Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Week 48 - Lessons from NaNoWriMo 2013

"I am the Commander of these words.
I am the King of this story. 
I am the God of this place.
I am a writer, and I will finish the shit that I started."
- The Penmonkey's Paean

Why yes, November has been a particularly crazy month for me as one can see from my posts from the last few days (and their apparent lateness).

The main reason for my lack of updates, however, is NaNoWrimo. It's something I've been meaning to do since I've heard of it way back in college but real life has always pushed it to the sidelines year after year.

In a nutshell, NaNoWriMo (which is short for National Novel Writing Month) is an annual month-long activity held every November that challenges its participants to come up with a fifty thousand word novel within thirty days. Some may see it as a travesty, especially those who write for a living, but for what it's worth I have learned a few things from the experience.

NaNoWriMo is a self challenge.
There isn't really any tangible prize to completing NaNoWriMo nor is there any way of checking whether a participant cheated or not. But I think that's the beauty of something based on a person's own honor system and I think that's what makes the win gratifying in itself.

NaNoWriMo is an exercise in determination and self-discipline.
There have been days when life goes in the way of writing (or more accurately, writing goes in the way of life). If there's a piece of advice that I could give to anyone who would attempt the challenge, it could be summed up in two words: Keep Writing. While some people looked like they breezed through it, I found that NaNoWriMo (and writing in general) is much, much harder than it looks. I guess the trick is to never, ever give up - much like many things in the real world.

NaNoWriMo requires commitment.
I've learned that the difference between saying "I can do that" and "I've done that" is actually getting up from the comfy couch of complacency and doing the damn thing. NaNoWriMo asks us this question: If not now, then when, or rather, will you ever do it?

NaNoWriMo does not need our inner writer, author or editor. It needs the storyteller in us.
It has been said that everyone has a book in them but they didn't tell us that the story is the most important part of the book. I think I'm lucky that I've got a whole world of crazy lore to pull from (which is a whole different story altogether), but I'm sure that a lot of people have their own personal troves to pick their stories from. NaNoWriMo is all about the shitty first drafts - and it is from that chaos that the good second draft and terrific third draft are born (according to Anne Lamott).

NaNoWriMo has a personal lesson for each of its participants.
It may have been a silly and unnecessary decision to forgo dialogue in my entry and write nothing but pure narrative instead. But then I realize that maybe I subconsciously wanted to fit in as much lore as I could in lieu of conversation because I don't think I'm ever going to do this again. But perhaps in those thirty days and nights of literary abandon, I feel like the greatest thing I've learned is that I love writing. Not stories or novels or anything in particular, but just writing in general - seeing my thoughts committed on a medium. A lot of people live their lives without ever discovering anything they're passionate about, so I guess it's all worth it in the end. Self discovery and whatnot, yes?

Give NaNoWriMo a go. There's something in it for anybody who's giving it a shot. As for me, it's back to regular programming. It's something I'm happy to scratch off The Tertiaries.


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