NaNoWriMo is less than a week away and I am excited. But I also know that there will be times during the coming month when I wonder why the hell I’m doing this absurd challenge. Some of this doubt will come from the usual over-caffeinated, sleepless panic of NaNo, but the last two Novembers have taught me that the world at large can be just as big a damper on noveling as writer’s block. When every news report and Twitter notification gives you the feeling of living in an ever-growing dumpster fire of fear and vitriol, how do we justify crawling into our word caves to produce messy first drafts of novels that may never see the light of day?
First, let me point you to the always on-point Chuck Wendig who makes seven very salient points about the whys and hows of writing through this, the most fucked-up of timelines. Second, if you’re a writer, you write. Period. For profit, for entertainment, for self-care, to make sense of the world, whatever. It is an essential part of your being and without it you are a lesser version of yourself
But let’s say that you’re not a writer by nature, or you want to be but have caught a serious case of the what’s-the-points. Why would you tackle this insane challenge and see it through to the end? There are a lot of reasons and you might need to call up every last one of them, from the silly to the serious, to get you through the month ahead. Here are four that work for me, when I just can’t write another word:
Writing is escapist.
Writing and imagining stories have always been a kind of treat for me. I loved playing pretend as a kid and when my friends grew out of it, I simply moved to the page. There, I could I could run away from whatever was going on in my normal life and escape into dazzling adventures, swoony romances, and heights of achievement impossible to experience in a single lifetime. And when the real world is a dumpster fire, we could all use a little escapism.
Writing is cathartic.
Sometimes it’s hashing out my feelings in my journal. But just as often, it’s imbuing an antagonist with all the brutality and terror inherent in the world around me, only to create a protagonist whose special set of skills are perfectly suited to defeating it. Put your fears down on paper and watch them shrink to molehills as you craft a hero to overcome them.
Writing is good for you.
There are countless studies showing that reading fiction creates more empathy and understanding. When you live in the mind of a person different from you for 300 pages, you can’t help coming away with a more nuanced perspective. So if you find yourself sucked into the news cycle wondering “how did we get here?” or “how can they think that?” try creating a character or plot that posits an answer. And then write an ending that ties everything up the way you wish it would in real life, because it’s your story dammit and you can do what you want.
You deserve to write.
There’s something a bit egotistical about writing a novel, and especially about asking everyone in your life to back off for a month so you can bask in the glory of creativity. But that’s exactly why it’s so important. The other eleven months of the year, the world is constantly telling us who to be and what to think. Our bosses, spouses, parents, children, friends, pets, and society voice their expectations of us and we—consciously or unconsciously—conform. But for thirty days, your voice is the only one that matters, and it is proudly declaring that this month, you are a novelist. It doesn’t matter whether “real” novelists look like you, act like you, live in the kind of place you live in, speak with your accent, have your job title, background, abilities or disabilities. For these thirty days, you are one of them, and you deserve to claim that title.
Have an incredible NaNoWriMo. I’ll be writing and rooting for you.