Saying ‘No’ to NaNoWriMo

photo credit: thorinside via photopin cc

photo credit: thorinside via photopin cc

I’m not getting involved in National Novel Writing Month (that’s “NaNoWriMo” or “NaNo” to the initiated) this year.

While other writers are chugging their eighth cup of coffee, sitting down after a long day of work and trying to pound out 1,666.666 words a day, I will be reading someone else’s work, putting together a lesson plan, or I will be at rehearsal, baking a pie for Thanksgiving, or sleeping.

I just can’t bring myself to get involved in the massive peer-pressure-fueled write-a-thon that is NaNoWriMo.

Nothing against NaNo. I used to be involved in NaNo, and I loved it. For years, friends and I NaNoed as a group, pounding back coffee and slamming out words, sending our best and worst sentences of each day to each other via email and meeting on Friday evenings to celebrate our progress with drinks and more writing.

It’s just that —  for me, for the time being —  NaNoWriMo has served its purpose. There were times when I needed it to break through a wall of writers’ block and there were times when I needed it to make me make time for the writing I was constantly putting off in my 20s. Now, my best work now is done a little at a time, slowly, over the course of months.

For me, NaNo now does more harm than good. A couple of years ago, I proved this by entering NaNo with the same group of friends – now older and living in different parts of the country. We were going to duplicate our wild writing youth by using a message board to check in with one another.

Not only did I not make 50,000 words that year, but I didn’t produce anything of value. Even worse, I managed to burn out on all my writing projects; the work I was trying to do on another, paying project suffered because of my NaNoWriMo attempt. I had to finally admit to myself that National Novel Writing Month is more of a hindrance to my writing than a help to me right now.

It’s a helpful tool for writers who are trying to break habits, or make time for a novel that’s been eating them up inside, or who want to make new writing habits or forge new relationships, but despite the frantic peer pressure that often surrounds November, NaNo is not for everyone.

In fact, for every NaNo project that’s ended up published – for every Water for Elephants or Night Circus – I’m willing to bet that there are several people like me, who have produced meaningless masses of unintelligible words just to participate in a massive group writing activity and end the month with 50,000 words.

And that’s okay. But it’s not a great reason – for me, at least – to get involved with National Novel Writing Month. I might be back someday, but you know what? Sometimes it’s better and more productive to stick to your own writing schedule.

That’s okay, too.

6 thoughts on “Saying ‘No’ to NaNoWriMo

  1. ❤ this is amazing. I've singed up for NANO 3 years in a row. The first year I balked. Each day I would stare at the word count…and stare and stare and stare. It blocked my creative pipe and I didn't do anything. After that, I've only used NANO as a means of camaraderie. A means of progress. And in my book a single word is progress. Progress is a win! 🙂

    • Hi Lady Jai! (You don’t know me, but I know you from MJ’s Facebook feed.) I agree with you. A single word IS progress. I did NaNo for four or five years. I think I “won” twice but for the most part I produced crap. Mostly, the best thing about NaNo for me was the camaraderie. Because it sure wasn’t my writing!

  2. I agree – the best thing you can do is to do what works for you. NaNo was highly productive for me last year, helping me get the bulk of a draft out of the novel I’m now nearly done polishing that had been in my head (and notes) for over a year. The year before, not so much. This year already it’s helped push me to start on the idea that’s been simmering for awhile while I’m still revising. But I can envision a year (or more) where it’s not the thing I need, at that time. And there shouldn’t really be pressure, either way. I may clink virtual glasses with someone else when we meet our daily goals, but I certainly don’t think it’s *better* than NOT NaNoing. It’s just one way to get things done.

    • Good for you! You are right. NaNo does work for a lot of people; just look at all the people who have published books because of NaNo. That’s not me, though. What I’m railing against is the peer pressure that some folks exert on other writers when it comes to NaNo. As you say, it’s just one way to get things done.
      Good luck with your project this month! I hope you meet your goals.

  3. This is totally why I’ve never participated in Nano. It just never worked for me… writing for me needs to be a constant, and I am far too long-winded to finish anything in a month. I’ve also found November to be a bad month to place it in general. If you’re a student or a teacher, the end of the semester is beating down on you. There’s a major holiday that usually takes up half a week of your time, if you’re lucky. And it’s the start of the Christmas rush, too. Just ugh. I’d propose to have it in March, because March is long, dismal and boring (at least in New England, lol).

    • I think there is a March answer to NaNoWriMo. It might be National Novel Editing Month or something? Not sure. I know a few people who wanted to move their personal NaNos to March, but I’m passing on those, too. I just can’t work like that.

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