It’s that time of the year to disappear for a bit. November is National Novel Writing Month, an annual festival of carpal tunnel and obsessing over word counts. The challenge is to write a 50,000 word rough draft in a single month. It requires writing 1,667 words per day for thirty days. It’s not that the daily load is too heavy — it’s that once you set it down, it’s hard to pick it up again.
Missing one day means working hard to make up for it elsewhere. Falling behind leads to more falling behind. Distractions like social media interfere terribly with getting work done. You have to sacrifice short term and shallow gains in order to achieve something bigger and more lasting. In all of these ways NaNoWriMo is as much about learning our limits and how to forgo immediate self-gratification than it is just about writing.
And you don’t have to sacrifice quality for quantity. Many writers produce their best work while writing under pressure or for a deadline. This is the only way some writers get work done. For me, the compressed nature of the writing means I can’t leave the world I’m creating. When I’m away from my keyboard, I’m daydreaming about the story. It’s all I think about for a month. And so the plots can be more involved, the characters more alive, the world more real.
I invite all of you who write or dream about writing to join. It’s a global event, and it can change your life. Even if you just want to write about your past, your thoughts, or create a collection of poetry. Whatever small entertainments you have to set aside for the month, I promise you they’ll be there and waiting when you get back. Meanwhile, you’ll have created something that will last a lifetime. Something that will need a lot of editing come December.