I just finished NaNoWriMo 2015, marking my twelfth year participating in this event. Of those 12 attempts, 6 of them were “winners“, in that I crossed the 50,000 word mark before the end of the month. However, I only ever completed one of them, with a beginning, middle and end all done inside the month. If you read through the Fiction section of this site, you will note that most stories stop before the end. I’ve gone back to a couple of them to try to finish them off, with one success.
So why do this crazy thing every year if I don’t even finish the stories? Why take on one more thing in an already busy month? Why have I written over 400,000 words of fiction that no one will likely ever read? Mostly because it’s fun. Okay, not every day is fun – sometimes it’s a slog, but overall, the challenge is fun. You’re doing this crazy thing at the same time as a whole bunch of other people. You can sympathize with their lack of words and celebrate with them after a particularly good day or an “a-ha!” moment of writing. It’s like a team sport where everyone’s doing their own thing.
Secondly, it’s mine. A lot of the media creation projects that I work on start as someone else’s idea, or are made for other people. This project is, every year, something I make just for me. No one tells me what the constraints are, no one tells me what kind of story to write. I don’t even have to show it to anyone when I’m done. Because I don’t plan ahead of time, I discover the story as I write it, and that’s kind of thrilling, too. It’s like my subconscious saying, “here’s what I’ve been ruminating on for the last year. How about writing this?” The stories aren’t great, they’re not all very original either, but they’re mine.
Finally, and most notably, stories are important. Humans have been telling each other stories since before the dawn of history, and good stories (the kind I want to be able to write) describe some kind of shared experience where the listener/reader can say, “Hey, I’ve been there.” They’re a way to discuss things without hammering on the subject itself. They can be a way of thinking through an issue while still telling a compelling narrative. I can’t say all my stories aspire to this level of gestalt, because sometimes it’s just fun to think what teenagers might do if they suddenly had prodigious mental powers. I go back and read them occasionally and am sometimes surprised at what I wrote. They’re a glimpse into what past me was thinking that year. Every story has that potential, and writing them down makes them real.