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Why do I torture myself to write 50,000 words in 30 days?

Today (November 1), I have planned it well, or at least I think so. As you read this, I am hopefully typing away at the speed of an aircraft propeller. I would have slept earlier the previous night, no Halloween celebrations or late weekend nights for me. At the precise moment, when the newspaper would have reached your doorstep, I would have already had my first (don’t judge me by the numbers) cup of coffee and sitting down with my laptop and typing away. It’s the National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) and just like the 300,000 other participants (and counting), I would have fooled myself into believing that I have things under control to write 50,000 words until November 30.


Of course, we are foolish to assume that we have the month sorted — the dog may fall sick, maybe the child will get extra homework, an urgent business trip might pop up, surprise guests may land at the doorstep, and more. Our big plan of locking ourselves in a room to focus on writing a novel, a series of short stories, etc. will fall flat.


What’s NaNoWriMo?

So, what is NaNoWriMo? It’s a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to creative writing, except that it is not entirely true. Writers all over the world pledge to hand-write or type 50K words in 30 days.


The very thought of it is scary — to achieve this feat while maintaining a daily work-life balance. It’s not for the faint-hearted, but at the same time, it is not for people who have a tough time forgiving themselves for making spelling errors, grammatical mistakes, and dependency on clichés. At the same time, it’s an addiction which is impossible to let go.

I participated and completed the NaNoWriMo challenge three years in succession – 2014, 2015 and 2016, and the last one was in 2018. Each year, I asked myself the same question — why do I torture myself? But I find my answer in the global, lovely, large, warm community of writers.


Whilst the forum provides the structure to help people achieve their creative goals and build new worlds on and off the page; its biggest strength lies in providing a community, which is awake and supportive 24 hours during this journey. On various social media channels, you can ask any kind of question or clear any doubt – from which app to use to write to what to call your character, get an opinion on your synopsis, provide tips to newbies, play the critic or be a writer buddy. And that’s what keeps one going. Of course, you need not succeed in reaching the word count, but hey, some words are better than nothing, right?

I keep returning to this madness, just like many others. The charm of the challenge lies not in the smiles or achievements, but in the feeling that everyone’s sinking and feeling miserable at the same time. Aah! That’s the fun bit.


Writer’s block

If you are disciplined, you need to write only 1,667 words a day. What could happen from here on? You could be on Day 17 of the challenge and 37,000 words behind. Grrr! Hold on there is light at the end of the tunnel — someone in some part of the world will be awake to share your pain of a writer’s block and your struggle of falling behind and provide you with the encouragement to not give up. You’ll gain many friends and learn how to silence the inner critic and editor — write now, edit and judge later. Plus, you’ll also get to announce to the world that writing is a serious job — it’s not a mere hobby or an activity you pursue in your free time — so, yes, you can say no to social invites as you are occupied contributing towards the art.


What’s the best part of November? The addition of books to the world. In 1997, the number of NaNoWriMo participants was 21, and in 2017, it reached 306,230.

Worth it, I’d say. Wish me luck.


This piece was first published in Khaleej Times.


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© 2018 by PURVA GROVER