I want to tell you a story.
It starts in a small Long Island town in 2007. It was late September. The fall chill hadn't fully taken over yet. The air was warm as my friend and I walked our cross country practice cool down in the streets around our school. We were freshman. We'd known each other since fifth grade, and stuck together as we navigated the grand landscape of our new high school. We were both writers, which is probably why she asked me, "Have you ever heard of NaNoWriMo?"
"NaNo- what?" I asked.
"NaNoWriMo," she said. "National Novel Writing Month. You're supposed to write a novel in a month! I think it's supposed to be 50,000 words. It happens in November."
Here's what I should have said (Read: Here's a normal person would have said): that's crazy, who would do that?, that sounds insane, how is that possible?, is that a real thing?, are you high?, but why?.
Here's what I actually said: "Let's do it!"
We made a plan to write a novel together. We plotted together, came up with characters, and planned how we would collaborate. We were excited. We were ready. But November came and went, and we didn't write a word.
Okay, that's not true. We wrote a lot of words. We wrote term papers, history reports, and homework assignments. We joined our school's creative writing club and stuffed notebooks filled with poems and short stories. We just didn't write our novel.
But the seed had been planted. We both new that National Novel Writing Month existed, and we both wanted to try it.
When summer came around I started looking it up again. In August I started to plot a story. In September I carried my first NaNoWriMo notebook to school every and filled it with character profiles. In October I outlined scenes on the bus to and from cross country meets, and in November 2008 I dove headfirst into my very first official NaNoWriMo adventure.
I've participated every year since then, and only missed the 50K mark once (it was 2011, and I was a freshman in college). This upcoming November I will take part in my tenth NaNoWriMo, and I am filled with the same storm of excitement I felt way back in 2007, on a side-street by my school, as my friend and I plotted out our first (failed) attempt.
NaNoWriMo has become so important to me. I look forward to it every year. I love the community, I love the rush, I love the sleep-deprivation that comes around week three when playing catch-up becomes a desperate necessity. In 2013, my sixth official year, I started a tradition of donating each October as part of my NaNo Prep. It means the world to me to give back to this cause that has been a constant presence in my life, that has grounded me, and that has kept me writing even when my depression and anxiety disorders plunged me into month-long hiatuses.
NaNoWriMo has kept me strong. It has given me the confidence to continue on with writing, and the drive achieve my long-lived dream to self-publish my work.
I've learned so much about writing through NaNo. I've learned the magic of messy first drafts and the importance of getting words on the page. I learned about the falsity of writer's block and how inspiration can be found in the darkest, seemingly-emptiest corners. I learned not to take myself, or my writing, too seriously and I learned that sometimes being silly and weird is just what your story needs to help push it along.
I am so incredibly grateful to my friend for mentioning it that one fateful day back in 2007. I wouldn't be the writer, or the person, I am today without her, or without NaNoWriMo.
NaNoWriMo is currently on a Road Trip, raising funds to update its website and to continue providing writers around the world with programs that promote and encourage creativity. If you are interested in supporting NaNo along this trip, visit https://store.nanowrimo.org/road-trip.