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::::: Mare Biddle Portland Playwright & Author ::::: NaNoWriMo! Wait, It's When?
NaNoWriMo! Wait, It's When?
Friday, 01 November 2013

National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is an annual Internet contest to write a 50,000-word novel within the 30 days of November. Sounds like fun! Wait, it’s when?

Yep, Chris Baty, the founder of NaNoWriMo, designated the month of November in the second year to take advantage of San Francisco’s crappy weather. Seriously? Don’t talk to me about rain, man, I live in Portland.

To be fair, Chris was a young, single, childless dude and didn’t think twice about moving the date of the contest. However, as someone with children, a spouse, work, and other commitments in my life, I’m here to say that November looks less like National Novel Writing Month and a lot more like:

National – [Slicing up the same 24-hours a day into smaller and smaller pieces including, but not limited to, the hours devoted to the Thanksgiving ritual of shopping for extra food, preparing a lot of food, possibly traveling with food, and cleaning up after all the food, and honestly I hope we just order Thai and watch “Die Hard”; participation in community service activities, neighborhood gatherings, and charity drives all with additional food items; the sending out of the holiday cards or the holiday email which seems like it would be easier but it actually takes a long time to write a charming email, find at least one picture that everyone can agree on, get it cropped, edited and properly attached to the note, and forget about getting everyone’s correct email address; the logistics of executing the minimal number of hosted or attended events including the necessary clothing for each family member, even (especially) for the spouse; making (or more accurately thinking about making) small gifts for our neighbors, and problem-solving questions like: should I give the UPS guy a special something like a loaf of homemade bread – yeah – homemade bread would be nice – I don’t make homemade bread – shit – do I know anyone who makes homemade bread – maybe I can buy a couple of loaves of their bread, one for the UPS guy, mailperson, FedEx driver, and one for that really cute older couple that live three houses down who we aren’t really friends with but I always wave to when we drive by – wait, shit, how much would that cost – forget it; finding and purchasing at least one gift for each family member, returning at least half when they go on sale three days after I buy them at different stores or worse online, and the requisite wrapping and tagging of each gift; the inevitability of being asked to bake something (except we’ve already established that I don’t bake) so I’ll have to call a bakery, order, and pick up themed cupcakes or cookies for an obligation (I mean party) where half the people will whine that they’ve been gluten-free since summer and “sorry, we can’t eat those”, but…I’m still showing up at the keyboard to type as many as 75 words every day so you can kiss my ass] – Month. NaKiMyAsMo? Anyone?

What’s the big deal? How long could it take to write 1,666.67 words a day for 30 days? Several writers have said it takes them about three hours, give or take, each day. Three hours X 30 days = 90 hours. In November.

I have written tens of thousands of words (the vast majority of those words live in a file cabinet, longing for the big finish – or more likely a coherent and cogent middle), and I can safely say that it takes me quite a while to write 1,666.67 words. NaNoWriMo boasts more than 200,000 participants, but how many of them are primary caregivers? How many are tending to aging parents? How many are single parents? How many are working three minimum wage jobs because that’s what it takes to pay the rent? How many are like me?

NaNoWriMo is a clever idea that has inspired writers for over a decade, and I’ve always wanted to join the mayhem. But I simply cannot make it happen in November. I have given this a lot of thought, and I say we move it to April in 2014 to celebrate the 15th year of NaNoWriMo.

April has 30 days, the kids are still in school, and it’s Q2 for those affected by that designation. If you’re in sales, the summer ebb or flow is still a ways off. If you’re a primary caregiver with constant duties and no break in sight, it’ll be easier to enlist others for some respite time because their lives are not overwhelmed sliding into the holiday season.

April is smack dab in the middle of spring – the season for new growth, the birth of a first draft. I know I’m asking a lot, and I’m just one person. Thing is, most people don’t finish NaNoWriMo. In 2012, only 11% of those who registered made it to their 50,000 words by November 30th, and I bet it’s because I’m not alone.