In October of 2010, I was reading a friend’s blog and he mentioned he was participating something called National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo for short. I hadn’t ever heard about it before. The concept was this: Write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. Don’t write well. Don’t edit your grammar or spelling. Take the angry little bastard editor that lives in your head out back and shoot him. Write. Just write.
As someone who had wanted to write a lengthy piece of fiction for a long stretch of years, the idea of squelching the criticism of my inner editor and just spewing out words was very appealing to me. I recruited another buddy to come to meetings and stuff with me and set off on a pretty singular adventure. I hit my 50k and I. Was. Hooked.
Jump ahead a bit and I’m headed into my fourth NaNo. I’ve settled into a pretty comfortable groove over the past few years. That means it’s high time to switch sh*t up. This year, I’m actually gonna try to plan things out in some detail. Actually, that process has been going on for a month or so. I figured out what I wanted to write a ways ahead of time, as opposed to a week before, as is usual. I’m also gonna shave my current beard off and grow a new one. It promises to be hairy.
Over the years, I’ve gotten a lot of very valuable lessons doing NaNo, and not just that I can, in fact, write 50,000 words without typing “Batman” 50,000 times. One thing I’ve learned is that, for me, it’s not as fulfilling if I tell a story and don’t say anything important during the course of it. A story without a message is just fluff. I’ve also learned that I’m not interested in dispensing the same messages every other storyteller seems to be tell be preaching. You know, the nature of heroes, true love, there is more to the world than meets the eye… crap like that. I think I have stuff to say. It’s just not stuff that normally get said.
Another thing I’ve learned is that writing may seem like a solitary endeavor, but it sure seems to go more smoothly for me when I include others in what I’m doing. It’s a blast to get together with your writer buddies and see who can cram the weirdest idea into their story. It’s so much easier to overcome your obstacles when you have friends who understand what you’re trying to do and will allow you to bounce ideas off them. It’s easier to stay motivated when you’ve got folks around you who can help buoy you up. NaNoWriMo takes an intellectual, solitary exercise and makes it a fun, social activity.
One final thing I’ve learned is that writing is bloody hard work. It’s tiring to stare at your computer screen when nothing’s coming out. It’s exhausting to keep going when you don’t like what you’re writing. You face fatigue, boredom, emotional crisis, and sometimes, burnout. But if you keep going, if you fight on and get to your goal, it’s incredibly fulfilling. The payoff makes it worth the struggle and drudgery.
I’m not gonna go into the details of my story for for this year, but I’m excited. After a couple years of stories just cuz I thought they were cool ideas, I have a story idea that I like,and I have something I really care about to say. There’s some trepidation about whether I can fuse my message with my story in a way that’s not preachy and pedantic, but I guess all I can do is crap my pants, dive in, and swim. Hope to see you out at some of our upcoming activities. I’ll be the one dog-paddling for dear life.