November is National Novel Writing Month, and it's coming fast. 'Tis the season to coerce your creativity out of hiding and onto the page in the form of words, preferably sentences, hopefully paragraphs, and maybe even chapters that culminate with the creation of an actual, coherent story. Every year on November 1st, thousands of writers—ranging from published authors to hobbyists to ink-and-paper virgins—commence a common journey to write 50,000 words over the course of 30 days. The deadline is 11:59 PM on November 30th.
Here's a fun fact: You don't have to be a writer to participate. Last year alone, over 400,000 participants embarked on this writing journey, and if you've always daydreamed about writing a novel one day, there's no reason why you shouldn't be one of those people.
You should do it, because...
1. You've always wanted to.
Sometimes it as simple as checking off a box. And no, that doesn't make you an evil person. Everyone writes for different reasons, after all. For some, it IS about that tick mark on the ol' bucket list. For others, it's about the poetry of a story well-told, the thrill of creation, the enchantment of new worlds—whatever your reason is, it's a valid one. And the simple fact is, if you've always thought you wanted to write a novel, but you've never quite figured out how or when, then look no further: You've arrived. This is your time.
2. You have a story to tell, and you have the right to tell it.
One of the things that holds people back is this nagging feeling of, “Who am I, to do such a thing? I'm not a writer. I don't write.”
OK. I'm going to stop you right there. If it's something I can't stand, it's this haughty notion that you need to be some sort of hipster MFA graduate before you're allowed to like, write stuff. Newsflash: FAKE NEWS! (Oh, sorry, that sounded awful the moment I typed it...) Point is, don't get bogged down by the self-deprecating falsehood of “I am not a writer. I don't have an English degree. My writing would be an insult to J.K. Rowling's very existence. Stephen King is going to bitch-slap me for the slop I'm about to hurl into the world.”
You're a person. With experiences. A brain. An imagination. Your voice matters. And so does your story. You have just as much right as anyone else does to sit down (or stand up, as they do these days) at your desk and materialize YOUR story into the world.
3. You can make connections and be a part of a community.
For many writers, November is a much-welcomed time of bonding and nerding out with fellow humans who also like to write things down. Some of us are rather introverted (though certainly not all) and the forums of NaNoWriMo become that warm, cozy place where you're no longer the sole survivor on your island, crawling and starving in isolation, yearning for—
—OK, sorry. I'll put a lid on that one. But in all seriousness, this is an amazing opportunity to connect and commiserate with people who are attempting the same exact feat that you are. There are ways to connect with other participants all over social media, not just the NaNoWriMo forums.
You can either go ahead and write your novel in solitude during some other month, or you can do it during November and take advantage of the amazing encouragement, advice and motivation that you get from your fellow NaNoWriMo participants. Strength in numbers. That's why I think it's the BEST time to set out to finally write that novel of yours.
4. You will learn to turn off your inner editor and Get. Shit. Done.
Nothing like writing with a deadline. In order to reach 50,000 words by the night of November 30, you will need to write 1,667 words per day if you want to finish on time. It's not a lot, but it's not a little, either. You may find that your new writing regime will require you to tease out the self-discipline you didn't know you had. It will force to you hone your time-management skills, and it will teach you to plunge ahead even in the midst of uncertainty. You'll learn how to self-motivate, how to stay on track, and how to forgive yourself when you fall behind. Needless to say, these skills will translate to other areas of your life. And the big one: You'll have no choice but to brush that inner-editor-dirt off your shoulder and plow right ahead. Chances are, your attempted stories in the past have been derailed by your own inability to stop re-reading/editing what you've already written. No no, none of that during November. Write now. Edit later. Learning this will save you if you've always wanted to write but had a tendency to get stuck.
5. You can express your creativity in new ways.
Maybe you haven't attempted to write anything since that C you got in your stupid high school creative writing class. Maybe Mr. English Teacher totally bungled your confidence and you never picked up a pen again. Well, Mr. English Teacher ain't here to mark you up with blood-red ink anymore, and you don't have to follow his rules.
In fact, there's sort of only one rule for NaNoWriMo: All 50,000 words must be written within November. Anything written beforehand can't be counted toward your word count—but that doesn't mean you can't start writing early. You, my friend, can write whenever, and whatever, you damn well please. Other than that one rule, you have free reign; you get to indulge the creativity you didn't know you had; you get to craft your magnificent uniqueness into words on the blank page before you. You'll experiment with new and exciting ways to tell your story. That's part of the beauty of it all.
6. You can develop daily writing habits that you can continue long after November.
Participating in National Novel Writing Month will force you to write every single day. If you've been hoping all along to be a writer, developing and solidifying healthy writing habits will do wonders for your future storytelling. You'll learn what time of day is best conducive to your own writing process. You'll probably experiment with coffee or alcohol, or alcohol-in-coffee, and you'll learn what works for you and what doesn't. Habits take time to build, and 30 days is a great chunk of time to form a concrete, productive routine that you can continue even after November is over. You don't even have to put all the pressure on the month's one story, which, admittedly, could totally be a bust (we've all been there). Instead, you can look at it as a fantastic time-investment that could potentially benefit you down the road.
7. You don't have to share your story or even have the intention of sharing it to win.
My friends are often confused about the “point” of NaNoWriMo if the goal isn't to share your freshly-composed novel with someone. But for many writers, that is part of the incentive: the fact that you don't have to worry about sharing it with anyone. Ever. Unless you want to, of course. But you certainly don't have to send it off to any kind of judge in order to “win” NaNoWriMo. At the end of the month, if you've reached 50,000 words, you simply validate your word count and voila! You are a winner!
I'll also take this moment to address the misconception that you have to want to be a published author one day to write a whole book. But think about it: People paint because they love it. People practice photography because it brings them joy. Not all people who play instruments are looking to monetize their music. So why should writing be any different? Even if you're not looking to publish, you can still write your book for you and only you. And if you are looking to be a famous author one day, well, this can help you get there.
8. You'll be participating in a Non-profit organization's mission to promote creative confidence around the world.
National Novel Writing Month is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that “believes in the transformational power of creativity.” It strives to “provide the structure, community, and encouragement to help people find their voices, achieve creative goals, and build new worlds—on and off the page.”
By the way, it doesn't cost a dime to sign up for and participate in NaNoWriMo. But just simply by getting involved, you'll connect with others who value creativity, literacy, and charity, and you may end up feeling inclined to make your own donation, which will help other branches such as The Young Writers Program. They won't expect anything from you, but if you join, you'll gain confidence in your own voice, connect with others trying to the same, and maybe you'll be able to lend a hand to the future young writers and readers of our world.
Now: Start your planning your novel. You're DOING IT, right?