Even though I’ve never officially participated, I’m a fan of NaNoWriMo because it celebrates something I love: writers supporting each other and building community.
Writing is a lonely journey as it mostly involves being by oneself, butt in chair, typing away. One of the best arguments for workshops—either in an MFA program or otherwise—is that they can be a great place to pick up mentors and writing buddies. Beta readers and writing groups have their perils but a sense of connection is important to seeing you through the many years you’ll likely be working on your book before anyone in the professional realm (agents, editors) gets involved. Having a second (perhaps third and fourth) pair of eyes on your work is crucial, but moreover, you need the support, the shoulder to cry on during the difficult moments of writing your book, and the perhaps even more challenging process of trying to get published.
In celebration of NaNo this month, I’m going to be sharing my thoughts on four of the pillars of my writing life: getting motivated, building habits, finding momentum, and keeping the faith. I hope to inspire you and make you feel less alone: which is, incidentally, what I believe all good writing does.
I’ll start with a simple question: why bother writing?
No really, why? There are a million things you could do that would be more immediately gratifying than sitting in your chair making things up, including but not limited to: hanging out with your friends, exercising, sleeping, cuddling your dog, catching up on Empire, or reading a book that some other hard working soul has already written. Here is a harsh truth for you: no one will care if you don’t write today. Unless you are currently under contract, it is unlikely anyone will even notice. I say this not to be harsh—I’m on your side—but this is the bargain.
Your reason for writing doesn’t have to be eloquent or noble, it’s okay if you never even tell anyone else what it is. It just has to be deeply meaningful to you or it won’t see you though the hours and weeks and years between the beginning of your writing journey, and that magical transformative moment when someone else—publishing professionals, readers—will actually care whether or not you write today. And even then, you will need to care ten times as much, because even if you become a bestselling, prize-winning author, everyone’s life will go on if you never write another word, I promise you.
I should say here too that your reason needn’t have anything to do with commercial success, recognition, or even readers. Perhaps you want to write because it helps you sort out your thoughts, or to record your memories for future generations. These are fine reasons, so long as you feel inspired by them. Writing has excellent side benefits, after all: it can make you more empathetic and thoughtful, and in our overstimulated beeping buzzing world, it can carve out space for those two rare treasures: quiet and solitude.
Know why you write. Answer the question, and hold onto that answer in the days to come, days that will test you with the world’s indifference. Think of this as your personal mission statement, the few crucial words to carry you through as you make your way to the 50K mark.