So, participants of National Novel Writing Month consistently report that their friends and family just don’t get it. It seems to be a larger problem among the Arabs (and no, I’m not going to talk about the average 6 minutes a YEAR of reading that Arabs do) with their extended families. The idea of spending a month to challenge yourself to write a novel… just because doesn’t really click. I will admit, it doesn’t surprise me that the maniacs who started this thing (by the seat of their pants, mind you) were American. We do some awfully crazy things just because. You know, we climb mountains… just because they’re there. We hack systems… just because we can. We invent stuff… just because. And, we apparently write novels just because.
Today marks your last chance to finish your November novel. When you validate, you’ll get the fabulous prizes for which you have been prepared (what, you didn’t know there were prizes?!). This year’s prizes include such highly sought after items as:
- A video of the staff cheering for you (I must admit last year’s had a certain something (Viking hats) that this year’s lacked).
- A print-it-yourself certificate
- Amazing web badges to enhance your Facebook and other accounts
Apparently their sponsors will be adding some additional prizes that will likely be sexy items like book review services and such. So, will you join us next year? Didn’t the prizes convince you?
I have to admit that it’s just something that appeals to you… or it doesn’t. If you’re pretty type-A, goal-focused, competition driven, I doubt nano will be your thing. If, on the other hand, 30 days and nights of literary abandon (as a phrase) appeals to you, nano might be yours. It’s really a month to prove to yourself that yes I can do it. I can sit down (or stand up or lie down or stand on my head) and write a novel in one month. It’s insane and it’ll likely be worth far less than the paper on which it’s printed, but I can do it. It also helps you overcome the “someday novelist” syndrome. You know.. someday I’d like to write a book. Well, nano makes someday this day.
I’m sure for some people it’s about getting published. I’m sure for some it’s not. But, I think that all of us who take this on do so because we think it’s a worthy use of our time and energy. Even if neither of my novels is ever even submitted for publication, I’ve won. No, I don’t mean a silly web video or do-it-yourself certificate. I’ve proven (twice, so it’s not a fluke!) that I can actually do it. I can write 50,000 words on a topic of my choosing. And I can do it while work, kids, homework, Eid holidays, and well, LIFE gets in the way. But, if I set my mind to it, I can do it. Do you know two weeks ago I was fairly certain I wouldn’t make it this year? Heck five days ago I was pretty sure I wasn’t going to make it. But with a huge push, I did. And here’s what I learned from this year’s nano experience…
- Cut yourself come slack: You don’t have to write every day, or even every three days.
- Think differently: nano was kicking my butt until I started taking my ipad, plopping myself in front of the TV with El 3atal and just typing. Slowly I built word count… and I do mean slowly.
- Where you are halfway through a project doesn’t necessarily have a x 2 relationship with where you’ll be at the end. It reminds me of Armageddon. You know, when they’re drilling and they’re supposed to be at x feet and aren’t there. You can’t necessarily time it out.
- Don’t fight your nature: I kept trying to take time in the mornings and come in and write. It seems so logical, the kids are in school, the house is quiet, there are no distractions. I failed. Miserably. I as much better off if I started to write at 4 pm when I got the kids home from school and continued off and on until 2 am. Napping in the morning was definitely time better spent for me.
- Every year crossing the finish line feels the same. It’s a rush and a huge sense of accomplishment. I did it! Really. It nearly killed me, but I tamed the beast, I crossed the finish line and now I get to keep that sense of accomplishment forever. Even if I never sell a word, I AM a novelist. How cool does that sound?
And so you don’t think it’s only crazy Americans in our group, I’m thrilled that this year at nearly every write-in the Arabs had us outnumbered. In our on-line group, it’s a mix but people from here are catching up. I’d like to give a special shout out to the tenth and eleventh grade students at Modern Montessori School who wrote 700,000! words between them. Read that again, ladies and gents, they wrote SEVEN. HUNDRED. THOUSAND words. And if we can’t get excited about Jordanian kids writing, what the heck CAN we get excited about. because, that’s not an easy thing to do. And I assure you they had parents and friends going, but why are you writing this? Will they pay you? Will you be published. So, kudos to them for overcoming all the naysayers and haters and tossing the gauntlet out there. Other schools, listen up! That’s a challenge right there, can you beat them next year?
Bottom line, for me is this. Writing makes you more than you are. It takes you and puts you in another world. And it helps you take others to another world… one you have created. And you write for you. Almost every great writer will tell you that the minute they started to write for the praise or money their work sucked. I do nano for me. Not for fame or fortune. Not so everyone around will think I’m smart. I do it because I know that I will never again say, “I think I could write a book someday.” I did write a book. I can do it. And one of these days, I might even edit one and see about getting it published. but if I never do, I’m pretty alright with that. Because for me it’s the creative process that’s meaningful, not the recognition one. I hope that next year you’ll get your crazy inner writer on and try out nano. Even if you don’t succeed, I bet you’ll enjoy the experience…