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Why I don’t understand NanoWriMo and Word Counts

It’s NanoWriMo again, and every year, I dread the hashtags, the word counts, people cramming sentences into a document with the purpose of feeling accomplished, sharing it with their peers, skipping showers, sleeping with their laptops, playing the role of “The Writer.”

I just don’t get it. It feels too much like The Hare in the Tortoise and The Hare fable. Rushing, speeding, tricking yourself to the finish line. To lose.

If you apply yourself fully only in the month of November, does it make up for the other eleven months that you barely blinked a word out?

Is it done for the rush of it? The adrenaline? The challenge? “How much can I shit out on a page? Ready, set, shit!”

It’s a critical viewpoint, bordering on cynical, I know. I should be praising these writers who show up to the page for NanoWriMo. Afterall, they’re making progress. They’re committing to their work. But I just can’t ignore that there’s something fundamentally wrong with this approach. It’s like treating writing as if it were taxes; something you file once a year (if you’re lucky!). Stressing to get it done, awaiting the big relief once it is. Rid it from your mind until next year.

Writing is a practice, and like any practice, if you don’t use it consistently, you get sloppy.

NanoWriMo is awesome for one reason: it emphasizes the idea that, if you really want to craft a story or a poem or a book in a “short” amount of time, or at all, it’s possible. Because it absolutely is, if you apply yourself, and show up to it more days than you don’t. But books and stories and poems are rarely even readable on the first draft. It takes TIME to develop them, to let things gestate, and become full. One lunar cycle is not enough. Ten lunar cycles is probably not enough. Challenge yourself, yes. Please! A little wisdom from the Tortoise: there’s no need to rush and push out as much as possible, if you are truly dedicated to your craft. Keep steady, keep inspired, and show up regularly. That’s all.

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5 thoughts on “Why I don’t understand NanoWriMo and Word Counts

  1. For myself I do this because it amuses me. I still write the rest of of the year (at a slower pace I admit) but for me the month of November is kind of blah…so I do Nano. I can understand your point though. Sometimes the Hare’s approach is not best. Nano isn’t about winning though, it’s about starting something(IMHO). 🙂

    1. Hi Stevey! Thanks for you input. I got similar feedback on my Facebook feed when I posted it there. If NanoWriMo is encouraging to you, then by all means, utilize it as a tool for motivation. I’m happy to hear that you write year-round and hope that you continue what you’ve started after NanoWriMo ends. 🙂

      1. Wonderful to hear, Stevey! Best of luck with all your stories. 🙂 If you ever need a professional editor for your work, I’d be happy to give you a free consultation. Xoxo. And thanks again for commenting. –Amanda

  2. I did Nano last year, and am doing it again this year. In the last year I have written a novel, (that needs lots of revising) and have firmly established a writing habit. I am grateful to Nano for giving me the push that has hopefully kickstarted my writing career. I couldn’t imagine not writing now.
    I probably won’t use the thing I wrote last year. But the novel written in the meantime and the one I am writing for this year’s Nano benefitted from the experience. Onwards and upwards.
    It does annoy me to read tips for increasing word counts like using two words where one will do. That’s what I did in university, and I’ve spent most of this year trying to escape wordiness and passive voice. 🙂

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