on my career and starting a family, and I’ve been happily successful at both.
As all writers know, however, that itch never goes away. From time to time I hit the keys, turning out a few short stories here and there. I started my original blog primarily as an effort to satisfy that itch, and hopefully help some of the people who had to dig through arcane error messages in an attempt to fix broken software much as I did. It was never quite enough however.
From time to time I looked at NaNoWriMo and thought about finally giving it a go, but there was always a reason not to. I got very sick for a while and wasn’t much good for anything, there was always too much work to be done, I spent a few years working on my Masters degree and November is right smack in exam time.
Now? There are still great reasons not too. Work is challenging and above all demanding, I often find myself working nights and weekends to ensure that it all (or as close to all as I can manage) gets done. I have a nineteen month old daughter who has discovered the words “no” and “mine” and is determined that anyone who looks focused on something should really be playing with her. I haven’t been sleeping well, so by the time I get home from a long day at work, I feel completely exhausted.
There will always be good reasons not to take part, I realise now. I’m the sort of person who takes on projects and responsibilities right up to the point where I can barely cope; and when the load gets lighter starts looking around for something else. I get bored easy and have a million things I want to do, so that its hard to focus long enough to ever finish anything.
As well as this, NaNoWriMo is frightening. It’s a commitment to write every single day for a month, to write a non-trivial amount every day. Failure is a real possibility for anyone taking it on, let alone someone with a more-than-full-time job and a family. I am as troubled by failure as anyone else.
What I’ve realised however is that NaNoWriMo is about more than the 50,000 word wordcount. It’s about more than success or failure, and it’s about more than whatever novel you are working on when you attempt it.
NaNoWriMo is our way to say that writing is important to us. It is as important to us as any other part of our lives, and for one month we assign it visible importance. We lock ourselves away for hours each day to work on it, we tell our friends and family that we are busy and we devote ourselves to our craft.
Want to call yourself a writer? Well writers write! Many of us have daydreamed about doing this for a living and whilst that would mean no day job to get in the way, don’t kid yourself that it would mean no distractions. Anyone who has ever worked for themselves understands that the world conspires to convince you not to work, there is always something else that needs doing, some easy way to procrastinate yourself into trouble.
I’ve wondered for a while now if I have the discipline it would take to succeed as a writer. Well, lets find out.
What makes you want (or not) to participate? Sound off in the comments with your thoughts.