Writing is an inherently solitary pursuit. I’m sure that’s a revelation as Earth-shattering as “Water is wet,” “the Pope is a Catholic,” and “Obama/Boehner is wrong” [Delete as politically applicable]. Clearly, it’s no great secret that an activity that is spent primarily inside a world created in your own head is one that is by its very nature hermitical.
To me, one of the big attractions of writing during NaNoWriMo is that it shatters this solo paradigm. One quick look at the nanowrimo.org forums, or the trending topics on Twitter during November, or writing-focused Facebook groups or even blogs such as this one shows that all across the world there are a flurry of equally crazed people turning the world and voices swimming in their head into a tangible form, either as bits on screen or words on paper. I find that large quantities of caffeine are an essential lubricant for this process.
The other big thing, for me at least, is the prospect of write-ins. While having a nice writing space to oneself is a blessing during November, and I love my writing nook as pictured below, it’s still just a space where I write by myself.
My writing nook, affectionately known as "The Bookcave"
The glory of write-ins though, is that I get to meet people who are just as insane as myself, people who have looked at the idea of banging out 50,000 words in 30 days and thought “Yes, I want to do that.” The best thing about that for me is that write-ins create a symbiotic relationship between all the various authors there, even if no words are spoken, the act of writing (for me) encourages others to write. It also allows for fresh voices, and fresh eyes to look at what I’ve written and tell me how awesome my deathless prose is (I know they’re lying, but man if it doesn’t feel good to get that validation). You can also use other writers as a sounding board to bounce ideas off of, whether plot related or regarding what name this minor character should have. He might have just been “obstinate doorman” in the outline, but now, thanks to a timely suggestion from a fellow WriMo, he’s become Jeff Paglieri, and he’s now making cameos as a minor character in three of this year’s Nano entries.
There’s also the competitive element of word wars and sprints. I’m generally not the fastest or most productive of writers, but I am insanely competitive, so if it’s a race to be the first to bang out 500 words, I’m going to take part and type until my keyboard smokes to try and win (I seldom do), or if we have fifteen minutes to knock out as many words as possible, I’m going to do my best to make sure one entire scene or chapter is finished in that time. I can always edit later…
In fact, so addictive did I find that collaborative energy that several of us that participated in NaNoWriMo 2012 in my local area (RVA represent!) that we’ve tried to meet at least once a month ever since to keep that going. It’s almost a gateway drug to creative energy. Even if it occasionally goes off the rails or devolves into discussions on who we would cast in our stories, or, for some unfathomable reason, which of the Winchester brothers on Supernatural is hotter. (Since I’m sure you’re dying to know, I have ended up on Team Dean during that debate.)
The other thing about write-ins is that they are usually in public places such as coffee shops, libraries or book stores. I’m an inveterate people watcher, so seeing the members of the public who haven’t turned into soulless dead-eyed husks staring at their laptop screens whilst consuming enough coffee to flood the Sahara go about their business is a singular joy. I like to make up a tale for each person, and those tales sometimes sneak into my works as sub-plots.
That’s my take, what do you do to relieve yourself from the occasionally lonely existence of the writer?