Nano in the Dark

Hi Everyone

It’s November. The days grow short, the Eastern US falls back to Standard Time, and NaNoWriMo beckons.

For more than 20 years, National Novel Writing Month — the community-minded nonprofit — has offered writers of fiction worldwide the chance to join with others and, alone together, spew words for 30 days. Ideally, the goal is 50,000 words and a first draft of a novel.

It’s a lovely idea, which I have resisted as long as I’ve known about it. Until now. Yes, 2021 is the year I succumbed to the writerly romance that is Nano. I don’t intend or expect to have a completed novel on the last day of the month. It’s kind of fun to indulge in just writing — continuously — without much concern about the future beyond this month.

On the advice of a friend and Nano veteran, I made some preliminary plans in late October. After arriving at the central story for the new book, I wrote up some ideas for scenes and themes that might belong somewhere in it. Too much of a pantser to be capable of a detailed outline, I can visit my list of ideas when I need a new place to go with the narrative.

I’m keeping my progress to myself mostly. Well, until now, anyway. Not checking in with the Nano website, or the local writing center. Not using hashtags on social media. One friend and colleague somehow intuited that I might be doing Nano this year, so we’ve enjoyed a few brief exchanges of support.

Here are some of my reasons for committing to Nano 2021:

I’m encouraging a daily habit of creative writing. My longtime daily writing habit has been for journal writing, where I have permission to do many kinds of writing — including list-making and doodling. Committing to fiction every day is new for me.

It feels good to know people all over the world are sharing this purpose during these 30 days. I enjoy the sense of community that results.

I’m narrowing my focus. Usually I have more than one writing project going at a time. I’m experimenting with tackling just one long-form writing project for one whole month.

It’s dark out. The trees outside my window become invisible shortly after 5pm these days. In response, I’m getting accustomed to turning on a light or two indoors, and settling in with the laptop to generate sentences. A couple of months ago, with daylight extending into the evening, it felt different, more diffuse, somehow, to be writing at that time of day. Now, with the view obscured by darkness, I can focus more on my single project for the month and disappear into the work.

Call me irresponsible. It’s reckless abandon, writing this way, compared to my usual, more careful habits. I imagine that a good deal of what I’m writing will become compost, like the leaves rapidly deserting the trees outside my window. Nevertheless, in the dark, just me and my laptop, I’m enjoying the freedom to write. I’ll figure out where it all goes some other time.

Are you participating in NaNoWriMo? What are you getting out of it? I’d love to know.