It was early November and I went to the coffee shop in a Borders (RIP) to write. I immediately saw that something was different. During the week, the tables were usually occupied by nursing students with huge, backbreaking text books and blank facial expressions.
This Saturday, it was a different crowd and I could feel the silent tension screaming. Half the tables were occupied by writers (don’t ask me how I know), but when I took out my laptop to write, one leaned over and asked, her tone conspiratorial: “How many words so far?”
I glanced at the novel that I wasn’t far off completing and told her that I was at 72,000 words. She stared at me. I didn’t understand it then. I do now.
National Novel Writing Month is: “a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to novel-writing. Participants begin writing on November 1. The goal is to write a 50,000-word (approximately 175-page) novel by 11:59:59 PM on November 30.”
I have never felt the need to participate. It seems to me that this challenge is for those who need the adrenaline rush and/or discipline demanded from ‘NaNoWriMo’. I am blessed (or cursed if you ask Mrs. Left Coast Voices) with the ability to sit anytime, anywhere and write. I write my 90-100,000 word novels in four months. I work, sleep and write.
Valuing enthusiasm and perseverance over painstaking craft, NaNoWriMo is a novel-writing program for everyone who has thought fleetingly about writing a novel but has been scared away by the time and effort involved.
But for those who don’t howl at the full moon, this sounds like an amazing opportunity and I think I am somewhat jealous of the camaraderie that develops for those people who congregate in sacred and frantic silence.
“Wrimos meet throughout the month to offer encouragement, commiseration, and—when the thing is done—the kind of raucous celebrations that tend to frighten animals and small children.
In 2011, we had 256,618 participants and 36,843 of them crossed the 50K finish line by the midnight deadline, entering into the annals of NaNoWriMo superstardom forever. They started the month as auto mechanics, out-of-work actors, and middle school English teachers. They walked away novelists.”
Good luck, NaNoWriMos’ May the Muse be with you.
Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Jewish Student Center, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com and on Twitter (@alonshalevsf).