The Fall is one of my favorite times of year. Although the weather is pretty gloomy as I write these words. Most days the air is crisp, and the trees are putting on their annual kaleidoscope show. This year seems to be brighter than most. I might think that every year. Most of all there is the excitement November brings with NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month for those of you not in the know), the time of year when all would-be writers strive to write 50,000 words in 30 days–no small task. My social media feeds are alight with inspirational quotes about writing and persevering, #amwriting hashtags, and it seems like the world is existing in pure harmonic word count madness.
Last year I won NaNo. I was incredibly proud of myself, and even put my winning certificate up on my office wall to remind myself that I am a writer.
So why aren’t I doing it this year? Is my novel finished? Am I just a big fat NaNo-hater?
It’s nothing like that. After last year’s NaNo victory I realized that my novel needed to begin much later than I’d written, and all the words I’d written were just backstory. Don’t get me wrong, I’m really glad I have them. They are priceless pieces of information that I needed to get out, but in the end, they aren’t manuscript words.
Truly, as much as I love the community of it, NaNoWriMo’s word count specific goal just doesn’t work for me. It’s too easy for me to fake myself out, throw down a bunch of words to meet a goal, and completely ignore the purpose of getting the novel out of my head. It’s even worse when I’ve gotten stuck on a scene, and can’t find a way through it. NaNo would tell you to move onto something else, where, in my crazy maddening universe, what I really need to do is figure out why I’m being held back. It’s usually something to do with an unresolved plot point that I’d procrastinated on dealing with.
There’s also the problem of restricting myself to just one project. Yes, I do want to be a novelist, and I am focusing specifically on writing my story, but that’s not the only writing I do. When the opportunity to have a play you’ve written chosen for a night of one acts, you can’t just blow it off, even if you don’t have anything written yet; even if you are in the middle of NaNoWriMo. I’m not writing for fame–although a best-seller would be amazing. I’m writing because I have so much to say. I’m writing because I want to add my own unique voice to the literary conversation. I’m writing because this is how I choose to define my career as a creative. I’m writing because I am a writer, and that doesn’t just mean novels.
While I’m not actively counting words with all the NaNos out there plugging away at their brilliance, I am making daily writing a priority. I think that’s the real point of NaNoWriMo anyway. They say it takes thirty days to make a habit, and that’s exactly what I intend to do. So go get those words you amazing NaNos. I am rooting for you! I may not be counting them all, but I am your ally in writing, and am fiercely writing alongside you all month long!