Op-Ed: Why I will NOT be doing NaNoWriMo
NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) begins November 1, 2016
Started in 1999 by Chris Baty, a freelance writer based in the San Francisco Bay area, National Novel Writing Month (shorted to NaNoWriMo) has been a staple of November on the internet. Every November 1st, writers around the globe scramble to fire up their novels and reach their 50,000 words (the minimum for the competition). As a writer, you are encouraged to “write, write, write” and leave pesky things like editing, revising, and rereading until after you’ve churned out your words. Words, words, words, until you reach midnight on November 30th.
Let me just preface this with a statement: I am a writer. Obviously, I’m writing this. I have done NaNoWriMo a couple of different times. I have hit my word limits when I did it. I have, in fact, written a couple novels and several short stories that were published. Not by any big publishing company, but they did sell and were enjoyed by other people. I have another couple novels languishing on my hard drive and a cloud. I also write and put out several hundred words most weeks for the Geek Girl Project as an editor and senior correspondent.
All that being said, I hate NaNoWriMo.
That seems a hard statement, but yeah.
In theory, NaNoWriMo seems a great idea. Get millions of keyboards clacking and ideas flying. By the time limit, you’ve got a goal in sight that is doable. That’s the theory. What ends up happening is you suddenly find yourself (if you are a writer and have writer friends) surrounded by people desperate for word counts, who blow off all other obligations, and any form of socializing for the next month. Even if you are tone deaf to the emotions of those around you, wow, so much self-generated stress. That’s what it usually turns into is a “Oh, I’m so far behind” and “I had to get my word count up” and “I can’t talk to anyone right now, writing.”
That’s one of the other rubs that rubs me the wrong way. It turns even the most altruistic person utterly self-centered jerk. It’s all about “I have to” and “I must” about themselves. It turns all focus inward in a time, with Thanksgiving coming out, when we should be turning our focus away from ourselves and towards others and what we are thankful for.
This is the biggest reason I gave it up. I make a lot of my Christmas, and I wouldn’t have that time to work on my projects for gifts if I used all that time to write. Your life disappears when you suddenly have 1,500 or so words a day you need to be churning out. You’re so focused on getting those words out that suddenly, you’re in December and there is nothing ready for Christmas or anyone else in your life. You have no time for anything, but those words. As much as I like words, people are more important.
All this being said, I love writing. I think it is great to get people writing. Writing is good. Words are good. Writing words to other people is a wonderful thing. I’m just not a fan of this arbitrary “competition” that is self-isolating and needlessly stressful.
I’m not going to go after the fact that you are churning out pages and pages of stuff that will be so terrible you just need a heavy duty delete button, or that you will put it away for a while and get it out later going “Good grief, I wrote this?”
All that being said. Hey, I just wrote 600 words.
Editor’s Note: Also of interest – NaNoWriMo Works forMe