Wheaton nerds rejoiced last Thursday night, Sept. 18, when Chris Baty, founder of NaNoWriMo — National Novel Writing Month — gave a guest lecture in Hindle Auditorium.
In the month of November, ambitious writers from all over the world attempt to write a 50,000-word novel in thirty days – certainly no easy feat. This year marks the 15th anniversary of the first NaNo- WriMo, but today, it is a different species from what it was then: a group of Baty’s friends (including our own Rolf Nelson, professor of psychology) gathered in a San Francisco cafe in July 1999. Then, six people completed the challenge. Today, hundreds of thousands of participants take part every year, with a total of 3 billion words written last year (even more expected this year), eight New York Times bestsellers, and one movie adaptation (Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen, starring Robert Pattinson and Reese Witherspoon – so not just some low-key, amateur film, but a full, award-winning movie).
What made Baty’s creative movement such a success? This was the driving force behind the lecture he gave that evening: “How to Start Your Own Creative Revolution (In Ten Easy Steps).” The steps he listed included: 1) It’s okay to have a lack of any useful experience in the thing you’re doing (he himself was an Anthropology major with no experience in creative writing); 2) If you’re not sure what movement to start, look for not what’s missing from the world, but what’s missing from your life; 3) Start small (the human imagination, he says, is a powerful thing, but left to its own devices, it will sit on the couch with Doritos and Netflix); 4) If you do have some money, investing in design is worth it; 5) Accidentally give it a good name (he recalls declaring it “National Novel Writing Month” in an email to his friends without much thought, and the name obviously stuck); 6) Don’t be afraid to make rules; 7) Don’t let the haters get you down; 8) Keep doing the thing when running the thing (Baty will have 15 drafts of novels after this year); 9) Remind people that they are awesome; and 10) Start now.
As for his impression of Wheaton, he was duly impressed by the energy on campus and, of course, Cowduck. To participate in NaNoWriMo, one must register on its website in order to keep track of the word count and receive pep talks from famous writers, your name on the website when you have written the 50,000 words, and, of course, the PDF winner’s certificate you have to fill out yourself. So to those in the Wheaton community who are crazy enough — er, dedicated enough — to participate this year, best of luck.
Categories: Arts and Culture