Why NaNoWriMo?

NaNoWriMo has gained a plethora of participants. Hundreds of thousands, in fact. A quick look around Twitter, typing in keywords like #NaNoWriMo2014 or #amwriting will pull up a ton of tweets from writers updating their followers with their word counts, struggles, and achievements. But as with any event or cause, there will always be the naysayers.

In this case, the naysayers of NaNoWriMo believe that if you were a real writer, you wouldn’t need a month dedicated to writing to meet a word count. Or that it’s impossible to write something of quality—of substance—in thirty days.

Before I get too deep into my defense of NaNoWriMo, I think it’s fair to mention that what a writer actually is is a fuzzy distinction. “Real” writers get paid for their work; they get published. But if you’re still new to the craft, if you’re still aspiring and finding your voice, does that mean you’re not a “real” writer?

I think it’s also fair to mention that, in a way, the naysayers are partly correct. “Real” writers don’t need a month; at least, they shouldn’t. NaNoWriMo, however, is aimed at newer writers. Writers who still need proof that they can actually do it—that they can write a novel-length story, that they can meet a deadline, that they can fight through writer’s block.

To Keep The Ideas Flowing

The thing is, when a writer isn’t writing, things can get dark fast. We start having depressing thoughts about the meaning of our very own existence, or that we will never become the voice of our generation. Writing is a muscle. When we don’t stretch it, we lose the ability to use it effectively. The ideas don’t come as easily, and when we do finally find the time to write, we find the words don’t come easily either. Something I noticed during last year’s NaNoWriMo was that, as soon as I started writing, I couldn’t stop the ideas from coming. Sure, more often than not, these ideas had nothing to do with the project I was actually working on. But you write them down, you tuck them away, and then later, when you can, you come back to them.

Getting to Know Yourself

Believe it or not, not all writers are daunted by the task of completing 50,000 words. Some participants find that they need far less than thirty days (this one only needed nine). You wont know what you can achieve until you try. Participating in the NaNoWriMo challenge allows you to discover your quirks—your areas of strengths and weaknesses. If you’re like me, you might discover that, yes, writing 2,000 plus words each day is a piece of cake. That it can be done by sparing only a few hours of your day, but that it’s also much easier with the help of an outline. That diving into the unknown might work for the first 10,000 words, but then your mind starts drawing blanks.

NaNoWriMo also helps you develop your routine, because each of ours will be different. Maybe you can’t write on an empty stomach. Or without a candle. Or without Jurassic Park playing in the background (hey, we’re not judging). There’s nothing like a month of intense writing to help you get in touch with, well, yourself.

A Community Means Support—And Competition

Writers are not hunchbacked loners that live in caves—okay, well not all of them. Despite the cliche of the “lone genius,” many of us thrive off of conversation, support, and, you heard it, a little competition. Join your local NaNoWriMo writing group (they even have write-ins) and interact with other participants over social media. Let other writer’s triumphs inspire you to push harder.

Because You Want to Publish A Book

The goal of NaNoWriMo isn’t to walk away with a publishable novel (silly heading fooled you). The goal of NaNoWriMo is to walk away with a first draft of a novel. So when the naysayers say “but will it be any good?” The answer is no. No, it will probably not be very good. But it will be something, and that’s a start. First drafts take some writers years, but you can pat yourself on the back because you just did it in thirty days. Even though it’s only a first draft, you now have something to revise and rework. Something to, in the future, send off to publishers.

It’ll Make You Happy

If you truly are a writer, then finishing NaNoWriMo has the power to lift your spirits. Writing reduces stress. It helps you process events. Finishing something will bring you a sense of accomplishment and make the next project less grueling, because you know there is an end in sight. You conquered the pull of Facebook and Netflix. You defeated the beast that is writer’s block. You are, despite the naysayers, a real writer.

Melanie Figueroa

Melanie is the Editor in Chief at The Poetics Project. Having earned a masters in writing and book publishing from Portland State University and gained experience as an in-house editor, she now works as a freelance editor and writer. Her favorite book is The Bell Jar. You can follow Melanie on Twitter or Instagram @wellmelsbells.

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