What Does NaNoWriMo Do For You?

As you may or may not know, November is National November Write Month. Simply put, people from all walks of life sit in front of their computers for thirty days and write upward of 50,000 words. Some people write memoirs and some people write sci-fi epics, while others write about their exploits in college. Recently, there was a post from Salon laying down some serious NaNoWriMo hate. I’m not sure I agreed with the logic the author employed, but they brought up two interesting points: 1) These writers don’t spend enough time reading, and 2) Events for writers are “largely unnecessary.” It’s that second point that has me the most intrigued.

When I participated last year, I wrote a cathartic piece about life after college and dealing with post-graduation depression. The whole thing was a meandering mess, wobbling back and forth between fact and fiction like a kid learning to ride bicycle. I finished my story within a day of NaNo ending, energized by the daily ritual of writing I had created and the inspiration that ritual had awakened.

And then I didn’t write anything until the following spring.

Are writing events really necessary? Do we need these month long fests to write? At best these binge-writing sessions stir the creative juices around a bit, only to have them simmer and then congeal until the following year. It’s a cycle of inspiration and determination, followed by months of shame and disappointment. How is that helpful to the writing lifestyle?

I decided to try something different this year. Instead of participating in NaNo, I would try and establish a stable writing routine for myself that I would follow on a weekly basis and that would be toward some kind of end (as in writing a blog series or trying to get a spec script ready for pitching). While it hasn’t gotten me writing every day of the week like I had hoped it would, it’s made me prioritize my writing each week and set deadlines for myself. These deadlines have yielded much stronger results than waiting for one writing event after the other.

But these are just the thoughts that have been bouncing around in my head like those awesome bouncy-balls you can get at truck stops for a quarter. What do you think? Are writing events like NaNoWriMo necessary? Do they do anything for you? What do you get from this sort of event?

  • I always say that 80% of NanoWrimo for me is a social event because we do so much here in Austin for the event. (I am writing this nine hours into a 12 hr lock in writing event) Yes what I am writing is sheer crap, but it is getting my brain moving creatively and I have been dealing with blocks for far too long and this is helping. I am hoping once it is over it will propel me to work on the other projects I have in mind. Nano is not for everyone, I have been saying that every year for the last nine. But if you know it’s for you it can be a lot of fun.

    • The big pro to participating in NaNo is like you said, the unblocking of your brain. It gets all the creativity shaken loose when all else fails. I definitely felt a lot less blocked after last year’s NaNo. I just think my aim in writing has changed and shifting from the event mentality to the “day job” mentality has given me a different and unique perspective on trying to write. The whole social element is kind of an interesting facet of NaNo that I don’t have a lot of exposure to, nor did the poster of that Salon article. Sure, there were a few gatherings in Chicago when I participated, but nothing to the extent of a lock-in. That’s got to be intense!

  • I always say that 80% of NanoWrimo for me is a social event because we do so much here in Austin for the event. (I am writing this nine hours into a 12 hr lock in writing event) Yes what I am writing is sheer crap, but it is getting my brain moving creatively and I have been dealing with blocks for far too long and this is helping. I am hoping once it is over it will propel me to work on the other projects I have in mind. Nano is not for everyone, I have been saying that every year for the last nine. But if you know it’s for you it can be a lot of fun.

    • The big pro to participating in NaNo is like you said, the unblocking of your brain. It gets all the creativity shaken loose when all else fails. I definitely felt a lot less blocked after last year’s NaNo. I just think my aim in writing has changed and shifting from the event mentality to the “day job” mentality has given me a different and unique perspective on trying to write. The whole social element is kind of an interesting facet of NaNo that I don’t have a lot of exposure to, nor did the poster of that Salon article. Sure, there were a few gatherings in Chicago when I participated, but nothing to the extent of a lock-in. That’s got to be intense!