At some point near the end of college I realized writing is what I wanted to do, and that I was better at it than any of the other things I considered doing. So it was decided. I would be a writer. I knew it would take time. Nobody starts a career as a full-time writer, just like no one starts as a full-time actor. I could wait. I could get other jobs in the meantime.
I called myself a writer though. Or rather, I told people I wanted to be a writer. I rarely said that I was a writer to anyone but myself. Perhaps this was because I knew deep down that I was missing a key component: I wasn’t writing. Oh sure I dabbled in a scene or two, but I wasn’t doing it often. I wasn’t doing it consistently. And I wasn’t producing anything to completion. Writers write, and I wasn’t writing.
I had known about NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) for some time, and I scoffed at it. Many people do. They look down on it because it encourages people, especially novices, to write as much as they can as fast as they can, even though a lot of it will be bad. That’s not real writing, I’d say. You can’t just put up an arbitrary goal and force terrible prose onto a page for the glory of pretending you’re a writer for a month. That’s idiotic.
I was a NaNoWriMo hater.
However I couldn’t think too poorly of NaNo because I had some good friends who did it every year. And they loved it. So while I still discounted it, I discounted it as a fun way for amateurs to bust out that one novel everyone has in them. Cross it off the bucket list. There was nothing wrong with that, I thought.
Haters gonna hate.
My friend Kristina is a vlogger and has a good-sized following online. She has done NaNo for years and one October I saw a video pop up on my news feed featuring her annual NaNo pep talk. I was mildly interested, so I watched it. She talked about her excitement, about getting ready, and casually mentioned that this would be her seventh year doing NaNo.
I don’t know why it hadn’t occurred to me before, but it hit me then like a ton of bricks. Kristina had six completed novels on her computer at home. My friend Kristina. SIX. I didn’t even have one. And unlike me, Kristina didn’t go around thinking about her fantastic writing career that was just around the corner, and looking down on people who only wanted to write one month a year.
Instead, she wrote six books.
It was a turning point for me. I did NaNo that year with four days notice, and I loved it. I began listening to podcasts about writing and going on writing forums. Everyone seemed to reiterate the same basic fact: what makes you a real writer is that you write. And now? I write.
This November marks the third year I’ll be participating in NaNoWriMo. If you’re even the least bit interested I encourage you to join me (my username is NoodleDrive if you want to be my buddy). Some people may get snarky when you tell them you’ve arbitrarily decided to write a novel, but give them time. They might wise up eventually.