This year, I participated in my first NaNoWriMo.
My first and, I’m sorry to say,
I entered NaNo with great expectations. I exited it with great relief.
This isn’t to suggest I didn’t
have some fun. I created a NaNo club at the college where I teach, with about
ten members (mostly students). I enjoyed organizing the club, meeting with the students,
keeping tabs on each other through Twitter and our Facebook page. I’m looking
forward to next semester, when we plan to have a party and reading to celebrate
I also socked away a good chunk
of a new novel I’d been planning for a while. I have no idea if it’s any good--it’ll
take major revision before I can even begin to see its potential--but if nothing else,
it was interesting to try out a new form of drafting, if only to see whether it
Bottom line, though: it doesn’t.
I write because I enjoy it. It
makes me feel good about myself. I’ve got enough stress in my life (who doesn’t?)
without turning writing into another form of it.
But that’s exactly what happened
with NaNo. I felt compelled to write, write, write every spare second, and in
consequence, I never felt as if I was enjoying the writing. Instead, it became
a weight hanging over my head, an onerous chore, a pain in the you-know-what. There
were rare moments of pleasure--a line here and there that I thought was well
expressed, a plot twist or development I felt was rather inspired--but for the
most part it was torture.
This isn’t even to mention what
the experience did to my family life. Let’s just say my wife and
children were far more forgiving than I had any right to expect.
Nor did NaNo provide me with discipline
that otherwise would have been lacking. I’m pretty good at carving out writing
time every day. The only difference is, I carve it out when I can, not when I
So what do I take from this experience? Only this.
Everyone has to find their ideal
method of drafting. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach. A combination of
personality factors, life circumstances, writing strengths and weaknesses, and dumb
luck (or divine intervention) determines what’s best for each of us. For many, I'm sure, NaNo is a very good thing. I admire
those writers who come back to it year after year, as well as those who’ve
found it a way to get on paper the first draft of one or more published works.
But I’m done. The next novel I
write, I’m writing the old-fashioned way: deliberately, on my own schedule, and with
due consideration to the other obligations in my life.
It won’t get done quickly. But it’ll
get done. And I’ll have a chance to savor it when it does.