Follow your dreams. This is what NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) taught me in many ways and sometimes you must go for it, no ifs and buts.
For the record, I hated this advice. It’s this crap that makes me squeamish for its naivety. But after years of misery, working bullshit jobs, and forming bullshit friendships, I was surprised how difficult it was to follow.
My life has been a three-star Yelp review. It’s serviceable but doesn’t stand out and will most likely be avoided by everyone because every high-standard wannabe wants five stars everything. If you’re late for a second or screw up they give your restaurant a one-star review and ruin it.
But I digress. I’m not bitter. But I’m also not the happiest guy.
I’m not rich and not yet successful, and in my early 30s, should be trying to chase money, buying property, and finding a partner of crime. But I’m not.
The studies can go screw themselves because despite what millennials say or do, my friends can attest they still plan to “settle down” and start a family.
Instead, what I’m doing is taking the biggest risk of my life. Because I’m an idiot, a glutton for punishment, and because I am a writer and if I didn’t feel a degree of self-loathing and suffocating self-doubt then I wouldn’t be one.
I’m pursuing a childhood dream: to be a published novelist. And I’m using NaNoWriMo as a kickstart to 2018 where I’ll have something off a manuscript finished. I call it: “NaNoWriYay”.
What is NaNoWriMo?
Short for “National Novel Writing Month”, NaNoWriMo is a challenge that takes place during November in which participants try to write a book or a “50,000-word manuscript”.
It started in 1999 when freelancer Chris Baty began the project with 21 participants. It has since blown up to have as many as 400,000 participants in the previous year.
The website offers a great deal of many benefits for writers. It has pep talks to inspire, forums to connect with other aspiring writers, and even a shop so you can externally validate your pursuit.
Why do NaNoWriMo? For various reasons. I started it because I’ve always wanted to write a book and never really focused on it. The point of this whole project was to dedicate one entire month to just doing this.
Granted, most participants probably didn’t quit their day jobs or abandoned their families. If someone has, I’d love to talk to this person.
But every person, writer or not, has at one point probably thought of writing a book or a similar creative project that involves telling a story. Since none of us are like David Henry Thoreau who literally just took days off to enjoy the fine countryside and write his thoughts down, we never get around to doing it.
NaNoWriMo isn’t just about trying to write a book. It’s about following your passion and doing something just for the love of it.
As a professional writer, I’ve become detached from most of what I write because it’s just a way of life for me now. Not that I don’t enjoy writing anymore, but it’s become like muscle memory. Going through the motions.
NaNoWriMo is also a chance to connect with other writers and form a network. Contrary to popular belief, writing is a “team sport” and the more writers you know, the better. November is one of the best times to build a network.
Why Writing is a Terrifying Passion
Studies suggest most people make the brunt of their income between their 30s and 50s but with how competitive the job markets are, most people start early.
So here I am in my 30s and looking to pursue a dream that will likely:
- Not make me any money and cost me money
- Take time away from meeting potential partners
- Push me deeper into the rabbit hole of my mind
- Cause me a lot of frustration, misery, and madness
Trust me when I say writing is a passion project. Nobody willingly gets into this because they think they can make a lot of money. Technical writers make six figures but if any of those sods wake up all excited about writing instruction manuals then I’ll stick my dick in a fire ant hole and sing Despacito all day.
What makes this terrifying is how you can dedicate your life to a craft and end up with nothing. No rewards, no money, not even any kind of recognition. It’s solely for love. And it makes me wonder what makes it so different from an addiction.
But I don’t want to do anything else.
At least NaNoWriMo is a beacon that there are other crazy fucks like myself who feel narcissistic or delusional enough to pursue their love.
All that time I have just been distracting myself from the one thing I had to do: write a novel.
Most novelists don’t make money. You think about your J.K. Rowlings and Stephen Kings and for every one of them, there are countless others who are working full-time jobs because nobody gives a shit about the books they write.
And it’s not even because their books suck. It’s simply because the damn Internet is so cluttered with crap that it’s hard to find a good book.
That’s the terrifying aspect of this all. That your “success” is almost always not determined by your skill or your hard work but by goddamn luck and marketing.
Write About What You Want to Write About
I guarantee you if you look up all kinds of writing tips, most so-called experts will advise you to do a lot of things that aren’t related to writing.
They’ll talk about the market, about what’s selling, about being specific on your genre, about the structure of stories, blah blah blah. Some might even go as far as incorporating blogging things like keywords, search engine optimization (SEO), and social media marketing.
But the fact of the matter is, what sells could easily be something you do not give two hoots about.
And with countless stories online and thousands popping up every day, the Internet is becoming a crowded place with way too many people all writing about the same thing and copying off each other.
Write about what YOU want to write about.
This is your story, the one thing you can make that is you (not counting babies but even with that you need a partner for).
This is your legacy.
It might be naïve to simply think you can block out the world and write about your story because you need to care about all those things I mentioned earlier. But it doesn’t matter.
A great story will always be a great story no matter what age we live in.
Maybe I’m being overly pessimistic when I say that I feel like my life is coming to an end or it’s about to start going down.
But I like to think of it as motivation to start writing now.
Life has been great. Almost too great. I have my own schedule and I write for a living. If I don’t start writing my novel now, then, when will I?
But even for those who may not have the same flexibility, NaNoWriMo could be your own staycation.
NaNoWriMo is about taking that big leap of faith and dedicating yourself to produce something you can be proud of.