Reasons Not to Do Nanowrimo

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Nanowrimo Writing Group

Warning: We’re about three weeks away from the annual writing festival known as Nanowrimo. Nanowrimo has begun to feel… Dare I say it? Compulsory. And failure to participate can feel like, well, failure. What if you want out? Are people going to think you’re weird?

I love Nanowrimo, but it certainly isn’t for everyone. Nor is it for everyone every year. Perhaps doing it once was enough for you. Unfortunately these days, it’s easy to feel like you’re doing something wrong or missing out if you choose not to participate.

With everyone on social media engaging in word sprints, hashtagging all the fun, and Instagramming all their coffee shop writing moments, you can feel like a social outcast if you keep on with your regular writing routine. Even your best writing friends can become distant when they’re all wrapped up in the thing and you’re not.

That’s disheartening, but there’s nothing wrong with opting out. It doesn’t make you a weirdo. However, if you’re on the fence about jumping in this year, here are some reasons why you might want to sit it out and not give in to the peer pressure.

You don’t want to write crap. 

No matter how it gets dressed up, Nano is basically about writing crap. Very few people are able to turn out gold under that kind of deadline. Ideally, it’s crap you can work into something great later, but it’s still crap. And maybe you don’t want to do that. Maybe you have an idea you want to take your time with and fully develop. Maybe you’ve moved to a place in your career where you’d rather take more time up front so you need to revise less later. It’s possible that you love writing so much that you enjoy reveling in the process instead of barfing up words. (It’s like the difference between enjoying a fine wine over a nice dinner and chugging as much cheap beer as you can at a kegger. One is a fulfilling, lovely experience. The other leaves you passed out on the floor, sick as a dog.)

You’re at the wrong place in your work, or you have other goals.

If you’re busy editing an already completed manuscript and you don’t want to start a new one, then it’s better to finish what you’re working on. Finish it and get it out into the world. You can always start a new project in December. Or February. Alternatively, you might be under deadline/contract to finish something that does not leave you time to start something new. Finish the important thing! Ask yourself if Nano fits into your current goals. It may not, and that’s okay.

You’re not prepared. 

I don’t mean unprepared in the sense of not having an idea, I mean unprepared as in having no idea what you’re getting yourself into. Nanowrimo touts itself as a way to get non-writers into writing. Fine. But if you haven’t written anything since you left school eons ago, you’re not prepared for Nano. It’s like running a marathon. You don’t get off the sofa and make it 26.2 miles without training. Writing a novel, especially that fast, is the same thing. To turn Nano into anything other than a class in failure, you need to have written at least a little. You need to have some idea about how to tell a story. Maybe you tried and trunked a couple of novels, or you’ve done some short stories or fanfic. Something. Anything. And you need to have a real desire to write, not just a desire to check something off a bucket list. Doing it just to do it, or because everyone else is, is a recipe for failure.

You don’t need it. 

If you’re already a working writer, you probably don’t need Nanowrimo. You probably have no trouble motivating yourself and hitting your targets. If you don’t need it, don’t feel pressured to do it. Keep doing what you’re doing because obviously it’s working for you.

You don’t want to wreck your fledgling sense of joy. 

If you’re a new writer, Nano can seem like a chance to jump in headfirst and wallow in fun. And it can be. It can also be a soul-killing, depressing thing that instills a sense of defeat and worthlessness and kills your love of the craft out of the gate. Will you be okay if you don’t “win?” Can your writing survive if the behemoth that is Nano chews you up and spits you out? If your draft is really, really bad, will you be able to continue, or will you throw up your hands and scream, “I suck!” never to write again? Only you know whether an insane test like this is good for you at this stage or not. But if you fear it’s not, opt out.

The stress isn’t good for you. 

Some people thrive on the stress of Nano. Others, not so much. If the thought of working those crazy hours and making the “deadline” makes you ill, don’t do it. Work at your own pace and be proud of it. It’s not worth wrecking your mental or physical health over. Burn out is real and it’s not fun.

Comparison is the thief of joy. 

As Nanowrimo has moved more and more into the realm of social media, it has become more of a, “Hey look at me,” event rather than a writing event. Everyone is so busy posting pictures and talking about writing, I often wonder how much writing is getting done. And, like most things on social media, a lot of what you’ll see is false. Or at least the truth has been severely stretched. If you’re the sort of person who sees all this fun or envies the hefty word counts people post and you feel “less than,” don’t do Nano. (Or at least stay off social media while you do it.) Your goal isn’t to compare yourself to others, it’s to do the best job you can and have a good time. Writing should never make you feel bad and if Nano does, then don’t do it.

You’re a loner. 

Sure, you can do Nano alone. I did it that way for many years before it became such a “thing.” But now that it’s a thing, there is a pressure to do it with others, whether virtually or in person. While there are benefits to writing groups, some people do better alone. Nothing wrong with that. If you’d rather go it alone, you may find that going the extra step of “doing Nano” isn’t worth it. Just keep doing your own thing at your own pace and don’t worry about what the groupies are doing.

November isn’t your month. 

I hate that Nano is in November. Always have, but I deal with it. Still, it’s not a great month for such an event. Unless I can hit the goal fairly early, it isn’t going to happen. The later in the month it gets, the more family obligations take over. Thanksgiving, decorating, and the whole Christmas shebang get in the way. If you have kids, it’s worse once they get out of school. If you’d rather do your Nano in February or May, then knock yourself out.

You just don’t want to. 

Sometimes you don’t need a reason. You just don’t wanna. There’s no shame in that. Even if you can’t articulate a reason beyond, “I just don’t want to,” there’s nothing wrong with opting out. No one is forcing you to do Nano, so don’t. Enjoy your month.

I’ll be doing Nanowrimo this year just as I always do. The rewards and fun are still there for me. But I’ll also (as usual) be bending the rules a bit to suit my current workload. But if you choose to opt out, you’ll have at least one person in me who supports you and will not shun you for the month of November. I respect the right (and need) to opt out and you won’t find me pressuring you to get on the bandwagon. I’d rather you enjoy your writing.


(Photo courtesy of StartupStockPhotos)

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