Illustrations by Max Mose
At around 1,666 words a day, NaNoWriMo could be your excuse for being more reclusive than usual this month. The goal of NaNoWriMo is to hush the inner critic, and write 50,000 words. However, the path to 50k will probably be laden with ill-advised aphorisms brought to you by your greatest muse, you. Last year, I forwent sleep and leisure, and managed, by the end of NaNo, to write a total of 30k words. I lost, but what I got out of the experience was still pretty cool: half of a—now trunked— poorly-written dystopian YA novel, an appreciation for the labor that goes into bad writing, and the tacit understanding that I can never attempt NaNo again.
For starters, creative hypomania and NaNo are like water and oil. If you’re the kind of neurotic prone to mild Magical Thinking—under the guise of creativity!—NaNoWriMo may inspire you, yes, but that isn’t necessarily a good thing. I found that I would get so involved with my own writing that I would lose some self-awareness. I’d get progressively more into my own drivel, and think what I’m writing is actually good. I mean, why would you keep writing if you didn’t think it was good, right? Riiiiiiiiiight. My logic may be muddled here, but generally, writing—NaNo writing especially—is a very solitary endeavor; solitary endeavors can foster obsessiveness; obsessiveness can lead to narcissism; narcissism can lead to the delusion that your NaNo effort is anything but subpar.
It’s been my experience that the discipline required to get substantial writing accomplished entails self-motivation. Motivation is tricky because action—whether or not you’re actually motivated—facilitates the a posteriori motivation to do. Personally, I think afflatus is Magical Thinking, and should only be a fleeting sensation. Whenever I’ve felt inspired for more than two minutes, my writing has suffered. The haze of inspiration, when it becomes an integral part of your creative process at least, is a filter. You don’t see the world like a normal person; you see the world rather narrowly, and hold that perspective in higher esteem than reality.
Furthermore, if you’re highly self-critical, and an anal-retentive by nature like I am, your NaNo effort will be time-consuming. Depending on how fast you type—or whether or not you opt to pre-brainstorm— consciously trying to write well will slow you down. Disregarding proper grammar and syntax for more fluid stream of consciousness writing is your best bet. Not everyone is used to eschewing perfectionism— I certainly am not—but it’s a good idea to keep in mind that NaNo should not consume your life.
To sum it up, NaNo is not for every writer, and should probably come with a medical warning. In retrospect, it was really just a more socially acceptable reason to hibernate in-between life’s obligations without the guilt of mental idleness (passive internet surfing, TV viewing, you know). I got a considerable amount of writing accomplished (albeit bad writing), and learned more than I needed to know about how my own mind works creatively. With that said, I write at a turtle’s pace, and appreciate the clarity laggard writing nurtures, hence NaNo is out of the question for the foreseeable future.