Reasons to do National Novel Writing Month…

This is an edited version of what I recently posted to my Diving Deeper Writing group:

200px-NaNo_logoAs some of you know it is less than two weeks until National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo as it is commonly called. The object being to write 50,000 words in one month.  It is an annual creative writing project coordinated by the non-profit organization ‘The Office of Letters and Light’, first started in 1999.

Last year just under 170,000 people from all over the world took part in the event, writing a total of over 2.4 billion words. It means writing just under 2000 words a day, or if you want accuracy: 1666.6667 words a day for 30 days. Of course you can write 5,000 words a day and hit the goal in 10 days, as our own Leigh-Anne did in 2008… (Here is a little interview they did with me in 2008 when Diving Deeper was part of Gaia.com)

Now if you’re thinking “I’d rather clean my entire house with a worn away toothbrush than do THAT”, let me tell you why this is an incredible event and why you should join those of us who have already committed.

It has been said that to truly be a writer you need to write a million words. There was a time when I rebelled against this and thought it was rubbish, but as time went on and I saw how my writing was in fact improving the more I wrote, I see the truth in it. NaNoWriMo is an excellent way to get some of those million words down, and in particular because NaNoWriMo is not about quality. It’s about quantity. It is the ultimate in our Truly Bad Writing assignment. For some reason, a million quality words isn’t what makes you a writer, it’s simply about getting those words down, about knowing you can do it, that you will do it, regardless of how shitty you feel or how important it is to write those 10 emails you haven’t got round to for months or how you absolutely must redecorate the living room.

Writing is about practise. As in learning by repetition, AND as in ‘practise’ as in a spiritual practise. To write daily, or at least as often as you can, as a way of life. As something that feeds your soul, even when it feels like it isn’t. I believe NaNoWriMo is one of the best ways to truly experience what it means to be a writer, and to put to rest all the fears that you can’t write, that you could ‘never write a novel’, that it’s too hard.

The other wonderful aspect of doing NaNoWriMo is community and friendship. During the month we gather on Diving Deeper, in the NaNoWriMo group, and share our daily experiences, with the writing and with ourselves.

Now there are NaNoWriMo communities and boards on the NaNoWriMo website with all sorts of tips and encouragment, and you can just gather there and not on Diving Deeper. If you prefer to join one of those by all means do, but we have found that a small group who know the Diving Deeper principles is very supportive. We can share anything at all, we can moan and groan and weep or celebrate, and there will always be someone willing to listen and commiserate.

In terms of actually achieving the goal of 50,000 words, it is quite possible to write your daily quota in an hour (or less if you are a fast typist), but if you can I’d say you need 2-3 hours for mulling and creative space. But, if all you have is an hour a day, that’s enough. As I said, it’s not about quality. Just get those words down! Anything at all. Short stories, memoir, novel, total blather, the longest, worst poem in the world, whatever…

One word at a time…

About Sandra Jensen

I am a writer. I live with my partner, David Crean and my foundling cat, Rónán. I was born in South Africa and have British and Canadian citizenship. I have over 40 short story and flash fiction publications, including in: World Literature Today, The Irish Times, Descant, AGNI, The Fiddlehead and others. My work has received a number of awards including winning the 2012 bosque Fiction Competition and the 2011 J.G. Farrell award for best novel-in-progress.. I have been awarded Professional Writer’s Grants from the Canada Council for the Arts, the Arts Council of Ireland and Arts Council England. The novel I have recently completed, Ten Virtuous Acts, is a literary adventure set in Sri Lanka during the civil war. I was a guest writer & panellist at the 12th and 13th International Conference on the Short Story (Little Rock, Arkansas and Austria); an invited participant at The Galle Literary Festival, Sri Lanka in 2011 and a six-time participant of the Sirenland Writer’s Conference in Positano, Italy. I attended The Banff Centre’s Wired Writing Studio in 2011/2012. I administer the In Memory of Vučko and AWABosnia websites, raising awareness and funds to stop animal suffering in Bosnia-Herzegovina.
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