No, that's not some nonsensical pseudo-language like pig latin (which I used to speak fluently, FYI)! It's a collection of abbreviations. NaNoWriMo, if you haven't heard of it (which is entirely forgiveable) is the shortened form of National Novel Writing Month, which takes place in November every year, and has done since 1999. Basically the crazy idea is that you sign up to write 50,000 words of prose, somewhere between the 1st and 30th of November. PoWriMo and Script Frenzy are derivitaves of this creative endeavor; PoWriMo being an informal offshoot that entails writing a poem every day, in I'm not sure what month. Script Frenzy has participants writing a 100-page screenplay or stage play in April.
By now I'm sure some of you are scratching your heads, asking yourselves "but what's the point?!" Well! Allow me to enlighten you: writing is hard. Writing well is even harder. So what happens when you stop worrying so much about writing well and you just, well, write?
In all seriousness, turning off your 'inner editor' (term from the genius behind NaNoWriMo, name of Chris Baty) and just letting your mind run wild over the page is both freeing and productive. There's no worry, no inhibitions, no self-censorship (at least if you're doing it right). What stops so many people from writing, whether it be poetry, prose, songs or even a recipe book, is that their writing isn't going to be "good enough". That it'll be boring. That they'll be driving another sharp pointy object into the corpse of the English language (interesting mental image, there). Chris Baty wrote a guide-book for NaNoWriMo called "No Plot? No Problem!" which I think, even if you don't plan on doing NaNo ever, you should pick up and read. In it, he says these wise words: "what you have spent the last thirty days creating amounts to a large, knotty wooden stump. It's a powerful, brute object, and it's absolutely amazing that you conjured such a dense mass out of thin air. But it's also likely too unwieldy at this point to take outside of the home. In the editing process, that stump will get whittled into a lithe, diabolical instrument that will eventually leave literary agents clutching their hearts in fear and wonder".
Another favourite saying of mine is "you can't edit a blank page"; sadly I can't remember where it's from. To me, this is what NaNoWriMo and other such writing exercises are about. Getting your words out. Spitting, hacking, dragging, throwing and sweating them onto that page so that you can see what they look like, taste them, feel them, now that they're free from the confines of your own niggling doubts and the chokehold of 'yeah I wrote a few good stories back in school, but I could never be published'.
Who are you to doubt yourself? Who are you to snuff out your own creative potential before even giving it a chance to see daylight?
Whether your passion is prose, poetry, songs, scripts, comics or films, there are annual events to help you shove a sock into the mouth of that little voice in your head which stops you from picking up the pen when you get inspired. There are people just like you, there to help you through the experience. Click here and scroll down, or Ctrl+F to "NaNoWriMo-style Events On the Horizon".
This year, I'm doing JulNoWriMo with a few friends. I haven't decided if I'll be writing something completely new or sitting down to work on the 50,000 words I wrote during NaNo '08. Either way, it's going to be a crazy, hard, exhilarating experience and I'm looking forward to it very much. If you're finding yourself lacking in inspiration, having doubts about your creative potential, or just need a challenge, I encourage you to join me. Write, draw, compose, whatever. Just get your fingers working and get out of your comfort zone. You might just surprise yourself.
If you need more inspiration, one of my favourite things to do is read books about writing by published authors. I own four:
The Rivan Codex by David Eddings
On Writing by Stephen King (which I have actually reviewed)
Why I Write by George Orwell
and of course
No Plot? No Problem! A Low-Stress, High-Velocity Guide to Writing a Novel in 30 Days by Chris Baty.
Remember, Terry Pratchett says, "The first draft is just you telling yourself the story". Even if you disagree with me, you can't disagree with Pratchett (too loudly)!