Monday, October 29, 2018

Why I Do NaNoWriMo

(a version of this post originally appeared on Operation Awesome)

National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) starts Thursday. I love this time of year; I honestly get more writing done than I do the rest of the year. I write more consistently, and I take more chances. I like who I am as a writer in November.
Because NaNo is such a big part of my life, I tend to reflect on it every October. I wrote this back in 2015 to share why NaNo means so much to me, and how it transformed me as a writer. Here it is again, updated for 2018:
When I was in college, I worked at an independent bookstore in Fort Collins (that sadly went out of business several years ago). One chilly day, I was working in the cafe, making drinks for several people sharing a table with their laptops out. I asked them what they were doing, and they told me about National Novel Writing Month. I was in my last semester of my undergrad program, and pretty swamped with applying to graduate school, but I filed NaNoWriMo away under "Things I'd like to do someday." I liked writing, but had never gotten serious about it. I thought maybe this NaNoWriMo thing could help me out.

And then I got married, and started grad school, and had a kid, all in a twelve month period. I was busier than I ever have been in my life. And I forgot about NaNoWriMo.

Then I finished grad school, and became a full-time stay-at-home mom. My husband decided to go for a second bachelor's degree and pursue an opportunity to work for our church's education system while working the 7pm-7am shift as an emergency department admitter three nights a week. I think that was probably the busiest he's ever been in his life.

I got pregnant again during that time, which for me meant dealing with horrible nausea and near-constant vomiting. My husband was gone all the time, my one-year-old was running me ragged, I couldn't keep food down... my life was a mess. And then at the beginning of October, we lost the baby. So while my poor husband tried to keep us afloat, I was mostly alone every night; no longer sick to death, but very, very sad.

On the 31st of October, a friend announced on Facebook that he was starting NaNoWriMo the next day. I remembered the people from the bookstore cafe, and how much I had wanted to join in at the time. My husband was at work, so I signed up for NaNo and spent the rest of the night jotting down some ideas for a novel. And on November 1st, I went for it.

Spending each night writing while my son slept and my husband worked was amazingly cathartic for me. Having something to look forward to every night helped ease me through my grief. There was also a great community of NaNo writers for me to talk to--I'd never had any friends interested in writing before. When I emerged victorious on November 30th, my husband threw a party for me with several of our friends where I got to read some of my book to them. I felt special again, not just an object of people's pity.

That sense of purpose and feeling of community is a huge part of why I keep coming back to NaNoWriMo every November. It's why I love the Twitter community of writers and other publishing professionals, and why I enjoyed contributing to Operation Awesome for the three years I was with them. I believe in NaNo's power to inspire writers, so when my region needed a Municipal Liaison last year, I volunteered. I love giving back to the program, and cheering my band of writers along.

Do you participate in NaNoWriMo? What do you love about it?

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