NaNoWriMo wouldn’t be what it is without community. Writing is neat, but writing together is better. Here are some stories from around the community, a slice of life kaleidoscope of the people that engage in NaNoWriMo:
“I participated in write-ins for the first time in the TEN YEARS I had been doing it and finally realized why I was never making that word count,” Cassia tells us. “Community and friends and playing silly games and doing word springs helped so much with my creativity and my motivation.”
Angela overcame other challenges: “I remember going to the kick off party for my first Nano event and being super nervous about meeting strangers off the internet and what if no one showed up or talked and [insert string of non-sense anxiety]. Then I arrived at the venue and met my fellow writers. It was the first time that I have ever felt a sense of community when writing. I have made some of my firmest friends and fondest memories from that first Nano event. Even 10 years later, that’s why I keep coming back, the welcoming and accepting community of fellow crazy people.”
Gabrielle Martin has a wonderful story about how NaNoWriMo (despite its name), crosses national boundaries. Their favorite memory: “Finding new friends in Taiwan. That group of people was so special and diverse – I really miss them now that I’m not in Taiwan anymore. I remember the first time I met them was at a write-in that one of them hosted in her home. She was an American who grew up in Africa and had been living in Taiwan for several years. I felt so comfortable in her house because it was such a perfect fusion of the three cultures. I didn’t feel like I had to change to fit into any one culture but could just be me.”
Lauren Wethers also shares a story about NaNoWriMo’s inclusivity: “I was 15, couldn’t drive, and didn’t have my own computer, so I begged my dad to let me borrow his laptop. A friend’s mom picked me up and drove the two of us to the Starbucks where we were meeting. We were the youngest ones there by far, but the other Wrimos were never condescending or unwelcoming.
“What stands out to me about finding the NaNoWriMo community as a teenager was realizing that authors were normal people. At the time, my mental picture of an author was some distant celebrity who wrote in a giant mansion and occasionally descended to sign books for the masses. (I clearly did not understand the realities of being a writer.) Twitter hadn’t really taken off yet and the only author blogs I knew about were the ones written by global superstars. Coming to write-ins – or, more accurately, borrowing my dad’s laptop and begging him to drive me to write-ins – helped me to see a different side of being an author. I didn’t have to be an impressive celebrity or live in a major city. I could just be me. All I had to do was write.”
Always remember: NaNoWriMo is for everyone. All you have to do is write, whether it’s with pen and paper, a laptop, a cobweb-y typewriter in your aging Victorian mansion, or—like Emmett Dupont and many other participants—using dictation software: “As a severely dyslexic kid, I always had stories running around my head but no way of getting them down on paper because I was almost completely illiterate. I started using dictation software around 2009, but firmly believed that because I was writing differently, I wasn’t really writing and therefore shouldn’t participate in creative writing projects.
“I found a community of other writers who also used dictation software on the NaNa forums in early 2010, and decided to participate that year even though I still didn’t consider myself to be a “real writer.”
“My favorite NaNo memory was reaching 50,000 that first year, watching that celebration graphic slowly pop up; “congratulations, writer!” I truly believe without the inspiration and confidence I gained from NaNoWriMo, I never would have applied to college, and now, I am a first generation college student with a degree in public health teaching high school, and I am lucky enough to be leading a writing circle of seven high school students who will all be participating in NaNoWriMo for the first time this year.”
And then there are people like Sujin Headrick, who founded Wikiwrimo, an extensive database of NaNoWriMo’s lingo, inside jokes, memes, and whatever else people might want to know about.
But even then, Sujin remind us: “It’s definitely about the people.”
And it really is.
When I first sent out the call for interviews, I didn’t know how many people would respond. I hoped that it would be enough people for a few blog posts… Instead, we received over 1000 replies in the space of a couple weeks.
Seeing how much people care about NaNoWriMo, seeing how many people were eager to share not only the stories that they’re writing, but the stories that they’ve lived through was incredibly moving. So to everyone that submitted, a sincere thank you from everyone at NaNo HQ. It was a reminder of why we do what we do, and my only regret is that I couldn’t feature everyone that I talked to, let alone everyone that submitted.
As I think about the NaNoWriMo community, about all the energy and creativity that people pour into this ridiculous, wonderful program, as I think about the 20 years past, and the 20 years to come (and the 20 years more and the 20 years again after that), I keep circling back to Shakespeare. All I can say is:
“How beauteous Wrimos are! O brave new world,
that has such people in ’t!”