Photographed by Julia Freeman-Woolpert and Madaise, respectively. Used with permission.
Now that I can finally see my feet because my distended belly from all the turkey and general holiday goodness has gone down, I have a chance to convey my mostly positive feelings about National Novel Writing Month, better known as NaNoWriMo.
They are summed up in three quotes* about writing:
“It is perfectly okay to write garbage—as long as you edit brilliantly.” -C.J. Cherryh
“I firmly believe every book was meant to be written.” -Marchette Chute
“Put down everything that comes into your head and then you’re a writer. But an author is one who can judge his own stuff’s worth, without pity, and destroy most of it.”-Colette
This is also what I’ve come to judge my own writing by. I don’t know of anyone who simply tosses words on paper and serves them up to a publishing company ready to be signed, sealed, and delivered to readers. The movement itself is a fantastic idea, but any good thing can be—and sometimes definitely is—taken advantage of.
When I first heard of NaNoWriMo, I thought it was the name of an ancient Native American burial ground. Wisconsin is full of cities and towns based off of Native American names, so I had reason to believe it might be connected with one or the other. Try saying Waukesha, Oconomowoc, Wauwatosa, or my home city, Milwaukee. Maybe you can—they have a tendency to roll right off the tongue.
Before I was inducted into the secret society that is NaNoWriMo, I thought of book writing as something organic, like making a nice pot roast. Seasoning it (writing the words, taking a break), trimming any fat, putting it in a pot, browning it (revising, editing, taking another break), and finally finishing it with garnish and serving (prepping for publication or recreational reading after more revision, then selling).
Everyone has a different way of making pot roast, meaning you use vegetables or maybe you choose a different type of seasoning. But some of those steps are vital. If you skip putting it in the pot or trimming the fat, you’re going to end up with a hot (or cold) mess.
Sometimes this is what happens after NaNoWriMo—skipping the trimming and vital preparation to go straight to garnishing and serving. Instead, participants should see NaNoWriMo as a starting point and a huge head start to a wonderful book.
That said, NaNoWriMo is a movement that I am excited to join the ranks of again soon. Whether participants actually do finish their 50,000 words is one thing, but knowing that people across the globe are toiling the same way you are, pushing out pages like gasps between labor pushes, has a certain allure.
It is a source of fragile inspiration welded together with iron determination to reach a goal. I find myself wishing that I could fully devote myself to participating this year and anticipating next year when I’ll probably have a chance to.
According to the NaNoWriMo history on its website, which reads almost like a novel laughing at itself during the process, NaNoWriMo started in 1999. It quickly took off and grew into a hugely successful movement.
I can admire the spirit of the twenty-one creators who quickly matured from idealists into entrepreneurs. If they hadn’t risen to the occasion, the movement would probably never have the momentum it does now.
Part of the reason why NaNoWriMo is so successful is that the movement continues to operate out of the same idealistic and creative spirit it started with. The history examines the trials, pitfalls and adjustments the creators had to make, but for the most part, the vision has remained relatively unscathed. That alone is commendable because it’s difficult for many movements to achieve.
However, the freedom, raw natural talent, and inclination to cast off limitations, albeit within a limited deadline, has continued to make NaNoWriMo a success. The trade-off has spawned thousands of novels, a few of which have been published by major companies.
If you participated in NaNoWriMo last month, invest in your literary pot roast. You will probably feel just as fulfilled as if you made an actual pot roast and ate it with family.
*quotes are used with the permission of logicalcreativity.com