S. Yumi Yamamoto
National Novel Writing Month 2018
It's that time of year, everybody! It's that wonderful, magical month where all writers get super serious about their new projects, throw caution (and the editor brain) out the window, and get 50,000 words or more written in just 30 days,
If you're unfamiliar, with NaNoWriMo, don't worry I only heard about it after it had been a world-wide phenomenon for ten years...
NaNoWriMo has a special place in my heart because it brings a sense of community and childishness back into my writing life. The community part is easy to see: thousands of writers are all concentrated on a single goal, you make friends, you attend local write-ins, you might even have an all-night lock-in to attend where you write almost 9,000 words in a single 12 hour span and make delirious plot decisions (and suddenly DINOSAURS). It's a great time all around, mostly because we're all suffering together ❤️
The childishness is something I personally experience, and I'm not sure how many others feel the same. I've always loved stories, and I was telling them to myself from the time I could string sentences together. My friends and I would put on puppet shows and make up ghost stories, lie to each other in big-fish tales, and, eventually, I started writing things down for my own amusement. Joining internet fanfiction sites was my biggest point of growth. I know it's not the most traditional way to become a writer, but you have to understand that fanfiction.net was a major turning point for me. I could sit for hours reading shitty stories based on characters I could visualize and whom I loved. The wacky adventures I watched in my head didn't have the prestige and weight that books like Moby Dick had, but to me they were more fun. They were relevant to my interests, modern, and written by people who understood me. With mild dyslexia, my reading level/comprehension has always been a struggle, and while I was expected to read classics I had no patience for them. The older styles of writing and grammar confused my already confused brain, and the length to which I had to read in order to be invested often out me off of finishing. Fanfiction was short, fast, easy, and were written by people I saw as more accessible than long-dead men from vastly different backgrounds than mine.
Fanfiction also let me fumble my way into something that resembled story. I made all sorts of terrible mistakes. I have hundreds (possibly thousands) of awful, single-spaced pages full of Mary-sue writings, hundreds of pages of shitty romances and problematic relationships that should NEVER see the light of day, and dozens of stories where literally the only thing written was dialogue between characters. I found a small website where I could grow, where my shitty stories were loved and I was pushed to grow to please people who I had never met. I made friends, one who was actually in my hometown and went to the other high school across town. I collabed with other writers because we adored each others' characters. I learned how to "feel" the rhythm of story, of words and sentences. I had a reason to pay attention in English classes and try to apply those lessons to my own work. When it didn't quite work, it didn't matter because I had an army of people who still loved it. I thought if I could do this online, I could do it out in "the real world".
I cherish that feeling, those years when I felt like I was working toward something great. I wish I had had the foresight to keep going with what I was doing, bringing people over to my side and letting them watch me grow. Instead, I did what I was told and sequestered myself. I stopped posting and started working on "serious" work, stuff that "wouldn't be published" if I put it out on the internet. I wanted to be a published author, and according to what I had been told and what I researched, the only way for me to do that was to drop what I was doing and become a solitary unit. I couldn't share, or I would be in trouble. No one would take me seriously if I had given away my stuff for free. So I became that solitary unit. I loved going to creative writing classes, to grow and make friends, but once class was over I was no longer part of that community. While my skills flourished, my soul suffered. I think my depression set in when I stopped writing for fun and strived at "being an artist", whatever that means. The academic push for perfection, for a type of writing that no one actually wants to read, gave me an impossible goal that hurt more than helped.
Lesson learned: the way things used to be done isn't how it is anymore, and doing something you love often comes at the price of ignoring the experts.
That being said, I don't feel that pressure with NaNoWriMo. Every November,I'm a teenager again, writing whatever comes to mind with no concern for all the lessons I learned in university. I may not have the adoring chapter-by-chapter love I had with fanfiction, but I know that I have thousands of people right there with me, hoping that we ALL reach 50k by November 30th. It's a great feeling that, no matter who I am or what I'm writing, I have their support. In turn, I support all of them. I may not get to meet any of them, but I love them all the same. Once a year, I get to revel in my mistakes, in plot points that don't all add up, and remember that writing is fun.
I get to have FUN.
50k is a struggle, don't get me wrong. Writing consistently is a struggle, and I always need to be better about that. I'll push writing aside for housework, or job hunting, or hanging out with friends. I'll find excuses for productive-procrastination just so I don't have to tear my hair out trying to work my way out of a plot hole. Yet, for one month, I can get excited about a workload. I can have fun and not hold myself accountable for all the terrible things I've written and will write in the future. I can write the things that won't necessarily make me happy, but will be the things that people want to read. I am allowed to dream this month, with all the delusion and fervour of a child.
That's why I love NaNoWriMo.