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In about a week from now, an enormous number of otherwise sane adults will take leave of their senses and begin acting like a bunch of six-year-olds.
No, I'm not talking about Hallowe'en. I'm talking about National Novel Writing Month. All of a sudden, these folks will commit November to putting 50,000 words down on some sort of paper, without editing, in order to be able to say straight out that they are a "writer" and have completed a "novel". There's a perverse logic to dedicating a whole, specific month to the cause. There's brotherhood, and solidarity. Everyone is advised to find themselves a writing buddy, and go out and tell their friends and families exactly what they're doing. The idea is, if you now drop the ball, the embarrassment of not being able to follow-through on something you committed to would be so much, it keeps you going through this 1667 words per day marathon. Oh, that's including Thanksgiving. And Election Day. And National Men make Dinner Day. And Cook Something Bold And Pungent Day. No excuses. In effect, for a month they'll force themselves back into doing Composition homework, just like they were back in school. Family, relationships, presumably work and sleep, might have to get put on the backburner. Understandably, people's opinions vary on the effectiveness of #NaNoWriMo, as to whether it is indeed the right way to get a novel out of someone. Let's face it, everybody has a book inside of them, and for some of us, perhaps inside is where it should stay.
Ironically, there's been an account on Twitter that was intended to do some warm-up work for the November crunch which actually convinced me that #NaNoWriMo was something I really didn't need to be trying. @NaNoWordSprints has been offering timed writing sessions of 15, 20, 30, or occasionally more minutes on several evenings. The idea is, against the clock, get down as many words as you can. It's helped me on a couple of evenings to get over writer's block when I've been trying to get a blog post down, and it's taught me that the actual quantity of words needed to get through NaNo is something that I can reasonably achieve. The quality is questionable, of course, but isn't that the point? But, more importantly, what the sprints have shown me is, if I put my mind to it, it really doesn't matter whether it's November or not. If it's something I want to do, I will be able to get the words out, without a problem. Of course, writing a novel is something I have managed to go through four decades of my life without actually doing so far. If I really, truly, wanted to have a go, I am quite competent and have sufficient self-control to make sure I do it, without any exterior force or artificial time limit pushing it out of me.
In a momentary lapse of reason, I signed up for #NaNoWriMo. It happened just like any other Internet fad, to be honest. A friend gave it a shot last year – a successful shot, it turns out – and this year I heard about it and thought, "Why not?" What of course I didn't do before clicking on that tempting sign-up button was think about a more important question. Why? I don't think I have to necessarily put out 50,000 words of my unedited ramblings in order to be called a "writer", any more than I would have to record a win at Talladega to be called a "driver". I write, therefore, I am a writer. (I drive too, and I'm lousy at that). Whether it's good or bad, or fact or fiction, a novel, a blog, or a grocery list, it's still writing. I don't have a Pinocchio complex – it's not like I sit around all day wishing that I could be a "real writer", while at the same time am worried about whether anyone will laugh at my efforts. It wouldn't have to be a novel, either, if I wanted to write. I tried @6minutestory as well, which is completely the opposite proposition. Take a visual or verbal prompt, write as much as you can in six minutes, and then walk away. I've only given this a try once, mainly because I'm a horrific typist, but I wasn't too displeased with the result. There's a lot of good flash fiction out there, and some writers who are exceptionally skilled in the art of getting short stories written quickly. There seem to be plenty of online publications that are after all kinds of short stories; if I wanted to write one of those, again, it's up to me to just go right ahead.
It doesn't matter what kind of writing it is. Novels, short stories, even blog posts. The only thing that is preventing me from achieving any of them, is me; not whether I have signed up to some site or not. So now, right now, I'm actively chickening out. #NaNoWriMo? No, no, no, no.Related articles
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