Participation under Duress

I don’t do NaNoWriMo.

Participation under duressI’m not really sure why, though I know it has something to do with the obligatory nature of it (I’ll set my own goals, thank you), and something else to do with the fact I don’t want to follow the crowd (even if they are my respected colleagues). Mostly, though, I think I’ve just had a hard time understanding the benefit of NaNo.

After all, 50k words in the space of 30 days… that’s a lot. Especially considering the fact that I don’t write every day; and when I do write, I’ll either stare at the screen blankly until I start to look like a vegetable or pound the keys like a madman only to realize I’ve written nothing but gibberish. (Okay, that may be a bit of exaggeration). But either way, I lose. Yes, I’ll take an extra helping of panic with that stress, hold the whipped cream.

I know I can’t be the only writer who feels ambivalent at best about this ‘motivational tool’. I’ve not aired my objections or opinions on the subject until now, but knowing writers as I do, I’m sure there are several of you who simply crawl into your caves and bar the door for the whole month of November. And I don’t blame you. (Personally, I’ve always just lurked around and helped my friends meet their goals by doing Word Wars or hashing out plot points with them while slyly avoiding any mention of my works-in-progress).

So up ’til now, participation in NaNo has looked like the lovely red panicfruit atop my sundae of stress. But now… now I’m writing. I’m doing it pretty well. And I’ve been procrastinating (and doing that well) for the past several months, even though I needed to polish off one novelette and write two more before the end of the year.

All of that is a long way to say that this year, I am participating in NaNo under duress, and with an alternate goal. The duress is my impending (self-imposed, but no less real) deadline. I need to finish one novelette by December 1st, and a second by December 31st. The alternate goal is simply this: I will finish one novelette and get as far as humanly possible on the second by the end of November.

So this post is both my personal deliberation, and my encouragement to those of you who usually avoid NaNo. Sometimes, we need an excuse to get ourselves out of our excuses. Sometimes, we need an external catalyst to break the cycle of procrastination. Why not let NaNo be that catalyst for you? You don’t have to write 50,000 words. You can aim for something more reasonable, something you know beyond a doubt you’re capable of, but haven’t managed to achieve yet.

Don’t let November scare you back into your cave. Come out and do battle. You’ll be better off for it.

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