Sara Wink, Purdue University Global Composition Faculty
I’ve written here before about the importance of educators who “walk the walk.” For all their recommendations to students to read and write more, educators should be doing that very thing themselves. It needn’t be a controversial best-seller or some stellar new research filled with jargon. The simple act of reading and writing every day can boost one’s productivity and skills as an educator. November presents a unique opportunity to stretch those writing skills to the max.
National Novel Writing Month is a non-profit organization that encourages writing and promotes the joy of writing and literature through resources for libraries and classroom (“About”, 2016) . One does not have to contribute anything to participate in the challenge; participants just aim to write a 50,000-word story in thirty days (“About”, 2016). It’s not surprising, then, that it’s often called “Thirty Days and Nights of Literary Abandon.”
I just love it, too. I first participated the fall after my daughter’s birth. I was teaching and tutoring for the Purdue University Global Writing Center, yet still managed to cross the 50K words finish line. It felt really good, like, “I just landed on the moon!” good.
I’ve done NaNoWriMo three other times since then, despite teaching and raising three small children. Fifty-thousand words in thirty days is no meager feat, especially when one’s arms are literally being pulled from the keyboard. Or, when one boy has diarrhea while his twin brother vomits, and all the while their big sister complains about a cold. Or, when the supper you cooked can’t be eaten because you were missing the proper type of cheese, which means the floor gets covered with it. Or, when a red car goes missing and the screaming won’t stop until you find it. No, not that red car, the RED car. THE REEEEED CAAAAAAAR!!! (For the louder one shrieks, the better one will apparently know which hue of red out of the two dozen red cars is the “right” red car.) Despite all that, I managed to crank out 800-1000 words in an hour twice a day, teach some students, and occasionally sleep.
I’m racing with a deadline. I have to manage my time to make sure this work gets done along with everything else. I’m scrambling with a rough draft. I’m trying to put together ideas that make sense.
Sounds rather like our students, doesn’t it?
Now granted, there’s no need for APA format or polished editing; NaNoWriMo is all about writing as much of a story arc as one can. But this kind of creative challenge stretches our insides and tests our work-life balance. It’s also something we can do with our students, and on that, find a great way to connect on this academic journey. Teachers and students alike enter the classroom with their own life expertise; NaNoWriMo encourages us all to take the same road on the same starting space of experience. It encourages camaraderie and the joy of sharing one’s own stories.
Even if you don’t think you can write 50,000 words in thirty days, join in the literary abandon, and celebrate the gift of the written word. You may surprise your students…and even yourself.
About. (2016). Retrieved from http://nanowrimo.org/about
Spread the word. (2016). Retrieved from http://nanowrimo.org/spread-the-word#webgraphics