Because you have the right to tell your story
November is coming. In addition to voting your heart out, that also means that National Novel Writing Month is right around the riverbend (NaNoWriMo for short). ’Tis the season to coerce your creativity out of hiding and onto the page in the form of words, preferably sentences, hopefully paragraphs, and maybe even chapters that culminate with the creation of an actual, coherent story.
Every year on November 1st, much to the indignation of MFA holders worldwide, thousands of laypersons put on their wordsmith aprons, get out their anvils, and embark on a common journey to bang out and chisel and forge their very own 50,000 word novellas over the course of 30 day’s time.
Fun fact: You don’t have to be a writer to participate. Last year alone, over 400,000 participants accepted the challenge, and if you’ve always daydreamed about writing a novel one day, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t be on of those people.
Many people hold back on buckling down and transcribing That Good Idea They Had Once because we live in a society that pedestals institutionally-backed “Professionals” while debasing the neophytes — for we are but mere peasants, to be subverted by the system, to be taught that we are lost and aimless without our guiding stars The Academics and The Politicians, that we are invalid without all the commodities that we can purchase in exchange for blood, sweat, and tears, instead of empowering ourselves with our own creative expression.
This November, be proud of your layperson status and rise to the keyboard — remove your shiny pen from its sheath, wield it for the literary battle to come, because you can, and should, write.
You have a story to tell, and you have the right to tell it.
You do not have to hold a MFA degree in English to climb aboard S.S NaNoWriMo.
You do not require High School English awards bedazzling your bedroom wall nor must you have a portfolio of published short stories to prove your right to do write.
If you’ve never written a single poem about love lost, that’s okay, too.
Don’t get bogged down by the self-deprecating falsehood of “I am not a writer. I didn’t study English. My writing would be an insult to J.K Rowling’s very existence, Stephen King is going to slap me for the slop I’m about to hurl into the world.”
(Hint: Don’t compare your writing to that of famous authors. Just don’t!)
You’re a person. With experiences. A brain. An imagination. Your voice matters. And so does your story. You have just as much right as anyone else does to sit down (or stand up, as they do these days) at your desk and materialize your story into the world.
Let me repeat myself: Your voice is matters.
You’ll develop daily writing habits that you can continue long after November
Participating in National Novel Writing Month will force you write every single day. If you’ve been hoping all along to pursue the creative life, developing and solidifying healthy writing habits will do wonders for your future in storytelling.
You’ll learn what time of day is most conducive to wrangling your creativity and you’ll work toward streamlining your general writing process (You might also develop an affinity for hot toddies or Irish coffee and then you’ll finally get to experience that drunken hermity-writing splendor you always dreamed about. Oh, and heart burn.)
The general consensus is that it takes around 60 days to fortify a new habit. Thirty days is a pretty good chunk of time to begin your formation of concrete, productive routines which you can continue long after November is over.
Even if your November novel is a bust (and hey, we have all been there) you can still look at this as a fantastic time-investment in your creativity that could genuinely benefit you down the road.
You can express your creativity in new ways
Perhaps you’ve developed an aversion to writing because of that B- you got in your high school creative writing class. The English teacher totally bungled your confidence and you never picked up a pen a again. Well, English teacher ain’t around anymore to mark your words with red and you don’t have to follow his rules any longer.
In fact, there’s sort of only one rule for NaNoWriMo: All 50,000 words must be written within the month of November. Other than that, you have free reign; you get to beckon your muse without anyone breathing down your neck, attempting to assert their authority over your unique creative expression.
You get to experiment outside of convention. You’ll explore and evolve your own voice over time and you’ll gain confidence in your ability to magically produce something from nothing, as is the writer’s ultimate magic trick. Via trial-and-error tactics and experimental wordplay, you’ll develop new and interesting ways to express those things that are crawling around in the depths of your being.
You don’t have to share your story or even have the intention of sharing it
Most people assume that if you’re writing a novel, you have your sights set on publication and awards and maybe even Knighthood. My friends often express confusion about the “point” of my NaNoWriMo participation if the goal isn’t to share my freshly-composed novella with the world. But for many writers, that is part of the incentive: the fact that you don’t have to worry abut sharing it with anyone. Ever. Unless you want to.
And you certainly don’t have to send it off to any kind of judge in order to “win” NaNoWriMo. At the end of the month, if you’ve reached 50,000 words, you simply validate your wordcount and voila! You are a winner!
I’ll also take this moment to address the misconception that you have to want to be a published author one day to write a whole book. Think bout it: Many people paint because they love to. People practice photography because it brings them joy. Not all people who play instruments are looking to monetize their music. So why should writing be any different?
You can write your book for you and only you. And if you are looking to be a published author one day, well, this can help you get there
You’ve always wanted to.
It boils down to: have you always just wanted to write a book? Because if this is just about checking off a box — that is totally fine! For some, it IS about that tick mark on the ol’ bucket list. For others, it’s about the poetry of a story well-told, the thrill of creation, the enchantment of new worlds — whatever your reason is, it’s a valid one. And the simple fact is, if you’ve always thought you wanted to write a novel, but you’ve never quite figured out how or when, then look no further: you’ve arrived. This is your time.
NaNoWriMo will give you the opportunity to empower yourself creatively within a virtually-communal setting where you can garner the support of other wanna-be writers. That’s part of the fun — this joint experience that we can share, together, in a world where so much is so very individualistic.
I truly believe in the importance of the rise of laypeople.
For too long, we’ve glorified our professionals while undermining huge populations of self-taught creatives and makers and doers, of different forms of knowledge, of non-capitalist Ways of Seeing. Let’s unlearn the tragic misconceptions about self-hood, and the right to create, and the false notions of who “gets” to do what. Let’s break the rules.
Let’s tell our stories, in our own words, in our own ways. Fuck the rules.