Putting the NaNoWriMo Pledge to Work

I admit that I’ve had mixed feelings about NaNoWriMo, the cult-like offshoot project celebrating National Novel Writing Month. I wrote it off as the domain of fanfiction nerds, and I felt that it prioritized fast writing over good writing. Our culture is already saturated with bad writing, thoughtless publishing, and excessive wordiness, and I’m not sure if we should be encouraging people to add to that.

On the other hand, it’s a program that gets people writing, which is undeniably a Good Thing.

The goal is to write a 175 page (50,000 word) novel by midnight on November 30. NaNoWriMo defends the “kamikaze” approach where the only thing that matters is that you reach the finish line:

Because of the limited writing window, the ONLY thing that matters in NaNoWriMo is output. It’s all about quantity, not quality. The kamikaze approach forces you to lower your expectations, take risks, and write on the fly.

Make no mistake: You will be writing a lot of crap. And that’s a good thing. By forcing yourself to write so intensely, you are giving yourself permission to make mistakes. To forgo the endless tweaking and editing and just create. To build without tearing down.

(from the website)

I respect this approach: many writers are so intimidated by the vision of a finished, perfect work that they just flail around, stunted, during the writing process. NaNoWriMo’s approach says: set aside your dreams of book jacket designs and New York Times reviews. Just write.

Aspiring writers also have trouble grasping the concept of “work ethic” when it comes to writing. Like any other job, a writer must sit down at a desk and produce words on a page, even when the Muse is MIA.

So that’s how I’ll be using the NaNoWriMo challenge this November: to sit down and get working on some projects I’ve had on my Big Career To Do list. I don’t expect to finish by November 30, but I do expect to have a draft sitting on my desk, and to be finally in the momentum of the project.


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