If you’ve been here a while, you know I have a complicated relationship with “NaNoWriMo,” the shorthand for National Novel Writing Month. The premise of this event/challenge is simple enough: write 50K words in the month of November.
When I “lost” in 2015, I actually did learn quite a bit about myself and my writing process, which I blogged about here. Then, in 2018, I excitedly announced the kickoff of NaNo here…and then wrote about how I lost again here, again with many more lessons and insight into myself and my writing process. In 2019, I thought I’d found a way around it and decided to “rebel” — which is when you participate but sort of throw out the rule book a bit. I kicked that off with this post. Last year, I wrote about how I believed that it might finally be time for me to “break up” with NaNo, which I blogged about here.
One of the most important things I wrote in that blog last year was this:
” I think we need some time apart so I can really learn/grow/figure out who I am as a writer.”
And I am absolutely still figuring that out.
This year, for example, I’ve spent most of my writing time focusing on plays (stage and screen) and flash fiction, and it has felt amazing… most of the time. The issue I continue to bump into is the part of my brain that feels like “people” (that nebulous outside force in the world) expect that if you call yourself a writer, you write “books,” and it seems to me that, to most people, “writing a book = a novel.”
Is a playwright not a writer? Is a screenwriter not a writer? Is a poet not a writer? Is a short fiction writer not a writer? I believe they’re all writers, and yet, when I write those things, I think that my own writing “doesn’t count.” Again, because I feel like that nebulous outside force of “people” expect me to write a novel…and nothing else.
Now, I do still want to write a novel (or two or three) someday, and I have ideas that I think would work brilliantly in that format. But I also want to write plays and poems and short films and micro/flash fiction and essays. In fact, I am happiest when I am writing in those forms. And shouldn’t I be happy?
As is probably clear from this quite short blog post, I have a lot I’m still figuring out about myself as a writer (and as a person). But I do know that for the first time in over 15 years (my first NaNoWriMo attempt was before I met my husband, and we’ll have been together 16 years next month), I feel really good about not putting that arbitrary pressure on myself. I feel really good about stepping back and saying, “I’m still a writer if I don’t do NaNoWriMo. I’m still a writer if I don’t write a novel (this year or ever).”
So, no. I’m not NaNo-ing this year, and I don’t know if I’ll NaNo ever again. Of course, if you are embarking on the journey, I’d love to hear your story and am cheering you on from the sidelines.
As always, I wish you happy writing.