(source: everything technology marketing)
I have participated in the beast that is NaNoWriMo for six years straight.
I haven't won even once.
I make a one month commitment every year for six years and I can't even say I've stuck to it for 30 days. I've either got the world's worst fear of commitment or I'm nuts, but either way I'm trying this thing again, and by Grabthor's Hammar, it will work this time. Right up until a friend of mine wants to hang out for an afternoon; then all bets are off.
When Chris Batty decided to get some friends together and write a stupid number of words in a stupidly short amount of time, he didn't actually think anyone would do it. He didn't really expect anyone to hit 50k. He thought he'd picked a number so unfathomably astronomical that the very thought of it would kick the inner editor out of the picture and allow creativity and progress to flow unimpeded.
Then this thing took off like a pumpkin from a slingshot and thousands of people hit 50k words for years in a row. They developed techniques for hitting 50k (no contractions!) and debated the merits of pantsing vs. plotting. They built wordcount trackers and winners got digital badges of triumph. And somewhere along the way NaNoWriMo became about hitting 50k words in 30 days no matter what or you didn't win.
I've done NaNo for six years in a row, and I haven't won once.
But I have done NaNo for six years in a row and I have made life-long friends who are just as crazy about writing and character and grammar as I am.
I have done NaNo for six years and I have learned more about time management than any public school press of homework could ever hope to teach me.
I have done NaNo for six years and I have screamed myself so silly I've cried in a public coffee house with nine other WriMo’s during write-ins.
I have done NaNo for six years and I have found hidden depths of genuine emotion in paragraphs of otherwise bland exposition. It takes 10 thousand hours of practice, 10 thousand paintings, and 10 thousand words before the real writing shines.
I've done NaNo for six years and I have seen communities spring up (#1k1hr, #writeordie) with the single purpose of driving this creative force within us to show what we're made of.
I've done NaNo for six years and I've grown as a writer in leaps that my school teachers would be pressed to explain.
I've done NaNo for six years and I have broken every rule they've set down and I still haven't managed to win even once, but NaNoWriMo isn't about writing 50k words in 30 days.
It's about coming together and celebrating the arts. It's about taking a challenge and running with it with all your heart, even when the world says no. It's about proving that the impossible can happen every single day. It's about not having to prove anything to anyone. It's about expanding your horizons, taking leaps of faith, trusting your gut, stepping out of the comfort zone, rushing headlong into battle, and never settling for less.
It's about Butt In Chair, Words On Paper.
It's about producing.
It's for the love of craft.
What has NaNoWriMo taught YOU so far? Are you in it to win it or just to have fun?
Tami Veldura is a 24yr-old fresh from college with a BA in long form creative fiction. Her first short story: Closer Than Touch is coming out in January 2012. You can find her on twitter @tamiveldura and her website. And finally, you can also find her as tamiveldura on the NaNoWriMo site.