My good writing friend Andrew Bailey (check out his website here http://ajbailey.wordpress.com/ and his stunning poetry here http://www.amazon.co.uk/Zeal-Andrew-Bailey/dp/1907587209) just asked me, via twitter, what I would say to encourage writers who were contemplating NaNaWriMo but who were not yet convinced. This made me reflect on why I am signed up for it again this year and what I think the benefits are.
You can certainly see why NaNoWriMo might not attract writers. The schedule of writing 50k words in a month is quite punishing but also there is the risk that writing so quickly might jeopardise the quality of the writing. I would say, straight out, that NaNoWriMo won’t suit everybody’s creative process. Nor will it deliver either a complete draft (50k words is unlikely to be the final length) or a publishable novel. Most writers respect their readers too much not to want to spend subsequent months (maybe years) working on their NaNoWriMo draft to bring it to a point of completion. So why do it?
For many writers, it is the sense of encouragement, community and structure that the NaNoWriMo challenge brings. There are suddenly cheerleaders urging you on and the allure of silly prizes and fun rewards. It really helps to alleviate the drudgery and it breaks the task down into manageable, daily steps.
These are some of the reasons why I am signed up to it. But, for me, the most important reason is that the emphasis on pace and keeping up the daily word count helps me to overcome the endless carping and sniping of my inner critic. My first clumsy attempts to capture an imagined world on paper can provoke such a strong sense of despair ( and even shame) that it can stop me in my tracks. I have started and given up a number of potential novels because I can’t get over my own disappointment in myself – forgetting, of course, that for many of us, it takes a process of exploring messily and clumsily to get to the good stuff! Ira Glass is good on this: http://vimeo.com/24715531
The great thing about NaNoWriMo, for me, is that it helps me to push on past the disappointment. You just have to keep going in order to meet your wordcount. I find this liberated me from the savagery of my inner critic. For those of you who know what I mean, here is a video (don’t know if it’s staged or genuine, but still very funny) of that vicious, inner assailant. NaNoWriMo helps me get past all those private voices in my head that are shouting at me.”You don’t have any talent. You suck!” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ha7smLPz2GY