On the second day of my sixth NaNoWriMo, I was confronted with an interesting question. What’s the point?
It started with a conversation on a friend’s Facebook wall. He explained that even during NaNo he tries to write his best, because otherwise he’s wasting his time.
This is very different from my approach. I see NaNo as a crazy free for all, a chance to write junk and not care. (I was distressed this year to find myself writing even worse than usual, probably because I’m out of practice. Hopefully I’ll warm up my writing muscles soon. Otherwise this particular mess is destined for a Viking funeral.) I see NaNo more as a practice exercise. I never write any of the books I really care about in November, because I know I”ll destroy them.
What are we practicing then? my friend asked. Typing? Clearly not good writing techniques, if the whole point is to abandon all concerns of craft and execution.
Typing is good. My typing speed and accuracy ballooned after my first NaNo expedition. But I think NaNo’s biggest help to me was confidence. It showed me I could finish a book. It was possible. That gave me the strength to finish stories and even a book outside of November, which I never would have done beforehand. A novel was a horrifyingly huge moutina in my path, seemingly insurmountable, but NaNo helped me climb it.
I feel like even if I’m writing junk, I”m still improving. It’s like when you’re running and having an off day, you’re still building muscle. Writing every day gets both your body and your brain into a schedule that says “Yes. I should write every day.” If I do this right, I might be able to keep that pattern going after November ends.
So yeah – I’m not someone who strives for greatness or even readability with my NaNo efforts. Even so, I believe it’s worth my time.
What do you think? What mindset do you go into with NaNo? Are you hoping for a good product or just having fun?