Let’s jump off the NaNoWriMo bridge together!

Sage CohenUncategorized18 Comments

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.



18 Comments on “Let’s jump off the NaNoWriMo bridge together!”

  1. Oh Sage! How exciting that you are giving NaNoWriMo a go! I, too, have considered doing it this for several years and may actually dive in this year. Knowing you are doing it is a beautiful sign that I would be in wonderful company. Good luck and I sure hope you do write a memoir as your experiences are valuable! I have immersed myself, once again, into my novel and just went to visit the little town up in Washington this week where it is set. Let’s do this!

    1. Stefanie! So excited to leap with you! (Thanks for your good wishes and encouragement!) Enjoy your immersion, my dear. Let’s do this!!

    1. Your writing practice is a big reason I decided to dive, Margaret. Thank you for the inspiration and the incredible company along the way.

  2. I did NaNoWriMo once several years ago and made the 50,000 word goal for the month. I’ve since abandoned that novel and have written 3 poetry collections in the interim.It’s time to pick up the gauntlet and get back to that novel. I have just re-outlined the major scenes and I’m ready to write!!!

    1. Renee! I was just thinking about you! So great to hear what you’ve been up to! Congratulations on all of your writing and poeming momentum! Does this mean you’ll be leaping, too, in November?

  3. I am already anticipating NaNoWriMo with BIG enthusiasm, now reading your post has bumped up my excitement to a whole new level. I am jumping into the same genre as you as I’m also writing memoir and I’m wondering how poetry may find it’s way into my work. I have been gathering prompts in preparation. I am always inspired by your writing, Sage. I’m reading Fierce on the Page. Loved your Going Pro piece too. Let’s do this. Jumping with you!

    1. Denise! A poetic memoir! My favorite!! So thrilled we’ll be traveling together into the wilderness of our stories next month! Let’s do this!!

  4. Thanks for your encouraging words! I finished half of a novel recently as the thesis for my MFA. It took me forever to get that far. My goal for NaNoWriMo (first year I’m doing it) is to finish the second half within the month. Finishing projects, from what I hear, is sorta necessary to become the writer one hopes to be. Working with a completed draft, I know I’ll be that much closer to my writing goals.

  5. I’m so excited for you, Michelle! Finishing your novel is a fantastic goal!! Looking forward to traveling with you!!

  6. I once did my own NaNoWriMo in July – a much more manageable month for a full time teacher. And it worked! I stuck to my daily goal word count and finished the first draft of a novel (in 1 month and 1 week). I edited that sucker twice and this November, my goal is to query agents like mad. Let’s go, writers! All in!

    1. Jenny, I love how you’ve made NaNoWriMo your own! Can’t wait to hear where your queries lead you! Here’s to the big leap, together!! Sage

    1. Glen, I’ll be holding the intention that NaNoWriMo offers a little extra support to help you open to what wants to come through!

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