The idea began a couple of decades ago in San Francisco and spread to become an international jamboree, so in truth the hashtag should really be #InNoWriMo – it's not exactly 'national' any more. And it's bound to be a great idea for some. Not for me, though.
My problems with #NaNoWriMo are all to do with its artificiality. Why I am I forced to write in November? What if I don't have any plot ready to use on 1st November? If I do, does that mean I've cheated by preparing beforehand? If I write 50,000 words and my novel's not finished, have I completed the task? Most important of all, what if I feel I've finished my novel and, like George Orwell with Animal Farm, F. Scott Fitzgerald with The Great Gatsby, Ray Bradbury with Farenheit 451 or, more recently, Ian McEwan with On Chesil Beach, it hasn't reached 50K? Failed? Really?
I'm all for letting writers set themselves goals, the discipline is great. I try to make a point of writing something each week –a short story, a piece of flash fiction, perhaps a poem or song lyrics. Maybe I try to brush up the completed crime novel that's sitting just waiting for me to send it on its way into the world. But the first requirement of writing a good novel is that the writer must have a story to tell. That doesn't necessarily present itself on the 31st October, certainly not for me.
Writing should never feel like you're on a treadmill, obliged to be completed for the sake of doing so. If it's a struggle for you to write something, it'll be even more of a struggle to read it.
So good luck to all of you undertaking #NaNoWriMo 2019, and see you on the 1st December. I'll be on the golf course, or reading a newspaper or someone else's book, or perhaps even watching His Dark Materials on the television.
When, not if, some great idea comes into my head (which happens surprisingly often on the golf course), I'll do some writing.