NaNoWriMo is not just for writers

Credit: Rachel Cohen/Pillbox Editor Credit: Rachel Cohen/Pillbox Editor
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November is National Novel Writing Month, more commonly known as NaNoWriMo. Writers sign up during October to participate in the entirely friendly competition, which lasts from Nov. 1–20. Participants write as much as they can every day for the entire month, and if the novel ends up being over 50,000 words, they can enter to win prizes within the NaNoWriMo community.

NaNoWriMo has benefits for both people who love to write and people who feel they have no writing skills whatsoever, although the benefits for writers are a little more obvious than those for the latter group.

NaNoWriMo offers writers of all ages from around the world the opportunity to connect with other writers and published authors, trade ideas, and support each other. It creates a community-based culture around a hobby that can be isolating and lonely.

Even beyond offering support and inspiration, NaNoWriMo can be really fun, even if you don’t participate in the traditional way. Personally, I plan to use NaNoWriMo as a way to remind myself to write every day, but not to race at a breakneck speed to a specific character count. The competition is a fun method for expressing creative energies in a personal way.

The benefits for non-writers are a little more opaque, and lie not so much in the writing itself, but more in the development of the creative process. No experience is required to sign up for NaNoWriMo. Of course, the prospect of throwing oneself into writing with such force can be intimidating for people who have not written much in the past, but NaNoWriMo encourages participants to embrace their mistakes, whether those participants have been writing for 20 years or two days.

Writers doing the traditional challenge have to produce around 1,666 words every day, which is around five-and-a-half pages, to get to 50,000 words in a month’s time.

That kind of cramming does not produce America’s next great novel, and the people who run NaNoWriMo know that. Producing sub-par work is acceptable in this competition, because everyone does it, and that’s how they learn. People who never considered themselves writers can participate just as effectively as anyone else.

Even though NaNoWriMo has its charms, some people simply don’t like to write, but that doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t expend their creative energies. Creativity has the potential to reduce stress, bolster self-confidence, and stimulate brain health, although the cultural definition of creativity tends toward clearly artistic activities like writing, drawing, or photography. People also tend to think that creativity is something that some people have, and others just don’t. Being creative is not a personality trait; it is another word for human expression. Coming up with a scientific experiment and testing it can require the same creative energies as painting a picture.
So whether you’re writing a novel or a computer program, try to stretch your creative muscles this November.