National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo, takes place every November. Participants from around the world bash away at their keyboards, scratch their pens across paper and drink more coffee than is medically advised in order to write 50’000 words of a novel in thirty days. And yes, I know how crazy that sounds. It’s something that garners mixed reactions from the writing world, with supporters arguing that it’s a powerful tool for getting them in gear to put words on the page without being stopped along the way by their inner editor, and detractors voicing the thought that if any of the 50k words written turn into anything good it’ll be a miracle. Having taken part in NaNoWriMo many times, some more successful than others, I can sympathise with the detractors as much as with the supporters but that’s not what I want to talk about here, though.
NaNoWriMo isn’t just a writing challenge, it’s an opportunity. I participated in NaNoWriMo several times before I finally crossed the 50k finish line in 2010 and I wouldn’t be being at all dramatic in saying it was a turning point in my life. I’d always felt like a writer on the inside, but winning NaNoWriMo that year gave me a confidence to put my writing self on the outside. Within a month I had joined my first writing group. Within a year I had joined a second writing group and started attending open mic poetry nights. When 2011 rolled around I put my name forward to be a NaNoWriMo ML for my local area. The role of an ML is essentially that of a regional organiser. In previous years our area hadn’t had any proper meet-ups so I organised one. It was terrifying and exciting and a complete surprise to me when people actually turned up. And these people were all like me – writers looking for community with other writers. We met weekly through that November and most of that original group have continued to meet on a monthly basis ever since. I’ve taken more of a back role in the group now, with another girl stepping up to the main ML role but this in itself is amazing. This is a girl who suffers major social anxiety. During that first month of meetings it took everything out of her just to come along and talk to a small group of people about a shared love of literature but we’ve all had the great honour of watching her flourish in herself to the point where she now has the confidence to run this group, meet with strangers to organise room hire and she has even started her own writing-related business. And I haven’t even mentioned the growth of her own writing.
What I’m trying to say is that NaNoWriMo isn’t about the writing. It’s not about managing to write 50k words. It’s not about pumping out a bestseller in a month, or penning the greatest bit of literature man has ever dared to dream of. NaNoWriMo is about giving people the courage to put their hand in the air and say they are a writer. It’s about shy people finding a type of confidence they never thought they had. It’s about showing writers that writing doesn’t have to be a solitary sport. NaNoWriMo is about writers and that is why I would recommend it to anyone.