Thursday marked the first of the month. The sun had set on another NaNoWriMo; we gathered to celebrate our happy exhaustion. Because it was the first of December and for the most part, we had all survived. Today being a Saturday, some of us will gather again, because not everyone can make a weeknight event, given that it's December and all. And the events are called Thank God It's Over, because hey, it's been a wild and crazy journey. It always is.
Battle-weary, we stumble into a restaurant to celebrate our success — because even if we didn't achieve fifty thousand words, we still tried. We put our fingers to the keyboards and together, we wrote.
And next week, some of us will keep writing like this.
We call ourselves The Other Eleven Months, because for us, writing is not something we can simply stop doing, and we like the energy that being in a group can bring. Once a week (or more) throughout Greater Vancouver, we gather for coffee or tea or (if you're a chocoholic like me) cocoa, and we talk about plot points, characters, and ideas. Every so often the conversation wends in the direction of pop culture or current events, and we discuss related topics. But most importantly? We write.
I've heard a lot of arguments against NaNoWriMo. I've heard that it cheapens the craft of writing, that it clogs the mailboxes of agents and publishers, that it is a waste of time, focusing on quantity over quality. I've also heard the unecessarily defensive rebuttles (that it's meant to encourage newcomers to the craft, that it's meant to be something anyone can try once, that "real" writers are participating these days). I don't want to point fingers or dwell on either side because I've heard enough of both sides this past month and a half and anger over this has no place in my life. So I won't.
But I will say what I know.
I know that sometimes, my internal editor is so harsh that I feel frozen at the keyboard.
I know that being forced to focus on quantity rather than quality helped me unfreeze.
I know that the sound of silence and a dozen keyboards is pretty amazing.
I know that this group has been a source of energy and inspiration.
I know that I've regained a new appreciation for the rough draft.
I know that before I joined NaNo, I was scared of rough drafts because rough drafts are, by nature, crap, and I'd somehow convinced myself that I didn't need them.
I know that NaNoWriMo has evolved beyond itself, and that many more writers, both aspiring and published, are taking part.
I know that I can adapt the challenge to my needs, that all that really matters is fifty thousand words of new writing.
I know that our weekly gathering keeps me going even when things are at their worst.
I know that I find laughter and cameraderie and joy in a craft that is, at its heart, a solitary act.
Of course, that's pretty much the point of our group: we don't just write as a novelty one month out of twelve. We write because we want to. Some of us just for fun, some of us to learn, and some of us because we're actively pursuing writing as a career.
Whatever the reason, we write. And that's what really matters, no matter how you feel about NaNo.
This year, for fun, we had some temporary tattoos made. To celebrate ourselves, we chose a semicolon (a bit of an in-joke), but I think it fits:
So like any sane NaNoer, I am thankful the insanity of writing fifty thousand words in a single month is over. But I am also thankful for The Other Eleven Months, because frankly, for me writing is something that can not be contained to a single month. I wouldn't want it to be. And the people I've met and the friendships I've made through TOEM are something I wouldn't give up for the world.
Do you have a group like ours? Let me know in the comments! I would love to hear about more efforts like ours. Community matters.