November is National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo for short. It’s a month of challenge for writers; those who choose to participate make it their goal to write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. That’s 1667 words per day for 30 days.
1667 words is a lot of writing for a day, especially if you have a day job or a family that likes to eat or both. It means you spend pretty much all your free time writing, and little things like a clean home and clean laundry go undone. It’s definitely not an endeavor for the faint of heart or the casually committed. I’ve never tried it myself, but I know several folks who have–they retreat into their writing holes for the entire month, and when you see them again, they look like they’ve just completed a caffeine-fueled marathon in the dark.
Most folks who start NaNoWriMo won’t do all 50,000 words, and almost none will finish the month with anything like a publishable novel. In fact, what they produce is likely to be complete junk, and will require a lot of work before they can stand to show it even to their best friends.
But they’ll have produced it. They’ll have 50,000 words on paper in a more or less contiguous story that can be tweaked and edited until it’s good enough to send to a publisher, or self-publish, or share with their friends. Even those who don’t finish, who can’t do more than 40,000 words, or 25, or even 10, will have written more than they would have otherwise.
And that’s an act of courage. Committing an entire novel to paper moves it into a new realm, where it’s no longer safe inside your skull but out in the open where people can see it and tell you how awful it is. Or worse–you could be hit by a bus while the book still sucks, and people will find it on your computer and read it and laugh about it, and pass chapters around and make fun of it at your funeral, and you’ll never have a chance to make it as good as you could have because you’ll be, you know, dead.
Don’t believe me? How many of your creative works have you shared with others? How many would you even admit to if a friend from work asked you what you like to do in your free time? How many are still safe inside your skull, protected from any criticism except what you throw at yourself? How many works of genius could you produce if you could just work up the courage to make the time?
Here’s a challenge for you. Create something in the next month, or six, or twelve, or before you die. Something nobody is making you do. Something that comes only from you, that’s just yours. Something that scares you when you think about what other people might say when they see it.
It’s a great way to figure out who you really are.