Writing is often a solitary pursuit. After all, usually you’re the only one working on your book! Even though writing is a solo venture, that doesn’t mean it has to be a lonely venture.
Last year was the tenth year I signed up for National Novel Writing Month, but the first time I really embraced the community aspects of the challenge. As an assistant to the Municipal Liaison (our region leader), I ran the majority of the social media, offering encouragement and congratulations to participants using our #NaNOrlando hashtag. I also attended more write-ins than I ever had before. By the end of the month—after going to my usual weekly write-ins, write-ins at Writer’s Atelier, leading a write-in at Universal, and joining the NaNo Orlando group for the annual Write Around the (Disney) World event—I finally felt like I was part of a local writing community.
Since quitting my job in 2014 I have struggled with loneliness. I hadn’t realized how much I depended on the social nature of working in an office. Because I needed social interaction, but also needed to write, NaNoWriMo write-ins were the perfect place for me to fulfill both needs. Just like being at work, during a write-in writers work on their own projects and then take short breaks to socialize. At an event like Write Around the (Disney) World, most of those breaks came in the form of transportation between writing locations. Last year we started in Disney Springs and then took the boat to Port Orleans Riverside. We chatted on the boat and as we walked to our destination, and then everyone sat down and got to work. Similarly we chatted on the bus and monorail when traveling to our next two stops of the day. Between each round of traveling and chatting, we got to work, writing for about an hour at each stop. I got so much writing done, and I ended the day by knowing more writers in the Orlando area.
Since then, I’ve made attending local writing events a priority, and have felt more confident branching out and going to events outside of my comfort zone. It’s gotten easier the more I’ve thought about writers as colleagues. Colleagues understand the troubles you’re going through in your work life, can offer advice, and can learn from your experiences. Having a local writing community reminded me that while I might be in a career geared to solitary work, I’m not working in solitude.
NaNoWriMo is a month full of writing challenges and writing lessons. I’m a better writer for having participated in NaNo because it allowed me to learn things about my writing life and process I may not have discovered without the pressure. NaNo has also helped introduce me to the rich and wonderful community of local writers, and it has helped me get more involved. This is my first year working as a Municipal Liaison with NaNoWriMo, and I’m excited to get out there to help motivate writers to write. If you’re a writer, consider signing up for the challenge, even if you don’t finish the 50,000 words, you still might learn something about yourself.