21 December 2012 - 7:05 pm

NaNoWriMo 2012 Part 2: it only gets better

One of the best things about NaNoWriMo is the community. It’s about connecting with other writers, with other people as insane as you are, because they’ve taken on this challenge, too. You’ll find people from all walks of life giving this adventure a try: some of them will be just like you; some will be crazier, aiming for ever more ambitious goals; some will look at you in awe for what you’re doing. But you have something in common and that’s powerful.

Writing is usually a solitary activity. It’s so easy to get lost in our lives and not talk about the stories we spin, in our heads or in text. It’s so easy to create in a void and forget that the world exists. NaNo breaks those walls down. It gets people together. It gets them talking. It gets them in a room, writing, and it’s good.

As a Municipal Liaison (ML), I’m privileged in that I get to meet and talk to many of my local Wrimos. Not all of them (there are over 3,000 in my region now!), but enough that I gain a glimpse of the breadth of the writing community we have here.

This was my fifth year in this region (my first year of NaNo was in the UK), and it has been interesting to watch the community change and grow. I’ve come to know so many people. Some have come and gone; some lingered, coming to my writing group or other writing events; some have gone away and returned, years later. Every year, the NaNo landscape changes, and I’m lucky enough to be a part of it.

The first year I was here, I had no idea what I was doing. But the Wrimos were good enough to put up with my mad scrambling to figure out this new city and everything they wanted to do (I had a couple of co-MLs that year, but they disappeared in the first week of November, never to be heard from again). I’m lucky that I don’t mind the deep end, because I keep ending up in it.

My second year here, I had a good friend co-MLing with me and a clue about where to start. We started to establish more patterns and traditions for NaNo in our region. Write-ins, word wars, kick-off parties, wrap-up parties. By the next year, we were MLing machines.

And the flock kept growing. Each year, some of them would stick around, and they’ve grown into good friends. After my third NaNo here, we decided to keep the write-ins going through the year. Just once a month: often enough to be regular and yet easy to fit into our diaries. Some of those faces we used to see only during NaNo returned to the monthly write-ins. The community settled into a new way of being.

Last year was a bit of a bonanza when it came to growth in the community. We had an influx of new blood (more than usual!) and a lot of them weren’t once-a-year novelists: they had a real desire to get stuck into the community. We had drinks meet-ups once a week during NaNo 2011, and then we just didn’t stop. They’re still going now, every week, and the group that comes is only getting bigger.

It’s a great bunch of people. This year, we’ve added some more new faces to the mix, and I hope to keep seeing that happen.

I try something new every year, to see what else we can do to keep it fresh and interesting for all of us. Writing on the city’s train system. Writing out on a lawn in the glorious sunshine. Going on a weekend retreat to an island. I’ve yet to have a flop; whatever we dish out, our writers lap it up and keep coming back for more.

Their enthusiasm and trust gives me the confidence to try different things, to aim high, and maybe to be a little bit crazy. Their willingness to help lets me stretch myself, knowing that I don’t have to do it all on my own. Their support lets me be ambitious. I’m learning new things every year, making new contacts and new friends, and having fun at the same time. NaNo isn’t just for November: if you let it, it’ll seep into every part of your year.

Writing doesn’t have to be a solitary endeavour; NaNo helped me to see this. Now I’m doing my damndest to help other writers come to the same conclusion. It’s the kind of work I love to do, so I’ll keep doing it, for as long as I have wonderful writers around me.

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