I read an article a while ago that was basically slating on National Novel Writing Month (and by extension, the rest of its events such as Camp NaNoWriMo in April and July). The article was called “5 Reasons Not to Participate in NaNoWriMo” by Janice Hardy, representing Fiction University. You can of course read the article yourself by following the link in the title of the article, but I’ll summarize it for you before providing my counter-argument.
The article articulates that we are busy being, and that writing is meant to be creative and fun, and that a daily word count goal can be stressful, which can hinder your creative process, and can hinder you as a person due to competition. If you fail to meet your goal, that can be deterring, and might put you off your project altogether. I think that essentially is the gist of it.
I will, however, give a nod, that yes, ther are some people who just don’t function in the way of pressure as a motivator. But All the writers I know, and all the other creators of anything that I know, all do really well under pressure. And for them, I’ll write this:
Five Reasons to participate in (Camp) NaNoWriMo (Plus Some Bonuses):
- Time is Precious
The article I mentioned does make a good point, we just don’t have time. But I think that’s all the more reason to participate in National Novel Writing Month, and it’s camps. It helps us to learn to manage our time, and to focus on what is important. And at the end of the day, if you are a writer, then that is what should be toward the very top of the list.
When that is your drive, then you begin seeing little empty spaces of inactivity as opportunistic. Waiting for the bus? Whip out your phone and type out a few lines in your note pad.
What’s more, because time is precious, I look at the span of my life. I, personally, have a dozen novels knocking around in my head. And if I take three years to write each of them, I might never see half of them complete. This shows that if you break down the minimum length of a novel into 30 days, that you can easily get your first draft done in that amount of time. And you know what it means if you can get your first draft done in that amount of time? Then you can do you second draft in that amount of time, again.
- Competition Can Light a Fire
I’ll start this off by picky-backing on the last point. Because once you completely that 50,000 word count, or whatever it is you accomplish in that month, then you know you can do it again. Or, you can do better next month. You can increase your word-count goal by 5,000 next year, or next month. You can say that You wrote your first draft in one month, you can probably get it revised in two weeks. Then you can have it edited again in a week. Who knows where that personal competition will push you.
That being said, competition has been used as motivation in academics and the professional world for years and years and years. There is something fun in friendly and healthy competition. And that’s what NaNoWriMo is. You have the option to be put in a “cabin” with other writers and you can strive to keep doing better than they are, make bets with them, whatever. However, it’s that subtle push to motivate you forward when you’re feeling stuck and burnt out.
- Support Groups
Speaking of the Cabins, NaNoWriMo is a great place to meet other writers. Sure it’s not face-to-face, but it’s still allowing you communication. You can run ideas by people in your cabin, you can ask them what they think of a sentence, for alternative words for something, and so on. You can get to know them and then you have a writing connection. A variety of people participate in this events, including agents, publishers, teachers, students, pastors, anarchists, social justice warriors, politicians, and so on. Each individual doing this is a resource to help you through your writing. And you are a resource to them as well.
Also, while I mentioned that you might not be meeting those in your cabin, you actually might be able to. There are options where you can find other participants in your area who would be wiling to meet up and talk writing in person–just be safe about it!!! You can also create a cabin for you and your friends as well, which is quite common.
- Pressure Can Light a Fire
I don’t know about you, but when I was in college, I could not focus on an essay until the night before it was due, to the frustration of my teachers. They would want drafts and I would hand them outlines with points and give them references. But what was because there wasn’t any pressure. I needed the pressure of the deadline to fuel me. It reaches past my procrastination-finders (such as the itch to reach for Facebook or Twitter, or the need to see what my cousin who I haven’t talked to in years is up to) and finds those wells of creativity and knowledge that I didn’t know existed.
Forcing yourself to come up with 1,667 words a day (or whatever your daily word goal is) puts that squeeze on you. When I started my novel, I just had a conversation piece. I had no idea where it was going. Then, after trying to force those words out to get to that daily goal, I created the history of a handful of characters, their emotional troubles, their desires, their own forces forward. I created a world.
- We Like Numbers
I recently read and reviewed a fantastic book called The Circle, which is all about social media and how easily it is that we get sucked into a digital world. It sucked me in purely by giving me numbers to focus on so that I could see how well the main character was doing. Numbers are a way of measuring something, a quality/quantity measurement, and we thrive off it, whether we like to acknowledge it or not.
Participating something that makes you focus on that word count, then you’ve got a way of knowing how well you’re doing.
- Forming of Good Habits
At the end of the day, the reason I got into NaNoWriMo was because it was forcing me into a daily routine. And if you want to get good at anything, you need to have a daily routine for it. Being in the habit of sitting and writing, not caring what it is as long as words are getting on the page is what it is about. It’s getting you into that habit.
- It’s Damn Fun
I don’t think this needs any more explanation. You either dig it, or you don’t!
So that’s my argument to the initial article slating NaNoWriMo. I would love to hear what works, what doesn’t work for you during this time. Do you participate in CampNaNoWriMo? Do you think it’s just obnoxious? I want to know!