After today, there are only three days left of the competition.
I can see how many writers might be staring down the last stretch of days, looking at their mighty lump of words, no longer even sure what they wrote because they followed the advice to just keep going no matter how bad it was or how padded it had become. And maybe they are thinking, “What have I even done after all of these hours?” and more importantly, “Was it worth it?”
I don’t have an answer to either of those questions, but I can put it all into perspective to help you decide for yourself.
Every summer, all over the world, artists hit the beaches and enter sandcastle competitions. There isn’t a lot of money in sandcastle competitions and there certainly isn’t a lot of fame. And yet artists of greater caliber than I go out and create immense, impossible works of art out of nothing but sand and water.
Most competitions give the artists one day to prep their site, one-to-two days to create, and one day for competition. Most competitions allow people to come and gawk and take pictures while the artists work, so not only are they under pressure of a deadline and under the demands of trying to mold nature, but they are also being uploaded to blogs, Facebook, and Twitter at the speed of cell phone apps at every stage of their development. Imagine if 90,000 people were watching your every word being typed in real time. I would be mortified if people knew the many ways I regularly attempt to spell the word “definitely” before I hit spell check.
And after the competition is over these artists maybe have 30 days to hold onto their works of art… if the weather is kind. Then after 30 days their art is manually destroyed and turned back into regular non-magical sand.
If you knew that at closing on November 30th, no matter what, your NaNoWriMo work of art would be set on fire, would you still have done it?
Look. Like the sandcastle artists, we set out to create. Good writing, bad writing, or not enough writing, it doesn’t matter. We write because we love to write and we love the passionate, albeit fleeting, craziness that comes from excitement fueled creative sprints. Whether you “won” or not, whether you padded the last 10,000 words with in-text recipes, made up love songs, or pirate ninja zombie battles (because at 3am after 27 days of word pounding there are few things that sound like a better idea) or whether you made it to 20,000 words and decided that was enough, we are the masters of what we take away from this experience.
We didn’t start NaNoWriMo to win anything. There are no real prizes, no real accolades, and certainly no agents knocking down doors demanding to read our NaNoWriMo work of art. Think of the sandcastle artists. Their creations have a shelf life of 30 days, much like NaNoWriMo, and they never think “I shouldn’t do this because it won’t last. What’s the point if one storm could take it all away?”
They do it. They take our breath away. We write. We surprise ourselves with the power of our own tenacity and talent.
Harrison Hot Springs, British Columbia World Championship Sand Sculptures
Click on any picture to make it bigger. And trust me, you want to see some of these bigger, especially the last one.