Today kicks off NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month, a 30-day challenge to write a book – any kind of book, 50,000 words in length – during the month of November.
It sounds kind of crazy, but it’s actually genius because it is possible to write the first draft – we’re not talking final copy here, folks – of a novel - 50,000 words - in 30 days - if you’re driven enough to tap out the average 1,666 words required per day no matter the cost: lost sleep, missed work, an angry partner, unwashed children. You get it: this is hard work that takes sacrifice. But it can be done, and thousands of people do it every year.
I attempted this challenge a couple of times with great aspirations and elaborate plans. I didn’t get too far, and that’s not because I lost interest, dried up, or gave up – it was because of Repetitive Strain injuries, RSI’s, a group of ridiculously painful and difficult to treat maladies that plague writers and other computer users everywhere.
My RSI’s resulted from an inappropriate computer work station at my job, leaving me with thoracic outlet syndrome, carpal tunnel syndrome, a touchy shoulder, and chronic headaches, and included chronic neck, arm, and hand pain, poor range of motion, and fatigue. It didn’t matter how driven I was to keep up with the 1,666 word count per day, or how deeply I’d carved out the precious time each day needed to meet that goal. My body could not handle it, and so ended my NaNoWriMo challenge each time, not even a week completed.
Yet all was not lost, as I had experienced that thrill common to all writers of being immersed in the story, having it pour out of you, knowing you're on the path to something great. It’s exhilarating. It’s exhausting. And it’s not to be missed. This challenge can pump you up to achieve it. It gave me the motivation to continue on in my own fashion, sometimes putting down 2,000 words, sometimes a couple of hundred, most times none. I ended up with the roots of a novel – Swim Season - soon to be published.
So, whether or not you think you can take on or complete a challenge like NaNoWriMo, it’s always important to simply start. You may surprise yourself and end up with a workable manuscript that one day may see the light of someone’s Kindle, or you might become infused with the drive to continue on at whatever pace you can maintain.
To all those embarking on NaNoWriMo, I’ll think about you every time I sit down at my keyboard and start tapping out those words.