If you’re not familiar with the concept of #NaNoWriMo, the idea is to write a complete 50,000-word story in the month of November. It’s a fun exercise and it has historically helped me reignite my creative fires. I’m feeling pretty good about this year, even if as I’m writing this, I’m several days behind.
50,000 words in 30 days comes out to 1667 words each day, and I took most of a week off to illness.
Now, as a side-effect of tracking word counts on the internet and the awesome writing/accountability buddies system created on NaNoWriMo.Org, I get competitive. You see, if I can see the number of words my friends have written so far for the month, I know where I stand in regards to their productivity. I like to turn everything into a game. I like everything to be a competition.
So, I don’t like being in last place.
Granted, it isn’t healthy to think of a writing career as a competition. It’s never a good idea to get stuck in a comparison rut, thinking, “That person is better than me,” or “I’m doing better than that person.” There are too many factors at play to make a determination like that. There is only where you are in comparison to where you want to be. Those are the only things you really need to look at. Everything else is meaningless.
But, #NaNoWriMo isn’t really about being a writer. It’s about participating in a month long word sprint. The common thought is “November is for words, December is for writing.”
And, a little competition goes a long way. Just knowing that I am (as of the time of this writing) more or less in last place among my professional writer friends (in this case, I am defining professional writer as anyone I know who has A) made money from their writing, or B) is actively working towards building a career as a writer) pushes me to be faster.
Sure, it’s a double-edged sword. I’ve spent more time this year than I care to admit struggling to push myself harder and harder and that has led to burnout. But, I’ve also always felt something powerful when writing in a NaNoWriMo write-in or just hammering out words to hammer out words.
I’ve only ever published one of the four books I’ve written during NaNoWriMo. That isn’t really the point. The point is getting the words on the page and reminding myself that I can tell a story.