NaNoWriMo—National Novel Writing Month—is upon us and, for the first time, I’m all in. This has not always been the case. When I was teaching Creative Writing, one of my colleagues was absolutely dead set against it.
“It promotes diarrhea.” She was one of those neatly-combed people who was orderly in every way, and she listed all the very good reasons why she did not approve of it. “You write a lot. You never edit. You usually end up with an unwieldy mass of junk that you just don’t know what to do with.”
Needless to say, all my students loved it. Students are visionary.
National Novel Writing Month, for those who don’t yet know, begins at the stroke of midnight on the first day of November and ends at the close of the month. During that period, aspiring writers produce 50,000 words—enough verbiage to believe that they have written a real, honest-to-goodness novel. That amounts to an average of 1,877 words a day.
There’s a website in which to log your word count. You create a profile (my profile name is spunkymunky, my novel is Robert’s Rules) and participate in an on-line community of writers. You can earn badges along the road toward your goal. You can track your progress with charts. Outside of the website, there are meetups simply for the purpose of getting writing done.
Like my colleague, I have always been suspicious of group activities. “You’re not a joiner,” one of my friends, who would always try to get me to join things he joined, quipped. By nature, I’m extremely skeptical. I don’t fall for television preachers. I don’t ever buy the latest must-have gadget. When Christmas comes along, I have been known to book a long vacation to a Muslim country.
But recently, I have engaged in group activities that have benefited me: I started jogging with a running club, once a week, and this kept me jogging regularly and now I have lost 20 pounds. This got me to thinking that in many ways, NaNoWriMo creates the environment of an MFA program—a peer structure and accountability group that form a community: you are running with horses across a blurred landscape, you are not a mighty stallion alone, alone, alone.
It’s so much harder to do things alone, to get off your butt. It’s easier to go back to sleep if nobody is watching. I found myself not only running consistently but, also, running further, faster. Why? Because if you run with a pack, you have to keep its pace.
So far, I’ve been doing this three days. I have two partners—the novelist, Thomas Hewlett and the poet, Nicky Schildkraut. I’m not sure if I’ll stay at the 1,877 word pace, mainly because I can’t stand diarrhea. But the NaNoWriMo website makes the point that, even if you only write a thousand words at the end of the month, that is a thousand words more than you had before. So, I’m ready to be a joiner. It’s not too late to join with me!