Over a decade ago, in 2003, a friend begged me to sign up for National Novel Writing Month and try to write 50,000 words with her in November. I didn’t make the goal, but as an aspiring teenage writer, I was overwhelmed and delighted to discover a whole online community of people like me. We didn’t all aim to be professional authors. Some of us didn’t even want to be published. But we all had ideas, we all did our best to put them down on paper, and we supported each other.
NaNoWriMo has sustained plenty of criticism over the years. People fear that being called a “novelist” will go to your head. You’ll try to send off your unfinished manuscript to harried agents and publishers. You’ll think it’s okay to veer off into a fight between pirates and ninjas in the middle of your narrative. And real writers don’t need an event to motivate them to write, anyway.
Maybe some of these fears are valid. All I know is that I stand 100% behind anything that seeks to enable anyone, anywhere to be creative. NaNoWriMo gave me the support and encouragement I couldn’t find anywhere else in my life. If that makes me a fake writer, then so be it.
Last weekend, I got an email inviting me to become one of the Municipal Liaisons for my area. This November, I’ll be hosting parties, leading write-ins, and reaching out to fellow local writers in an attempt to get them across the finish line. I finally have the opportunity to give back to the event that has given so much to me.
I only wrote 3,000 words during my first NaNo, but I showed them to my creative writing class. They liked it enough that I felt motivated to finish a few short stories, none of which were ever published, but all of which received many encouraging personal rejections.
NaNo has kept me going through hard times. My first win in 2007 was an oasis of peace, happiness, and cooperation in the midst of a busy, scary year. Local meetups, like the ones I’ll be conducting, have provided me with healthy competition, inside jokes, face-to-face support, and friends.
The first Camp NaNoWriMo session in 2011 gave me something to hold onto while I drifted across the country, unsure where I’d settle down. I completed a cathartic memoir, and the peace it brought me allowed me to sit down that November and finally complete a novel, start-to-finish, that I fully intend to submit for publication one day.
This year, I’ve worked on outlining and revising the series I began in 2011, written down solid beginnings to two new standalone novels, started and completed a 60,000 word novella, and just recently, gotten into the habit of writing regular blog posts. I’m still not published, but now I have a plan for getting there.
I may have had it in me to write this way all along, but I needed the NaNoWriMo community to show me how to have faith in myself. There’s nothing I want more out of life than to inspire just one other writer in the same way.