A Thousand Words Before Breakfast: Why I Participate in NaNoWriMo

I am, by nature, a writer. It is what I am. It is what I do and it is what I love.

When I’m writing, I feel alive. I feel connected with the world around me. It’s my lifeline. I live a very boring existence, I have a family, I have a couple of dogs that do hilarious things, but generally speaking, my life is dull. I’m okay with that, but sometimes, the boredom gets to me. That is when I most need to create. I need to let the creative monster inside me out to play and romp in ways that I can’t allow it to do in my every day life. So, I choose my canvas carefully and I begin to lay down a swatch of color. Whole worlds and sceneries appear before my eyes, usually in my sleep when I’m feeling my worst. What comes out on the other side of it, leaves me feeling better than I did before I went to bed that night.

I do not share the majority of my offerings with the general public. When I write, I feel like I’m opening up a vein and bleeding out all over the floor so the world can see exactly what shade of red the blood is. When I write, what I write is intensely personal to me. It’s difficult to share it with the outside world. There are things that I don’t want people to know about me, things on which I would rather keep the door closed. There are deep scars that make themselves just a little more visible in my prose. It’s hard to open the door on those things. It’s hard to admit to yourself that you have fears, dreams and hopes that you aren’t ever going to reach. At times, it’s even harder to admit that you the person who is holding you back.

NaNoWriMo provides an opportunity for me, as a writer, to get the hell out of my own way. So many people who either refuse, or have never really participated in NaNo just can’t get out of their own way. I’ve seen a lot of evidence of that this year. Every year, there is criticism, but this year in particular, it seems that “professional” writers and publishers are really taking NaNo to task. I have even noticed that some publishers simply do not accept unsolicited manuscripts between the months of November and February and I suspect that has more than a little to do with NaNo participants.

I have seen wonderful articles written by authors I admire that specifically degrade NaNo as a useless endeavor for anyone serious about writing, and I have seen brilliant writers, whom I have never actually read, put a very fine point on why my doing NaNo is none of anyone else’s damned business. So, in response to all of the naysayers, let me just say this and get it out of the way now.

It’s not about you.

The majority of the people that I’ve run into in my day to day life that look at me with skepticism when I mention that I am a NaNo participant and have been for three years running, are also the sort of people who will never actually bother to sit down and write a novel. They would rather read novels than write them, or they have day jobs and more important things to do with their time. They are content in their day to day existence and are not willing to disturb that state of contentment. They are unwilling to rock the boat.

Writers that get published and that have successful careers are not the sort of people who sit very carefully inside neat and tidy little boxes. Writers are an odd bunch. We have our quirks, bad hair cuts that we like to keep in a particular sort of bad are a good example. I have noticed that Neil Gaiman’s twitter photo shows him sporting a shirt that looks rather rumpled and as though he’d just fished it out of a laundry basket that morning.

And let’s face it, have you all seen Stephen King? The guy’s a total nerd. He looks about as terrifying as your average puppy. Somehow, in spite of that completely not scary, puppy factor, the man has this uncanny ability to scare the shit out of you with nothing more than twenty minutes of your time and one of his nightmares.

Are YOU that bold?

If you’re sitting around whining about how NaNo is a waste of time, I suspect that you are not. I suspect that you are the sort of person who will not rock boats, who is content to sit on the sidelines and let life flow right on by without taking any sort of action to get the things that you want out of life. You would rather simply let those things come to you.

I refuse to sit around and wallow in complacency. I can’t. It’s not who I am and doing so makes me miserable. My participation in NaNoWriMo is my own little form of protest. It is how I get myself back to happy, just in time for the holiday season. It is my proverbial middle finger to all of the people who say that the odds are against me and that writing is a waste of my time. It is the one time of the year when I get to be who I am and do what I love and share it with other like-minded individuals.

The only thing that separates me from a professional writer is ambition. What separates me from those of you who are not published professionals that are whining about what I do, is that I have actually done it.

Congrats to all of the Winners from NaNoWriMo 2010!

You have accomplished something much greater than yourself. By simply showing up and stepping up to the plate, you have made other people think about what you are doing and challenged their ideas about how the world works.

Good for you!