To NaNoWriMo, or not to NaNoWriMo?

The colorful boughs of crisp October have given way to the barren limbs and cold grey skies of November. Do you know what that means? Not the quickly encroaching holiday season! It means that NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) is upon us! And, according to what’s trending on social media, over 300,000 authors and aspiring authors are participating in the challenge to write a new novel this November! That’s quite the influx of new books, should even a fraction of these participants be successful in this literary endeavor and get it published.

Over the years, I’ve seen the NaNoWriMo crowd of writers get wildly jazzed about November, and I must say that the excitement has been contagious. I’ve often toyed with the idea of participating in NaNoWriMo, but then I get realistic with myself. I say, “Nick, you know that if we’re talking about a deadline and daily word goals, you’re going to do everything in your power to procrastinate, put it off, and eventually justify why you gave up.”

Clark's Turning Leaf by Nicholas Trandahl (published by Swyers Publishing in January 2014)

Clark’s Turning Leaf by Nicholas Trandahl (published by Swyers Publishing in January 2014)

Don’t get me wrong! I write … a lot. It’s a VERY achievable goal, writing a novel in a month with even a couple thousands words a day! The first draft of my most successful novel, a literary fiction book of contemporary drama called Clark’s Turning Leaf, was written completely in only three weeks! I’m not saying that writing a novel in less than month is easy. You’ve got to be wildly inspired to do it, almost possessed by the need to write. I was! And with 100% 5-star reviews on Amazon and the novel selling regularly each month, I think I turned out a decent literary product in a very short space of time. Check Clark’s Turning Leaf out for yourself here.

But the NaNoWriMo dilemma for me personally is that I would have that deadline that I’d have to reach or I’d consider myself a failure. I write very strictly on my own terms. And I usually write only when I’m inspired. In fact, I avoid writing uninspired pretty much all the time. I can tell when an author has written uninspired, and I can certainly tell when my own prose in uninspired. And I doubt that the entire month of November, I’d be inspired enough to write the way I need to write to be satisfied with myself.

Well, this October was no different. I saw writers on Twitter and Facebook getting all prepped for NaNoWriMo, getting their literary ducks in a row, and I again toyed with the idea of joining their enthusiastic ranks. I’ve recently returned from a honeymoon in Martha’s Vineyard in October, and have a journal loaded with details of the trip that I thought worthy of using as inspiration for a novel. In fact, during the honeymoon throughout the middle of October I was dead set on writing a contemporary fiction novel set in the Vineyard in the autumn. I was ready for NaNoWriMo.

Or so I thought. I blame poets for the dashing of that brief aspiration.

During the honeymoon, I purchased a hardcover copy of Mary Oliver’s most recent poetry collection, Felicity. Within two days I had bought and read a total of three of her poetry collections. I began my writing career as a poet in an anthology and have held a deep appreciation and fondness for poetry since I was a child. I published my debut collection of poetry in 2013, Lost Yellow, a collection I wrote when I was a soldier in the U.S. Army to help deal with my own stress and depression. But after Clark’s Turning Leaf and An Uncomfortable Life, literary fiction novels that were both published in 2014, my attentions strayed from poetry to writing fiction. My short story collection Cocktails & Other Stories followed this year.

But then very recently, ten new poems of mine were included in a poetry anthology that releases later this month. And then with my discovery of Mary Oliver and the contemporary romantic poetry of Jessica Kristie (visit her website), the poetry bug had very firmly reattached itself to my heart. I also just finished the final draft of a new short story.

So that brings us to the present, to the beginning of NaNoWriMo. And I’ve pretty much lost my aspiration to write a novel in the near future. I’ve got too much poetry to write and too many short stories that need telling. So this November, I’ll just sit back at my desk and watch all you NaNoWriMo participants engaged in that frenzied game of writing your novels in a single month. I’ll root for you, favorite your tweets, and retweet several of them. But that’s as far as I’ll presently dip my toe into the jovial literary chaos that is National Novel Writing Month.

Best of luck to all of you with your writings!

P.S., Those Martha’s Vineyard experiences of mine from this October are still going to be used. They may just reveal themselves in poems and short stories. Maybe a novella. We shall see. Stay tuned!

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