Why I’m Doing #NaNoWriMo


Soon, my favorite holiday will be here. Soon, November 1 (and another favorite holiday) will arrive. I have a lot of other things I must, should, and have to do in November: drinking mojitos and talking research ideas here, Thanksgiving, crafting gifts for clients, selecting gifts for family, writing book chapters, editing a co-edited book, writing articles with graduate students, grading papers, and wrapping up my graduate director duties.

I am doing all of those things, along with hammering out words for NaNoWriMo.

For the uninitiated, NaNoWriMo is National Novel Writing Month. It’s an utterly insane premise that you (yes, you mere mortal) can carve out time to crank out 50,000 words. (Yes, this method has critics. Yes, this month has skeptics. Yes, this month has avid fans. I’m not writing about those issues. My mottos about all this hubbub are “treat yo’ self” and “do you, boo boo.”) I’ve been a bad NaNo participant for years. Last year, I finished. This year, I’m going to try again.

Why the hell would someone with the above list of things to do agree to NaNoWriMo? Good question. It’s one question I ask myself every day in November. Heck, I ask it every time I sit down to drop some words into a story I am writing.

Lindsay Oden, a blogger with ProfHacker (one of my favorite blogs), wrote about his exploration into writing fiction and what that did for his research work: “expressing internal conflict in an unrestricted manner, exercising creative muscles for non-fiction work, and channeling creative energy.” As he noted:

…as Eva Lantsoght has argued, research is actually a creative endeavor that must transgress current boundaries, you should build those creative instincts early. Where better to violate standards of current knowledge than by tearing them apart in a fictional universe? Where better to explore the limits of your thinking than in a consequence-free imaginary place? There’s something truly liberating about creating, shaping, deleting, and rebuilding anything any way you want.

Writing has alway been a creative channel, one that I abandoned in graduate school when I started writing my dissertation. I thought I was done with that “fluff writing,” but the librarian who took my piles of Writers Digest magazines and books on writing shook her head in disbelief. “You’ll come back to it.” She was right. I did. Not doing creative writing dammed up the other research and other writing I had to do. Writing is an escape for the non-fiction I live and breathe every day. I write because it is what I have always wanted to do. When I was 3, 13, and 23, all I wanted to be was a writer. I didn’t specify academic writer or non-fiction writer or whatever. Just a writer. That’s who I am to my core. I write (furiously, badly, awkwardly) every month but especially in November because it’s what I do.

I also want to get this damn story out of my head and onto the page. And I would like to submit it to an editor. There, I’ve put my goals out there. I’m writing Nov. 1 through 30. Join me by signing up here. Cheer me on. Ask how I’m doing (on Twitter or via email). Don’t bother me with phone calls because you know, 50,000 words in 30 days can make a person a tad cranky. Do whatever floats your boat. I know I will be.

Now, excuse me. I have some plotting and planning to do before November 1.