One of the ongoing debates in my household growing up went something like this:
Me: “But Mom, all the other kids are doing it!”
My mom: “If all the other kids were jumping off a bridge, would you jump too?”
Of course, this is not a question meant to invite an answer–it is intended to interrupt an unreasonable request with a kind of logic that evades most children.
But what Mom was missing in her grown-up rationale is this: YES, we would most likely jump off a bridge if everyone else was doing it. That’s just how human nature is. Whether it’s a good idea or not matters far less than the community around us and the choices they are making. And adults are equally likely to jump when they see their peers jumping.
A friend recently shared with me her “no you may not” comeback which seems a bit more to the point and leaves no loopholes: “Because I’m the mother and this isn’t a democracy.” But I digress.
In 1999, when a handful of young aspiring novelists decided to commit the month of November to a novel-writing marathon, they translated this age-old adage of jump-when-others-are-jumping to: write-when-others-are-writing so effectively that it has snowballed into a well-known movement: National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo).
Today, NaNoWriMo is a month-long deep dive into writing a 50,000 word novel—in community with people all over the world who have taken on the same commitment. When you register to join, you get your own dashboard that lets you declare your project, track your word count, reward yourself with badges, and find local events and global buddies. This has the potential to give you an elevated feeling of accountability, shared purpose, collaboration, and momentum.
I’m not (yet) a novel writer, but in recent years I have found the winds of NaNoWriMo quite mobilizing and energizing for my own work. Just knowing there were writers around the world taking on a big commitment and going for it has helped me write nonfiction books, craft poetry collections, and develop new products for my business in the month of November.
And this year, I’m jumping off the bridge! I’m all-in for NaNoWriMo! I have a memoir project that’s wanting to come through. And in the month of November, I intend to start and finish a complete draft of it.
Would you like to join me?
Do you have a novel or other meaty writing project that you’d like to spend 30 days writing into existence? Could you use some extra accountability, camaraderie, and support? You don’t need to feel ready. You don’t need to be prepared. You don’t even need to know what you intend to write. You just have to say yes, commit to the journey, and start writing.
Shall we jump together and write ourselves all the way down to a 50,000-word landing?
Yes, I’m jumping off the bridge because everyone else is doing it. And, because moving forward in good company is one of the most efficient and enjoyable ways I know to meet my own goals. Plus, I’m the mom now, and this is not a democracy.
Are you with me? Will you take the NaNoWriMo leap this November? If so, what will you write?
If not, could there be a middle way, with more modest expectations of your output? Something equivalent to skipping over the bridge, or standing next to the bridge and studying jumping techniques, or jumping on a trampoline instead? Perhaps there’s a way to ride the wave of momentum that is authentic to who you are, what you want to accomplish, and the margins you can realistically afford to create for your writing.
I’d love to hear what you’re taking on this November! It will give me a feeling of momentum to imagine us moving our work forward together.