I first discovered National Novel Writing Month by accident.
If I remember correctly, it was either a Youtuber I watched way back when (ah 2008) or John Green that drew my attention to this crazy awesome thing I had never heard of before (or a Youtuber talking about John Green talking about NaNoWriMo, which is more likely the case).
According to my profile, I joined the website on October 28, 2008. Three days before NaNoWriMo started. Procrastination at its finest, I suppose.
I was a junior in high school at this point, so to me, this was a huge deal. I was excited. I emailed everyone I knew (we still did that back then too!). I had sort of written a book before … if you could even call them that. They were novellas and they were awful. Not that this first ‘real’ novel I wrote was any better.
But I had this crazy dream of being a writer. So I figured I’d give this whole writing 50,000 words in a month thing a try. I didn’t really care whether I won or lost. I really just wanted a good excuse to write instead of doing my homework (yep).
Yet somehow, I fell in love with writing a ton of words in a short amount of time. So much so that, on Thanksgiving that year, I won. I even managed to finish my whole book within that word limit. I finished my first ‘book’ and won my first WriMo at the same time.
Which is probably why the picture you see above happened. It was a big deal.
My biggest worry as the years have passed is that winning will become less and less of a ‘big deal.’ I use WriMos as a way to jumpstart my ideas and force myself to write (if you’re interested in more of my thoughts on this, check out this post). I don’t do it to win. But as soon as I get into a rhythm of writing a certain number of words per day, it just becomes inevitable.
It has taken me years to build up this much self-discipline when it comes to writing. That’s the most important thing I like to highlight when I do talk about this. I don’t talk about winning to make other people feel bad. Because here’s the thing: whether you write five words or 50,000 this month, you worked on a novel. YOU WROTE STUFF. Not everyone can say they’ve done that.
I’ve just always figured that at some point, winning would stop feeling so great. Because of my lack of a full-time job (sigh) and this discipline and really just a love for writing and stories and talking with voices in my head that aren’t really there (hehe), I’ve won every year I’ve tried. I won today. I just did it.
And you know what? It feels just as good today as it did all those years ago.
No one’s lifting me up in the air and embarrassing the living crap out of me (weeee), but I still did it.
There’s just something about writing because you love it, because you love your story and your characters and you just want to write all day every day forever, that makes all the work you’ve done wroth it. Big accomplishments, small accomplishments, they all matter. And you should never, ever be afraid to be proud of what you’ve done.
If you’re still writing – KEEP GOING! I believe you CAN do this.
If you’ve claimed your spot in the winner’s circle – CONGRATS!
And if you started writing a book this month, and have tried, but have fallen behind or you just can’t do it this year, KUDOS to you for doing your best. It’s not about winning. It’s about writing. It’s about transforming the ideas inside your head into beautiful, tangible, lovable words.
Winning feels great. It always has. It always will.
But writing? Writing is the reward. Getting to put time into your story, that’s the best part about it.
Thank you for sticking with me, as always. I’ll continue updating you weekly on the progress of this story. I hope to have a first draft finished by the end of the year.
Image courtesy of Meg Dowell.
Meg is the managing editor at College Lifestyles magazine, a guest contributor with Lifehack and a guest blogger for Food & Nutrition Magazine. She is an eight-time NaNoWriMo winner and has also written for Teen Ink and USA TODAY College. Follow Meg on Twitter.