Social novel writing and inclusion

This entry originally appeared on my disability blog, I hate stairs.

It’s well into December, almost Christmas actually, but I suppose that it’s never too late for a NaNoWriMo farewell post. Anyone who follows me on Twitter, Facebook, or this very site knows that for the entire month of November I was occupied running a marathon. Fifty thousand words in thirty days. For the second year in a row I did not officially win the event (which is to say that I did not get to 50,000 words by midnight November 30). But I certainly had fun and I made it much further along than I did during my first year in 2010. I also found that National Novel Writing Month is an unusually inclusive event.

NaNoWriMo is both an easy and hard thing to define. It’s an event. It’s a challenge. It’s a game. It’s work. It’s art. It’s paradoxically social and anti-social. The event takes place on the NaNoWriMo website and in the computers and notebooks of aspiring writers the world over. The latter is where the work gets done and the former is where everyone goes to talk about it. The site lets you keep a tally of your word count, chat with other Wrimos on the forums, and stay up to date with all things NaNo. It’s social novel writing. And it’s brilliant.

It’s also inclusive. Thanks to the concept of a “home region” on the NaNoWriMo forums, I was able to get in touch with folks in Mississippi who were participating in the event. A few of us got together in person just before the first of the month to talk about our ideas (and then several times throughout the month). It was the first meetup I had been to. It was interesting and fun meeting new people who had the same dorky goal as I did. Something occurred to me. At our table, there sat a lawyer, a high school student, a waitress, an architect, and a web designer. It was a diverse bunch indeed.

And that’s when I realized that I had stumbled upon something special. I had found an activity that was inherently inclusive. At a concert or sporting event I would need special seating and other accommodations. And many activities that I can do are passive. They involve watching and being entertained. But NaNoWriMo is active, and I can participate as well as anyone else can (except the ones who finish their novels; they are totally out of my league). I think it’s important for people with disabilities to have social activities that they can participate in, especially if they spend a lot of time confined at home. NaNoWriMo is a good one because one can talk to fellow writers on the website and one can step it up a notch and attend a local meetup. And a local meetup is usually a small group conversation over coffee, so no worrying about large crowds, weird access problems, and other obstacles people with disabilities run in to.

I didn’t get to the finish line this year, but I had fun and learned things that will help me get there next November. If you are looking for an inclusive, social activity be sure to check out NaNoWriMo. And if you can’t wait until next November, then check out other Office of Letters and Light events, including Script Frenzy, and Camp NaNoWriMo.

From a broader perspective, I see NaNoWriMo as yet another exhibit of evidence that creative pursuits are worth the time and effort and that they can be especially beneficial to people with disabilities. So to all my fellow creatives out there, keep doing what you love. And to all my fellow Wrimos, here’s to a wordy 2012.