Camp NaNoWriMo: or Why I Abandoned My Word Count

Camp NaNoWriMo

Camp NaNoWriMo has officially started! Camp NanNo is the counterpart to National Novel Writing Month in November, when writers buckle down and write 50,000 words in one month. (Yes, we’re sane. Mostly.) NaNoWriMo has birthed works such as Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell and The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. It has also birthed thousands-upon-thousands of half-finished manuscripts, a couple of mine included.

During Camp NaNoWriMo in April and July, writers get to choose their own word count goals. So for those who attempt NaNo year after year yet can’t manage to reach 50k (like me!), a smaller, more attainable goal would be a great idea, right? Well, that depends.

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
“I was very skeptical about NaNoWriMo at first… That’s not writing, I thought, that’s just piling up words.
But then I thought about how wonderful it would be to have a pile of 50,000 words…”

I have participated in NaNoWriMo for the past three years. How many times have I completed my 50,000 word count? Exactly 0. (However, I have written just over 50k collectively. Does that mean I have a completed novel? Noooo, of course not.) I have also participated in Camp NanoWrimo and fared even more abysmally than normal.

So what’s the deal with unmet word count goals? Many people complete NaNo, so why can’t I and so many others? As an Achiever in the Clifton StrengthsFinder, I thrive off of goals–they’re my bread and butter–so it bothered me that I was unable to finish this particular goal, especially since it is such a huge life aspiration.

In researching, I found that the premise of NaNoWriMo–publicly announcing your intent to write 50k in a month–kind of shoots yourself in the foot. There’s an illuminating TED Talk about how “telling someone your goals makes them less likely to happen.” The problem occurs when you announce your intentions and your friends get excited and cheer you on. That good feeling from their social acknowledgement actually makes your motivation go down.

For me, a large part of it as that I’m not already in the habit of writing every day, so to go from a 0 daily word count goal to a 1,667 daily word count goal is daunting. When I’m focused on racking up words instead of reveling over a newly typed paragraph, I freak out because it’s only 50 words and I have what feels like a billion more to go. It’s the equivalent of a newbie runner registering for a marathon.

Writing is art. It requires a world of creativity and vulnerable soul-bearing. As Ernest Hemingway said, “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”

Which is why this April I’m abandoning my word count. Instead, I’m going to focus on building the habit of writing so that come November, I’m ready to sprint. I’ve even turned off my word count tracker on Scrivener! I want to rediscover writing as an art. I want to focus less on a statistical goal and more in the simple enjoyment of creating worlds from nothing.

What about you? Are you participating in Camp NaNoWriMo this April? Do you have problems with meeting your word count goals? Leave a comment and let me know!

Image cc Anthony Jauneaud
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3 thoughts on “Camp NaNoWriMo: or Why I Abandoned My Word Count

  1. I won’t be focusing on a word count goal either, since I’ll be editing and revising my novel this month. My goal is to get my story in shape by the end of this month!

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