If you read the title and came here from twitter you may actually know what this post is going to be about, but I shall explain anyway.
@NaNoWriMo posed the question - What does NaNoWriMo mean to you? - with the hash tag #WhatNaNoMeansToMe.
NaNoWriMo means something different to everyone, but when it came time for me to answer the question I couldn't find a short enough answer. It has meant so many things to me over the years. Even now, it means more than just one thing to me.
We'll have to go back, way back, for you to understand exactly what NaNo means to me. I hope you don't mind a back story in this case. And I'm sorry about the length of this post as well.
What NaNoWriMo Means to Me - Before NaNo
When I was a teenager all I did was write. I would glue myself to the computer and typed up stories. My parents were very encouraging of this hobby, but they also wanted me to be realistic about my dreams. Writing was great and I should definitely do that, but maybe move towards journalism or at least, get a good education and a good job just in case.
I wrote my way through high school and when I wasn't writing, I was reading. I mean, I was a pure academic taking all the science, law geography, English and math, but I always found the time to write.
College came and crushed me after that. I stopped writing. I never even realized it. I was so wrapped up in essays and studying that I just didn't write. I was doing what my parents had told me I had to do, I was looking for a real career. Something to support me for the rest of my life. And I failed.
I ended up just working and growing more and more despondent. Who was I? What was I going to do with my life? Why was it all so hard? Although I had enjoyed my job to begin with it was slowly sucking the life out of me. I needed to do something, anything to change things up. So, after much thought, I decided to follow my best friend to Alberta.
I didn't start writing again, not right away. I still had a lot of things to figure out. I still had no idea what I wanted to do with my life, but at least I had changed something and that was a huge move. It was a good move because it allowed me to grow.
I moved to Alberta in 2006, but I didn't start NaNo until 2008.
On October 28 2008, after much encouragement from a writing forum I was a member of at the time. I finally decided to stop just thinking about writing again and just write something. I had been dabbling a little before that, but mostly I talked about and I never really did it.
What NaNoWriMo Means to Me - Years of NaNo
NaNo 2008 really opened my eyes. For me this was the year that I remembered what I loved to do the most. I didn't just love thinking about stories and planning. I loved to write. I missed writing. It was like finding myself all over again. How could I have ever stopped writing? I hadn't stopped reading, so why stop writing?
There is nothing so incredible as finding yourself in something you love. It didn't matter if I was good or bad at writing. I never even finished that novel although I did get my 50K. It was a truly new beginning for me. I finally knew what I wanted to do and I cursed myself for those wasted years.
NaNo in 2008 meant life to me. It meant healing. It meant a brand new beginning and rediscovering my first true love in life.
NaNo 2009 was the year I discovered the forums and the social aspect of NaNoWriMo. Once again I passed the 50K mark, but the novel was unfinished. I wanted to write something funny, but I ended up with some hard science fiction instead! I like to humour myself in thinking that my writing had improved this year.
In 2009, I was still discovering myself as a writer. It was all about expanding my horizons and learning. NaNoWriMo was the best deadline I had ever faced. Learning was definitely what it was all about this year.
2010 was a crazy year. Those who know my NaNo history may know this as the year I wrote a full length novel in under 30 days. About 120K words by November 28th when I decided I was done writing. I had hit 'The End'.
I came to realize and not just dream that maybe I really could be a writer. What I had written in a month was decent. It had some good bones and a few great lines. I was starting to reach out more in the social aspect and I got to grow as a writer. NaNoWriMo was fun to me, it was a great way to meet other writers. I may have been entertaining thoughts of becoming a so-called serious writer, but for me this year was really about the core truth of NaNoWriMo - which surprisingly isn't really the writing itself.
It doesn't matter if you write 500 words or 400K words in the month. NaNoWriMo is about pushing your limits, opening up your horizons and, most importantly, having fun while you do it. It's about the fun kind of scary and the delightful deadline. What you write or how much you write doesn't really matter.
2011 was just me settling into the truth of NaNoWriMo. It was my chance to try something new and revel in the social aspect. 2011 was the late nights, gallons of tea and just letting myself "run whooping through the valleys of my imagination". (Yeah, I have that NaNo sticker on my laptop!)
2012, this year is closer to a 2010 year for me without the dreams of grandeur. Now, it's all about the writing for me, the meeting of other writers. I've relaxed into NaNo and I ask nothing of it other than to just be. NaNo is my home now. It is the place where the magic happens and guilt monkeys live. They are the keeper of inner editor and an unreasonable amount of amazing people all gathered in a single place.
And that is what NaNoWriMo means to me. All of that and so much more.