A goal of 1,667 words every day for 30 days. To some people, that doesn’t sound like a lot. To others, it’s the thing of nightmares.
Regardless, over 400,000 people will pull out their typewriters, create word documents or open new notebooks on Nov. 1 as National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) comes around again.
The goal of writing 50,000 words comes from the minimum word count most publishing houses will accept for a novel. Beyond that, the goal of NaNoWriMo is to get people into the habit of writing on a daily basis and setting deadlines.
I’ve wanted to be a writer for longer than I’ve wanted to be a journalist. I started writing in elementary school, back when I hated the word ‘said,’ opting to write in colors for each character instead.
By age 11, I spent most of my class time writing wild and exciting fiction in my notebook (I did get straight As for those first two years, just for the record).
I can specifically remember one day in my seventh grade English class, when I read to the class what I’d written in response to our bellringer prompt. One of the other students told me that I should be a philosopher, but my teacher corrected her with, “No, he should be a writer.”
That was the first time anybody actively encouraged me to write.
It became common for my English teachers to encourage my writing. Almost to the point that I got frustrated.
In Florida for tenth grade, we took the standardized writing exam. I was regularly frustrated during practice prompts when I got the score my teacher gave me, which was almost always a 5 (the highest we could get) without notes.
I knew my writing could have been better. I still know my writing could be better. Writing is something I believe can never be perfect and I wanted to be improving.
I didn’t get a 5 on the actual test, by the way. I got a 4, which my teacher struggled with.
As I moved into college, I spent less time writing. I still wrote daily, but it was news articles for work or papers for class.
I declared a creative writing minor with the idea that I’d be forced to spend more time with it, but I just ended up doing assignments last minute and turning them in without editing because I needed the grade.
I do have a creative writing minor. Three fiction writing classes, one poetry class and a film analysis class.
None of those classes have helped me very much, except for one thing: an idea.
My last fiction writing class, my professor told me I could write anything I wanted, nothing was off the table. I took that as a challenge to come up with the weirdest thing I possibly could.
I didn’t expect it to go anywhere. It was just fun.
I wrote about 10,000 words for it that semester. It was supposed to be just a short story, but as the class read it and we discussed, I realized that it would need more.
That story got left alone for almost a year as I dealt with surgery, my last semester, graduation, job applications and ultimately moving to Arkansas.
However, last October, I spent time with one of our page designers, a fellow writer, listening to her talk excitedly about her writing project and getting ready for NaNoWriMo. That’s when the idea came back.
Last November, I reworked what I’d already written and added to it. Personally, 41,421 words out of 50,000 is a win.
Now, I’m facing NaNoWriMo again, with the longing to participate again — to reach the goal this year — but lacking the inspiration.
When you write for work every day, the idea of going home and writing more just seems daunting.
However, that’s why NaNoWriMo is considered a challenge. It’s about tapping into a passion.
The question right now is less whether to participate, but what to write.