Every November writers all around the globe get their old story ideas out. They collectively sit down at their keyboards each day and crank out decidedly awful manuscripts. It’s tempting to roll your eyes at these occasional writers.

I mean, presumably writers and authors should be writing with this intensity all year round, right? You’re supposed to treat writing as if it were your job, a second or third job perhaps but a job nonetheless. So what is all the fuss about NaNoWriMo? What makes this dedicated month of writing special?

The Collective Suffering

A few weeks ago I decided, based on some misguided feeling of ill health, that I needed to give up sugar. Not just sugar but sugar subsnanotitutes, sugar extracts like honey and maple syrup and just about anything yummy. And not just for a week or a month but for an entire #$%ing year. Yes, I gave up sugar for a year.

If I had to do it by myself there’s no way that I could. I’d have caved the first week and had a cookie or a pan of brownies or something. Giving up sugar for a year is stupid and hard and stupid. And hard. But I’m not doing it alone. I’m suffering with others. And with that collective suffering comes strength. I know that on my difficult days when all I want is a box of Oreos (yes, an entire box. You don’t just eat one. Who does that?)

Anyway, on my difficult days I know that the others are they’re sticking to it so I can too. I guess there’s some ego attached to this challenge. Hmmm. Anyway, just knowing that others are struggling and succeeding helps me stay motivated to this relatively random and abstract goal. And at the end of the year we’ll all be better people for it. Probably.

The same is true for the intense month of writing and NaNo. Because it is intense for most people and it is difficult and there are thousands of people struggling together to reach their goals. There is tremendous power in collective suffering.

The Support

Let’s also say that there are tremendous resources at the NaNo website. http://nanowrimo.org/ You can get all sorts of information and support and in many ways it’s a learning experience. Not only are you busting your backside to meet your word count goals but you’re also learning to be a better writer.

What About that Shit Draft?

At the end of November thousands of people will have a shit draft, but you know what, they have a draft that they didn’t have a month ago and every first draft is shit so who cares. It’s supposed to be awful. Writing a book isn’t about the first draft, or it isn’t only about the first draft. It’s about everything from the inception of your story idea to selling your first book.

Writing a book is about the process and when it comes to processes, there isn’t one that’s quite like NanNo. So do it, or don’t. But if you don’t, you can’t roll your eyes at the folks who are doing it because you don’t know what they’re going through and they’re challenging themselves, which is a great thing. Unless you’re giving up sugar, then it’s stupid and hard.