A few years ago I learned about NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month, from a post written by Cory Doctorow on BoingBoing. Ever since then, I have wanted to participate in the mad challenge of writing a complete novel, of at least 50,000 words in only a month’s time. But for several years, life got in the way. Either I would forget about NaNoWriMo until it was much too late to join, or intense work deadlines or other plans kept me from participating. Last month, however, I decided that this year I had to participate, and I had to win.
I used to consider myself a writer. Ten years ago it was my dream to write for a living, to pen novels that would be read by millions. But as I followed the varied paths my life wandered down, I lost that dream and found new ones. I don’t regret that; I love where life has taken me and am fond of my current career choices. But still, somewhere in me is a part of my old self begging for the chance to write again.
Writing is a very freeing and remarkably calming past time. It is a chance to purge a mind of ideas that have been floating around and clogging thoughts while screaming for attention. It can be enlightening as well, since the act of committing ideas to paper, or in this case a digital document, forces a writer to make decisions, solidify half formed ideas, and explore flashes of inspiration to their fullest conclusion. It is a very narcissistic form of meditation. Writers are forced to look deep inside themselves to find and clarify the ideas that they will commit to the page. For someone like me, who’s chosen job path in life focuses on mental exercise, solving problems, and constantly exploring new ideas, writing is a great way to clear the mind and free it from the stresses of work.
NaNoWriMo reminded me of that calming effect writing could have. Not that the month was easy, many days I did not want to write, or I felt like I was too busy to write. Other days writing felt like a chore, an unwanted task that made every word I typed feel like I had to force it out. But even on those days, even when I had trouble focusing, or felt like quitting, even then when I finished my writing I felt a wave of calm. My mind would be clear, I would be at ease, and I felt a great sense of accomplishment. NaNoWriMo was not easy, but it was fun, it was enlightening, and I am so very glad that I signed up.
I finished my novel at just over the required fifty thousand words, reaching a total of 50,339 a few days before the deadline. It is done. But, since the novel was penned in such a short time, there are plot holes, rambling parts that make little sense, forced dialogue, cliched phrasing, and flat characters. I am not sure I ever want anyone to read the thing in its ugly rushed state, but that was not the point. I took the challenge, I fought my apprehensions and fears, and came through a winner. I hit fifty thousand words. I wrote a complete novel. I won. And it feels great!