Illustration by Sophie Devaney
Imagine writing 50,000 words in just thirty days. To most people, this seems like an unthinkable and impossible quota to meet. However, for 200,000 writers around the world, including several Berkley High School (BHS) students, writing 50,000 words in thirty days is a challenge that they are eager to take on. November is the National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), which is why the annual writing project takes place every November. The process of writing 50,000 words in thirty days is no easy feat, explained Zoe Creane, a BHS sophomore. She attempted the challenge last year, but couldn’t keep up with its rigorous demands. “I wrote every day for about ten days, and I was only about a thousand words in,” she explained. Creane was extremely excited to participate in the project and share her writing, but “my school work prevented me from continuing on,” she said.
Another BHS student, freshman Chaya Haugland, participated last year in NaNoWriMo, and was successful with completing the challenge. Haugland shared that although she “cannot explain the pure joy and victory found on November 30 late at night” as she finished with 50,056 words, she gained satisfaction, pride, and a critical step in her path of self improvement. During last year’s NaNoWriMo, Haugland was struggling with some difficult issues regarding personal acceptance. She wrote a novel for the challenge, and as the month of writing progressed, Haugland ended up seeing herself in the story’s protagonist.
“I fell into this world of control just as my main character did, wanting a firm hold on everything around me,” Haugland said. As Haugland continued to write her novel, she learned that control was not what she needed and this “was a big step in my recovery.”
NaNoWriMo is an extremely tough challenge requiring constant perseverance. “I wrote until midnight, I wrote in the car, I wrote in class on my phone under the desk while pretending to listen to the teacher … I wrote everywhere and every time I possibly could,” said Haugland.
The unique aspect of the challenge also requires the ability to accept imperfection. Both Haugland and Creane explained that they loathed most of their writing, but this is simply part of the challenge, quantity over quality. “It is hard to forget about wanting to obtain perfection … but there just was not time to edit,” explained Creane.
Despite the challenges of the competition, the NaNoWriMo is highly recommended by its participants. “Even if you think you can’t … even if it seems like a ridiculous prospect, just putting your mind to something and making the attempt feels so good,” Haugland said.