1 November 2015 - 3:13 pm

Why NNWM: the temporary timebox of imagination

AKA: Permission to focus on your writing.

Part of the why NaNoWriMo is good for writers series.

One article writer is of the opinion that “[writers] will keep on pounding the keyboards whether we support them or not”, and she can’t be more wrong. For some writers, that is true, but like all writing advice, it’s far from universal. I wouldn’t even say that they’re in the majority. (Assuming that ‘we’ means ‘anyone’.)

The truth is that many would-be writers simply don’t know how to make it work. Our lives are very busy with a glorious mix of school, family, work, gaming, sleeping, chores, friends, commitments, TV shows, reading, health, fitness, and other extra-curricular expectations. Everyone’s demands are different.

On top of that, writing is so frequently seen (usually by our friends and family) as ‘just a hobby’, some unimportant thing that we play at sometimes. The truth is, to put any kind of decent time into our writing, we have to sacrifice something else, and there lies the rub. How do we justify the time and energy needed to write?

(It’s interesting that we have to justify it at all but, as a general rule, we do.)

It’s not an easy choice to make or explain. The way that writing speaks to us seldom makes sense to non-writers (and especially to non-readers); how do we explain that we have these awesome hallucinations that we want to partially solidify and share with others? How do we explain that we have these stories that push and pressure us to be told? How do we do this without coming across as a crazy person?

NaNoWriMo circumvents this issue. It provides a month in which a writer can say, “I’m doing this crazy-fun challenge to write a novel in a month, so I’m going to be busy for the next 4 weeks.” It’s a special event. It’s temporary, so it can be a time-out from the norm. It’s communal (a bunch of people are doing this thing) and dictated by an external party (it happens every November), both of which lend weight to why you want to a) have a go and b) do it at a set time. It’s permission to step around the usual explanation requirements and boundaries that would otherwise get in the way of writing.

This makes sense to other people in our lives; there are valid reasons for the time we’re spending on this annual challenge. They tend to accept it, to give us the leeway that the challenge demands. It’s time-limited, so we can put off chores for a little while, and have a free pass on dropping out of regular social engagements. It provides us a space in which to do this weird imaginary exercise.

It also opens the door for less serious or dedicated writers to have a go. I know many participants who only ever write during NaNo and don’t have the urge to do it any other time. This is great! Here’s a space for them to enjoy themselves. (Note: this is different to those who only write during NaNo because they struggle to be able to do it any other time.)

NaNoWriMo is an easy way to explain to others that writing is a thing you like to do, by coming with a handy, easy explanation built in.

Coming soon: It also helps writers to understand how and where writing can fit into our lives.

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One comment

  1. Why NNWM: Permission to be bad : : Adventures in Text says:

    […] Coming soon: permission to focus on your writing. […]

    November 3rd, 2015 at 12:33 pm