November is coming up, and you know what that means. Turkey, holiday travel, obligatory family gatherings, and the flu (get your flu shot – they are available now! /end PSA). But also, NATIONAL NOVEL WRITING MONTH! Generally and affectionately called NaNoWriMo (which I pronounce nah-no-ree-mo, but have been informed that it’s pronounced nah-no-rye-mo).
NaNoWriMo is a huge writing event that lasts the entire month of November. The goal? To write 50,000 words, roughly 200 pages, in one month. That breaks down to 1,667 words daily for thirty days. Originally, the words were supposed to make up a novel, but now people use the event more loosely to just mean writing. The point is to inspire creation and creativity and to provide a supportive community to help people accomplish that word count goal, building good habits along the way. After all, the hardest part of anything is just the starting of it, and this way, the internet can hold you accountable. There are robust online forums, weekly pep talks by famous published authors, and physical regional events. So if you see a group of people intensely clacking away on laptops in a silent group in your library or local coffee shop, you might be able to guess what’s going on. Many NaNoWriMo winners go on to publish, including authors like Erin Morgenstern (The Night Circus), Hugh Howey (Wool), and Marissa Meyer (Cinder).
Back in 2012, I semi tried it. I say semi because I was in medical school at the time, on some kind of clinical rotation that I don’t really remember anymore. I set myself up to fail by saying – well, I’ll try it. Which is a squirmy, heavy-with-the-weight-of-justification-and-ready-with-excuses way of giving myself an out when I failed. Because I definitely fully expected to not meet the goal. Because, because, because. Have you heard this litany before? I’m too busy. I’m not inspired. The muse isn’t speaking to me. And just like you would expect, that self-fulfilling prophecy was fulfilled and the deadline came and went with my having written a mere 10,000ish words. It was a half-assed effort and I knew it. I had too much fear in me at that time to commit and to really do it. It was wrapped up in a lot of the self-excoriating doubt and insecurity that most people are familiar with.
But. A lot of time has passed since then (a whole half decade – what the hell?). And ever since I made the decision to drastically change my life, I’ve been self-reflecting and processing those fears and insecurities. That could be a blog post (or many) in of itself. The TL;DR of that is: Fuck. That. Noise.
I’m throwing myself headlong into this gauntlet, and I am SUPER PUMPED to be cranking out the words next month. You can even find me if you like – my username is jcalyst. October is for NaNoPrep – people start planning their novels, events and workshops are held, participant badges start popping up all over social media. Playful party lines get drawn – are you a planner or a pantser?
Or, like me, maybe you can’t decide and you’re a plantser. Also a totally viable option.
If the idea of writing a novel has ever crossed your mind, but you shied away because of the usual fear-based reasons, now is the time to begin. Now, when a whole community is rising up and ready to brave the clicky-clacky trenches with you. Now, when strangers and then newlyfriends are cheering you along. And then at the end of it all, you can say:
I. Wrote. A. Fucking. Book.