✍️ Ya Ya, No No, NaNoWriMo?
Or, Should You Do NaNoWriMo in 2022?
Jenn Martin* will tell you: climbing to Mount Everest Base Camp is a thing. This isn’t climbing to the top of Everest mind you. Though, as she’s said, many people will just assume that you’ve done that, too. Others will look at it as going to the ski hill, but never leaving the chalet. (Hey, I was always more of an après-skier myself.)
But for many adventurers who maybe don’t want to learn technical climbing or spend the money going to the top, Everest Base Camp (EBC, in trekker lingo) is a bucket-list trip nonetheless.
Why do people do it? I mean, what’s the allure of almost climbing Everest? Is it simply an “Everest-light”? Or is it something more?
When my wife and I backpacked Africa for our honeymoon, we wanted to stretch every dollar so we could stay on the road for as long as possible. That meant a hard choice right from the start: splurge on a trek up Mount Kilimanjaro or through jungle to see the mountain gorillas? We chose the gorillas, but we did stop in Arusha, Tanzania – sort of the Base Camp of Kilimanjaro. At least the après-ski part of it.
Passing through Arusha and talking to people on their way there and on their way back did give us a taste for the experience. But Arusha is a train ride from Dar es Salaam as opposed to a two-week hike for EBC, so it’s obvious we are talking about vastly different experiences.
So I’d say yes, trekking to base camp is something more than an Everest-light.
As Jenn puts it:
“Saying you’ve stood at the foot of the world’s largest peak will never get old... I’m not exaggerating when I say it’s one of the top trips I’ve done.”
The Case for Going to NaNoWriMo Base Camp
Today is November 1, which many writers know to be the start of National Novel-Writing Month (NaNoWriMo, in trekker lingo). This event sees writers from all over the world (despite the name) compete to write a 50,000-word novel in 30 days. I’m not sure if it’s exactly the same in writers’ terms as climbing Mount Everest, but the parallels are clear. It is a long, gruelling climb that takes dedication, stamina, and maybe even some supplemental oxygen.
And I think you should do it.
To be clear, I’m not suggesting necessarily that you go all in and write a novel in 30 days (though if you choose to do that, I’m behind you all the way!). No, this is where the idea of a NaNoWriMo-light comes in. A trip to NaNoWriMo Base Camp, as it were.
Because here’s the thing. Although NaNoWriMo is a competition, it has a lot of benefits outside of the whole contest:
It gets you writing, and writing every day
It gets you focused on having fun with your writing
It can be a personal challenge with a personal goal (much as climbing a mountain can be)
You get to feel like you’re writing as part of a group
This last point is particularly intriguing. The official NaNoWriMo site lets you sign up and take advantage of programming including a Newbie’s Forum, a reference section, and the opportunity to join a writers’ group. All of this fosters camaraderie of course so we don’t feel like we are writing all by ourselves (even if we are writing all by ourselves...)
(The Case Against NaNoWriMo... and What Not to Do)
There is a case against NaNoWriMo. If you get too caught up in the competition part or if feel like you’re failing your own goals, that can be counter-productive. We don’t want that! The whole idea of writing with wild abandon is to build confidence as a writer and have fun doing it.
But there are things you can do to counteract the counter-productive:
Don’t feel you have to write a novel – you can write poetry or memoir or whatever you want to write
You don’t have to follow NaNoWriMo’s (albeit loose) rules – it doesn’t have to be 50,000 words or a completely new work or any other stipulation. Make your own rules!
You don’t have to submit – again, certainly submit if you want to, but if it feels like too much pressure or you want to spend the time exploring your writing instead of “giving your best” to win the competition, that’s absolutely fine too
Planning Your Trip to NaNoWriMoBC
That’s a lot of don’ts! So what should you do?
The serious NaNoWriMo climbers spend a lot of time preparing for their ascent including outlining their novel and setting a schedule. And well they should! Making it to the top of Everest – and back down again – takes a lot of serious planning. But the trip to Base Camp doesn’t require as much – and with NaNoWriMoBC, just about none at all.
It’s kind of simple, actually:
Commit to writing every day, even if you can only squeeze in five minutes on your phone while waiting in line at the grocery store (you know, instead of your Wordle or your Sudoku or your Candy Crush or whatever)
Get some work done on a project you have on the go or experiment with something completely new.
Take this opportunity to stretch yourself creatively and professionally. Feel free to experiment with your style and approach to writing. It may help to tell yourself that this writing “doesn’t count”, so you’re free to write whatever you like without taking it too seriously.
Know that anything you write this month makes you a success – you’re one or two or 17,000 steps closer than you were before
Celebrate those successes
Today is November 1, so start right this second without thinking about it at all. Just do some free writing and see where it takes you!
Personally, I’m going to start writing my next novel this month, even though I don’t know what it’s about or where I’ll end up. Exciting, right? I’ll keep you posted as I go.
See you at base camp, I hope. The first après-writing drink’s on me…
Key Takeaway: NaNoWriMo can be a cool experience, but if you don’t want to go hardcore, you can make your own rules and trek to NaNoWriMo Base Camp instead. Get motivated by the challenge and the camaraderie, and don’t get wrapped up in the competition if that will deflate you. Just enjoy the journey!
Let’s Get Started
Let me know how your own trek to NaNoWriMoBC goes in the comments below, or if you don’t want to be public about it, by dropping me a line here. I’m always happy to discuss the journey.
In the meantime, below is a video on trekking to EBC for some inspiration.
Keep writing with wild abandon!
*Read Jenn Martin’s whole post here.
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I appreciate this post but I’m not doing it this year. Why? Because just yesterday I finished the first draft of the novel I’ve been working on since sometime in March. I couldn’t start something new if I tried!
I had no idea that this month was celebrated in this way. Thanks for the inspiration!