Thoughts on NaNoWriMo 2019

This has probably been my happiest year of NaNoWriMo but it had nothing to do with winning.

My personal goal for NaNoWriMo 2019 was 20,000 words. When I began planning to do NaNoWriMo I assessed previous months’ average word counts and rounded it up. What I did not want from NaNoWriMo was burn out. I didn’t feel like becoming my own task master and compelling myself to write as though someone would fire or kill me if I couldn’t reach my word count. In a year that has been personally brutal and arguably brutal on larger stages as well, I didn’t want to engage in the excesses of forced productivity. Instead I wanted to revise a story I loved writing the first draft of and believe in fully for what it is and what it can be if I apply myself to nurturing it into a completed series.

On the heels of Inktober I decided to add an additional component to my NaNoWriMo and that was that I would become more active in the community. Social media has become this promotional engine for creative people at every level. There’s a love/hate relationship with the burden of standing on a digital corner wearing a sandwich board to constantly promote your brand and make your voice heard above the cacophony of others doing likewise. I’m old school. I grew up in the 90s and when I discovered that there were communities online in the early 2000s who shared my interests I embraced the internet for what it was then. It was a place to connect with people you couldn’t physically meet in your immediate world. Although I accept that the internet of today is a different place, I have been actively trying to find and create spaces that defy the cynical idea that you are data, data is valuable and that the internet is solely here to mine and profit off the resources of our humanity. The Inktober challenge blends old and new internet, providing a vehicle for creative people to meet one another, to feel a sense of community and to drive productive growth which can then be harnessed into a profit.

NaNoWriMo has embraced a cynical commercialization with its constant email marketing, sponsorship deals with a variety of companies who promise resources for writing and publishing to creative people who hope to someday have their work published and purchasable. I’m not fond of it because the rewards of NaNoWriMo as they are advertised are now just discounts on products meant to be rewards for having pounded out 50,000 words over 30 days. There is a disconnect that I find uncomfortable and that, as a younger writer, would have been toxic to me. But, I still believe in the root principle of what NaNoWriMo can be and so I decided to be more active on the official forums as well as on Twitter. In this digital space, we often abdicate our responsibility to algorithms.

The algorithm is forcing us to interact in this way. It sucks. I hate it.

But, as challenging as it can be to buck the algorithm and spend extra time searching through posts and hashtags it can also be rewarding. I spent my NaNoWriMo social time seeking to spread encouragement, community and energy. It was also exciting to read about other writers successes and struggles. To offer likes when I had little time and to offer words when I had more time. There were times when my word count was low when I could feel that little bit of jealousy poking at me to see others surpassing my number. Sometimes I found it useful to respond to my jealousy by writing but at others I cheered the success of others. As I write this post and schedule it, I’m sitting at a little under 40,000 with four days left to get 10,000 more. It is absolutely feasible for me to rush through and to get those words but that’s not my NaNoWriMo.

All month long I have taken NaNoWriMo as an excuse to immerse myself into the world of my story without worrying about the things I am not doing in order to make the time to create this private inner world.

During previous years I focused on pushing through, writing as much as I could to try to reach the daily word count goal. Some years this provided me with a story but for many it provided me with burnout as I had to choose writing over everything else in my life. Sometimes it felt exhilarating like having too much caffeine and knowing that it was a mistake but being so chemically exhilarated as to not care about the inevitable crash. But, for the most part it felt unsustainable and resulted in long burn outs periods. This year’s more holistic approach has left me excited every day about my next writing session. I have not in fact written every day. This has been a choice rather than an accident. Creating my own idea of what winning is has allowed me to accomplish exactly what I had hoped to with my writing. Spending time online talking with others participating in NaNoWriMo has made me feel less burdened by the role that social media plays in the creation and promotion of myself as brand. I am still wearing my sandwich board but I enjoy chatting with the other sandwich board wearing people and allowing myself to love writing as much as I ever have.

Love for writing is what got me into writing, it’s what got me into NaNoWriMo and this year was a great love affair that I intend to continue on into the next year and beyond.

How was your NaNoWriMo?

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