Three days. That’s all we’ve got left. On Thursday, the big bang will be felt around the world as midnight rolls around and thousands of people frantically start typing, trying to eke out at least a few hundred words before going to bed.
Personally, I don’t stay up til midnight. I know that anything I wrote at midnight would be incomprehensible, as I’m usually in bed by 10:00 and asleep by 11:00. But with 300,000 people worldwide participating in NaNoWriMo this year, it will be interesting to see how many words are logged on that first day. (There’s a handy word counter on the front page of the NaNo site, counting all the words people put in their profiles each day.)
In looking at the forums yesterday, I was sad at how many people have given up before they’ve even started. A lot of them blame their inner editor (they should read this article!); that’s a pretty powerful inner editor if it’s screaming bloody murder before the writing even starts! I recommend kicking him or her to the curb. Forcefully.
What I’m wondering, really, is when we lost our ability to just have fun. Is it a societal thing? Is it a grown-up thing? I watch Chopped a lot on Food Network, and I’m always struck by how many chefs — obviously good chefs, to have even been accepted onto the show — say that they’re doing it for “validation.” To prove to themselves or their families that, to quote one I saw yesterday, they’re “worthy.”
But you know what I’ve noticed? The ones who are just having fun are usually the ones that win. My husband and I watched a Halloween episode of Sweet Genius last night (no, I’m not addicted to Food Network – but weekend night time tv is awful!), and one of the four contestants (I don’t remember her name) had fun with every single thing. Zombies as the inspiration? She grinned. Mushrooms into dessert? She chuckled. Pickled onions? She was excited. Black radishes? “Sweet!”
Now, mind you, she wanted the money as much as the other guy in the final round. She was recently divorced and living with her parents, and $10k would let her give her daughter “the house and stability she deserves.” She was passionate. But what was really striking, especially compared to the guy, was her sense of adventure and fun. While she was chortling and smiling and being supremely creative, the guy was freaking out about zombies, playing it safe, complaining about every secret ingredient, and generally acting like a fuddy-duddy. It was no surprise that he lost.
So, while you’re doing NaNo, think about this. Even if you’re trying to produce a usable first draft for eventual publication, it’s supposed to be fun. I have a poster from some NaNo event or other this past year. Here are some of the “Batyisms” (sayings of NaNoWriMo founder Chris Baty) about the National Novel Writing Month:
- You are part ninja, part monkey, part Stairmaster cyborg.
- Make no mistake: you will be writing a lot of crap.
- Monkey barrels full of fun!
- Put yourself in unfamiliar places. Kindle passions. Savor the raw joy of making things, and then remake the best of those things until they take someone’s breath away. Wrestle bears. Actually, skip the bear-wrestling.
- Write first! Ask questions later!
- We took the cloistered agonized writing process and transformed it into something that was half literary marathon and half block party.
Finally, “We can all do amazing, impossible things when given a deadline, a supportive community, and unlimited access to chocolate and caffeine.”
I couldn’t have said it better myself. Now go out there and have fun in November!
(We’re now required to put in this disclaimer for anything containing ‘NaNoWriMo’ or ‘National Novel Writing Month’: “This is not an official NaNoWriMo site, and the content has not been reviewed by National Novel Writing Month. For more information on National Novel Writing Month, visit http://www.nanowrimo.org.”)