I’ve never done NaNoWriMo (where you write 50,000 words of a new novel in one month), but I enjoy watching from the sidelines. There are lots of different reasons why people participate in the madness, and most of them are excellent. But there’s one type of participant for whom I worry.
I’m mostly talking about beginning writers who think “winning” NaNoWriMo will be a great way to start their careers. That’s a perfectly fine mindset, and for some writers, NaNoWriMo does indeed provide the challenge they need to get started. But for other people, writing 50,000 words in one month is like trying to sprint through a marathon without ever having run before. And when they falter, I see them beat themselves up about it. As if this was their one big chance, and they blew it.
Here’s my wish.
If you turn out to be in that second category — if you start strong but lose steam, if your novel falls apart suddenly, if your kid gets sick or your boss asks you to work late — be easy on yourself.
Failing to write 50K in one month doesn’t mean you can’t write, or that all your hopes of becoming a novelist have been dashed. It doesn’t mean you can’t “cut it,” or you don’t “want it enough.” NaNoWriMo is not a fair test of determination — not for most people. Not all writers are the same, and this isn’t the only chance you’ll get to prove that you’ve got what it takes. You’ll get a full 12 months a year for that.
So go forth and write. I will cheer you on, admire your word count, marvel at your tenacity. But if your plans fall apart, that’s okay, too. Don’t put too much stock in it. If writing is your dream, you don’t need November as an excuse to pursue it. There are other more important battles to fight each and every day of the year.
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