There are two competing opinions when it comes to National Novel Writing Month: it's either the greatest thing to ever grace the internet or it's a disgrace to writers everywhere.
So should you try it? Is it worth thirty days of elevated stress levels to acquire fifty thousand words of questionable quality?
I respond with a resounding yes, but that's because it was completely worth it for me, as a high school junior just discovering what writing could be. If any of these scenarios sound familiar, NaNo may be worth it for you too.
1. You're too busy to write.
But wait, you say, if I'm too busy to write, how will setting a goal of 1,666 words per day help?
Because there is no such thing as too busy to write. You weren't too busy to watch that Friends rerun or to spend an hour sitting in McDonalds at lunch. You weren't too busy to scroll Facebook last night or watch Youtube videos. You prioritize your life. You choose to be too busy for certain things. There is always time to write if it's your priority. NaNo forces you to choose writing, if you care about achieving your goal.
2. You question whether your writing is "good enough."
If you've got an inner-editor who will not shut up, NaNoWriMo is for you. If you find yourself rewriting passages twenty seconds after you write them so that you spend two hours perfecting half a page of prose, I guarantee NaNo will help. If you try to edit as you go, you will not finish.
That doesn't sound good. Now we're producing terrible work for the sake of quantity. This is the most common argument I hear against NaNoWriMo, and it's true. But it's also the process. Ernest Hemingway famously said, "The first draft of anything is shit." I believe that wholeheartedly. NaNo isn't meant to produce complete, ready-for-publication novels. It's not even meant to produce full-length novels. It's just to get started. It's to get the cobwebs off your keyboard and get some words on paper.
No matter what stage of your career you're at, isn't that the main thing, after all?
3. You've never finished a novel.
Maybe you've never finished anything. Maybe you're that person who gets really excited about an idea, feverishly writes three pages only to leave your work, lonely and forgotten, buried under a stack of papers. Maybe seeing that word count at 50,001 is what you need to start believing in yourself. Once you know you can do it, then you can start working on doing it well.
4. You want a sense of community.
WriMos are tight, man. Real tight. Nothing brings people together like a month of stress, doubt, frustration, tears, and finally that wonderful feeling of accomplishment. There are forums on the site where you can meet people, discuss your stories, share your experiences. Writing can get lonely. It's nice to have people with whom you can share your success—and to hold you accountable.
5. You love a challenge.
Sometimes the only reason you need to succeed is the feeling of success. Setting a goal and reaching it is one of the best feelings in the world, especially when there are people all around saying you can't do it.
6. You've lost your passion for writing.
Why do I even write? It's easy to forget. When writing feels like a chore, how do you reclaim the element of fun? It seems counterintuitive, but forcing yourself to meet a daily word count can do the trick. Once you push past the misery of cranking out 1,666 words a day, you may discover a new love for your characters and your writing. You may remember why you started writing to begin with.
7. You've got writer's block.
I'm not saying writer's block is real or not; that's a topic for another time. But if you feel stuck, like your mind is smothered every time you try to put pen to paper, a challenge that forces you to write--and write anything--can break the dam. If you've ever run distance, you know the feeling of being dead tired, like your legs won't go another step, just before catching your second wind. That's what happens during NaNo. You write pages of gibberish, feel like you'll never write anything decent again, and then it happens. The words begin to flow.
For most people, the start is the hardest part. Once you get yourself going, you'll find yourself producing more than you ever expected. Some of it may even be good.
And remember, NaNo does not have to happen only during November. Grab a group of writer friends and have your own NaNoWriMo. Set your own goals. Celebrate each other's success. Just get that pen moving!
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