Thursday, November 4, 2010

Why NaNoWriMo Works (For Us)

As far as I’m concerned, there are two basic elements to all creative work: Inspiration and Motivation.

Inspiration is the easy part. Everybody has it to some extent. There isn’t a person alive who doesn’t have some project they want to create, whether that’s a novel or a building or a Dungeons & Dragons campaign setting. Not everyone is necessarily overflowing with it the way that people who pursue careers in these fields are, but everyone has it.

The hard part is motivation.

Now, some people would tell you that the hard part is actually “talent” or “skill.” I say to thee, nay. There is nothing in the world that a human being cannot become skilled at if they practice enough. Naturally, different people have to work at different rates to reach the same comparative level of skill in a given subject. My younger brother soaks up foreign languages like a sponge; at last count he has acquired basic understanding in Spanish and French and a working scientific comprehension of Latin. I, on the other hand, focused exclusively on Japanese for six years and can basically ask a crowd if anyone speaks English.

So, in much shorter terms: skill derives directly from motivation.

The problem, of course, is that the nature of motivation is different for different people, especially when dealing with something that will inevitably take an extended amount of time and effort. For some, the end goal is motivation enough; they can envision their eventual success so well that their very ambition drives them to succeed.

But for others, motivation has to be manipulated in order to reach that end goal. And that is where National Novel Writing Month comes in.

Some people needed little rewards along the way to carry them through to the final goal. This is the most basic strategy for conquering NaNo – you plan little rewards for yourselves every 1000 or so words, and you stick to the schedule.

For others, a visualization of their progress is needed to keep the motivation alive. My father, for example, managed to lose weight by tracking his calorie count and progress with an Excel spread sheet. That was the only tool he needed for his motivation to see him through to his eventual success; likewise, seeing the graph that comes with your NaNoWriMo account gradually rise to reflect your growing word count can bolster enthusiasm.

Others need community, the support of fellow writers and of an organization that will hold them accountable. Still others need encouragement from those who have succeeded, such as the pep-talks written by established writers; or feedback, such as the forums to critique synopsis’s and excerpts; or structure, such as the 1,667 minimum word count; or bragging rights; or just the excuse to buckle down and try.

NaNoWriMo provides all of these things, as well as the opportunity to discover that you just don’t have the motivation to write a book, should that turn out to be the case. By taking the focus off of the product (skill and talent) and putting on the source of that product (the motivation to practice), the National Novel Writing Month formula simply works for a large number of people.

Me? I have two motivations, and they are the reason that NaNo works for me. But that’s a subject for tomorrow’s blog.

Current NaNo Stats
Page Count: 22
Word Count: 7,031
Story progress: Part-way through Chapter 3
Status: Note to self - come rewrite time, make chapter 3 into chapter 1 and stuff the exposition in Chapters 1 & 2 into flashback form.

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