Tag Archives: fiction writing

Why I Hate NaNoWriMo


Here’s why I hate NaNoWriMo, personally and on principle. NaNoWriMo, by its structure, is designed to crush the spirit of any writer that isn’t a person of leisure or a professional writer. If you fall behind the 1,667-a-day word count AT ALL, there is no way to catch up, and if you are leading any kind of ordinary life you will fall behind.

National Novel Writing Month is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that runs a program in November intended to motivate writers to finish a 30,000 word novel through moving arrows, badges and buddies.
I am working 45 hours a week right now herding Ph.D. students and puzzling course schedules for an academic department at a big university, and when I get home I can handle spreading something on toast and going to bed, and NaNoWriMo can go fuck itself.
Last year even with an easy 30 hour a week job, and with a head start where I cheated and started a week early, I only made it 10 days and 11,533 words in before I fell so behind that the motivational bullseye arrows made it clear that if I didn’t call in sick for a week, my failure was assured.

Last year I was finally at a part-time job that left me with room to think, create, enjoy life and I had heard only good things about NaNoWriMo, so I dived in. First I fished around on Facebook for friends who had done NaNoWriMo before, might do it again and be my “Buddies,” which is a thing that has its own tab, so it looked inviting. I figured it would be good to connect with people I knew and cheer each other on. Some previous writing students popped up and the odd friend I didn’t even know was a writer and they all said the same things, like, “Oh, yeah, I started something last year (or the year before) and I got about 10,000 words. I should go back and do it again.” No explanations what made them quit and no specifics on starting again.

I bothered them, badgered them, and looked for them on NaNoWriMo, but none resurfaced. So I started alone.

It was a joyful beginning of unrestricted explosions of creativity. No pressure to be perfect, make sense, or know where it was going. My favorite starting point. And it was a fun world as it took form. A fun and new voice. At first it was so exciting trying to keep up with the goals and being rewarded for making it daily, even if I did know I started a little early and had a little cushion. But then I fell behind one day.

I was part-time working at the admission gate of The Lady Bird Wildflower Center in Austin, TX, and as a yoga teacher in a few classes, and as an assistant in a swing dance class. Not a ton of stuff really, no family, just a laid back single Austinite lifestyle. And I can’t see anything on my Google calendar that was out of the ordinary that week. I just remember that feeling the first day I fell behind. At first I thought I could catch up. Thought about when I could write more. How I could write more. And I tried. I wrote and I wrote. I loved the world, the words flowed easily. But no matter how much I wrote, there was no catching up with that damn bull’s-eye. You move ahead. It moves farther. I grew to hate it. Hate myself. And I soon realized it was over; I had failed. It quickly became obvious there was no reward for failure and there was no fuzzy line, no adaptability. If you didn’t keep up you might as well quit. There would be no more badges, no success for you.

I briefly thought about starting my own website, as one does when one sees a need and an injustice, a new altruistic website with a writing community and structured support and motivational program where writers would be rewarded, even when they don’t adhere to strict and single minded goals that only work for some, for a privileged few. A site where goals are adaptable and fit the user, and actually motivate and reward me and my friends and students to write and complete things, and even beyond that, to edit and publish things. There’s a big void that could be filled by a more forward and sideways thinking site.

Last year, I gave up disgusted, discouraged and angry that my students and friends had started to create amazing worlds I wanted to read, and had left the worlds 10,000 words in, disheartened. Some left writing altogether.

A year later, I’m still angry. And I still hate NaNoWriMo.

Susannah Raulino


Mood Swings – MFA program in Creative Writing/T minus 7 weeks

The gal at the food co-op attributed her mood swings this week to the weather. The lightning storm cleared out her bad mood, she said. Then I realized it had mine too. After being up in arms at everyone and everything that had seemed innocuous the week before, I had spent days in mental loops of arguments I would never have, and then was suddenly docile again after the storm. Or maybe it was my boss letting me buy window clings.

Then all the death notices started rolling in. Not anyone close to me, but pets and amazing people I peripherally knew who shouldn’t have died so young. New mood, wanting to cling to life, even let people get close to me. But at my first effort, I found everyone else in my life hadn’t had the same change of heart and that close feeling lasted five seconds and faded with distractions and ordinary conversation. Odd. How hard it is to change. Except for moods. Bless their hearts, they are always changing with the weather.


An adventure – MFA program/T minus 8 weeks

I have the good fortune of having a weird, sometimes wonderful, workplace at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. There are semi-secret caves, and the staff got a subterranean tour last week.

I have always hated close space, been very claustrophobic and never had a desire to go spelunking. So, of course I did.

2015.11 spelunking at WFC

And crawling around on my belly through mud and through tiny gaps in rock that make you certain they will be dropping the jaws of life down to pry you back out made me realize, there’s not much adventure in my life anymore.

As a kid, there was adventure all the time. We’d go out in the woods and create scary real and fictitious adventures. There’d be real human and kid drama. There’d be real and imagined personal danger. But this tiny cave exploration is as close I have gotten to being terrified in a long long time.

And I realized, all the sensations of adventure, of real life fear and new tactile and human interactions of closeness, of the dark and silence of absolute cave interior shared with a group. These are the kinds of things I need to have a WHOLE LOT MORE OF if I want to write about adventures.

If I want my writing out of its rut, I need to get my life out of its rut.

2015.11.me spelunking

Any suggestions? What do you consider a good adventure?