If a professor asked me to write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days, I would probably cry a little and then proceed to drop the class. It’s a lot of words in very, very little time. Still, every November, billions (well, at least hundreds) of people take on the challenge that National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) presents. I am one of these overly-ambitious writers.
Novel writing, as I previously imagined it, is a private, long, tedious journey that involves lots of isolation and caffeine. With NaNoWriMo, however, it is made a public event. They inspire motivation and provide incentives that may not be found anywhere else. The organization sends out pep talks and encouraging emails to guide each writer through his or her process. If I fall behind on your word count, no one will chastise me or be disappointed. It’s all for my writerly experience. I might still overdose on coffee and spend lots of time writing alone, but it doesn’t feel lonely—other people are enduring the same literary challenges and triumphs that I am. It’s solidarity, it’s a
You may be asking yourself, Why would anyone choose to write 1,667 words a day—especially when they are already in writing intensive classes? It’s a valid question. There are times when I wonder if I am truly insane for taking on such a challenge. Still, if not solely for personal achievement’s sake, I opted to do NaNoWriMo because I will enjoy the satisfaction of saying: “I did it.” Bragging rights are just enough incentive for me.
The best part about NaNoWriMo is that it’s about quantity, not quality. I have a daily word goal, but I can write the worst prose on the face of the earth and still feel accomplished. Don’t get me wrong, I want to write something awesome and worthy of Oprah’s Book Club, but you have to start somewhere. What I am working on now is like a grand rough-draft. It’s fun and very low-pressure, which happen to be two of my very favorite adjectives. It really is great writing practice that will not be graded or critiqued. I can fix the piece if I want to, or I can forget about it if it’s a lost cause.
So, in approximately two weeks, I may have the great American novel, or I could have nothing. Still, the process is interesting and the prospects of an end result are exciting. To any other Witt students who have accepted the challenge: Happy writing. See you in December, when we can all crawl out of our writer-hibernation and reintegrate into society.
(Adrienne Stout / firstname.lastname@example.org)