The Power of Community

November is the month when writers from all over the world get overly excited for something called National Novel Writing Month, NaNoWriMo for friends. Why do I say “overly”? Because NaNoWriMo isn’t a writing contest with a publishing contract as a prize, nor a way to put your words in front of an audience — even if there is a high chance of getting in touch with other authors and possibly their readers.

NaNoWriMo it’s basically a challenge with yourself, a challenge to write 50000 words in a month.

And, as it happens in any challenge with yourself, you can cheat. You could start writing earlier than November the 1st. Or you could copy and paste the same word for 50000 times. Or you could use an older project already written and pass it off as something brand new. Nobody is going to check what you actually write, so it’s up to you to be honest.

And, believe it or not, I know tons of people putting sweat and blood in this challenge just for the sake of getting to the end and say “I did it”.

So what’s the point in doing this? Why in November and not during any other month of the year? Why using a platform built by someone else to challenge yourself, and not just set a goal and decide to work to reach it?

The answer is only one.

Community

What makes NaNoWriMo different from a simple challenge with yourself is the vast community revolving around it. I’m part of various writing groups, both in Italian and English, and their enthusiasm and support are both elating and absolutely essential for the challenge. There are two critical points to consider:

  1. Your goal is set publicly. Believe it or not, the fact of stating it and involve other people make it more likely for you to actually accomplish your goal (or at least part of it). Because what would the other writers think if you don’t even try?
  2. You have other people keeping you accountable. When you set a goal nobody knows about, you can always persuade yourself to lower your expectations, postpone the deadline, revise your initial estimation. With a public goal and other people watching you and pushing you through it, you can’t put into practice those well-known tricks you usually apply to procrastinate.

Besides these points, being part of a community can be a lot of fun. It took me some time to find writing groups where I feel supported and not merely judged, but now that I found them, I’m certainly not in a hurry to leave. Writing is a lonely endeavour, but knowing other people are alone in front of the blank page at the same time as you make you feel less lost.

Food for thought for non-writers

Even if you are not a writer and don’t care about NaNoWriMo, word counts and average typing speed, there’s something you may learn from this challenge anyway.

When you set out to reach a goal — being it reading one hundred books in a year or train for a half-marathon — the first thing to do is searching for a community that can support you and keep you accountable. If you don’t find one, create it! You can start a reading group — at your local library or on-line — or find other people interested in come jogging with you. I assure you the difference between being alone and have some buddies can be your personal gamechanger.

So what’s your goal? What do you need a community for? Have you ever tried something similar to NaNoWriMo? Tell me in the comments!


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