National Novel Writing Month is coming up! I wrote the following as a reply to a post on another blog and decided I wanted to share it here as well.
This is my NaNoWriMo story:
In 2004 I was a senior in college. The major that I had designed for myself (Natural Language Processing) was falling apart, and I wasn't convinced any more that it was what I wanted to do anyway. I ended up falling back on my math major, but that wasn't really what I wanted to do either.
I'd been writing a little over the years--nothing very serious--but as all of my other plans were coming down around me I realized that the one thing I kept looking forward to was writing. But I wasn't sure I could *really* be a writer. I'd never tried before, and besides, I was a science person, right?
That's when I heard about NaNoWriMo. It sounded like fun, and at that point I was really up for a challenge. So I participated and by the end of the month I had written 50,000 words. But more than that, I realized that I had enjoyed writing more than anything else I had done over the previous four years. Right away I signed up for a creative writing class for my final semester.
I graduated in the spring and got married in the fall. I wanted to do NaNoWriMo again in 2005, but for whatever reason (lack of focus, being a newlywed with the responsibility of writing out hundreds of thank-you notes, who knows) I didn't write more than a few thousand words.
Fast-forward to November, 2006. I'd been part of a critique group for a few months (and it was doing wonders for my growth in writing), but I'd also recently gotten a new job and didn't have as much time to write any more. I was starting to doubt whether I'd really be able to make this writing thing work after all. When November came around I realized I needed to prove to myself that my writing aspirations were still possible. So I did NaNo and for the second time I won NaNo.
Since then I've been writing steadily.
In 2007 I thought about trying NaNoWriMo again, and I may even have started working on a novel, but I had other projects that were more long-term and more important. I didn't need NaNo.
In 2008 and 2009 I visited the NaNo site to participate in the forums--those were always one of my favorite parts of NaNo--but I didn't attempt the 50k word challenge.
And now this year I've finally put away NaNoWriMo for good. Without it I wouldn't be writing, but it's a crutch that doesn't help me any more.
But because of what NaNoWriMo has done for me I am 100% in favor of it. For some (like me) it's the first step. For others it's proof that (to quote Back to the Future) "if you put your mind to it, you can accomplish anything." Some people need to discover that. And for a lot of people NaNoWriMo is a fun way to get in touch with their creative side... and *everybody* needs that sometimes.