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Chris Baty's post-NaNo wrapup talk

Chris Baty sent out a post-NaNo email today. It's going on my wall, and I may take him seriously on sealing it and reading it on my first day at work. For posterity's sake and because the best part isn't NaNo-specific, here it is.

Dear Novelist,

Wow. We had a feeling this year's NaNo was going to be big. We just didn't realize it would be this big.

NaNoWriMo 2008 not only marked our largest turnout ever, we also had the highest percentage of winners we've seen since the year 2000, when I knew almost all 140 participants personally. Please drop by our blog and help us puzzle out the whys of this year's winning ways (or celebrate it with a Winner's shirt from our store!). Whatever magical forces were afoot this year, we collectively managed to write 1.6 billion words, demolishing last year's count by nearly 500,000,000 words.

With so much fiction produced, you might mistake National Novel Writing Month for a novel writing event. But we actually have a sneaky secondary mission that extends beyond books...and into your job.

(If you're still in school, please print this email out, seal it in an envelope, and read it on your first day at work.)

Okay. Jobs. Having a job is one of the greatest, trickiest things you can do as an adult. Employment brings perks like challenges and growth and (sometimes) money. But the longer you work at a job, the easier it is to confuse what you are doing with what you can do.

This is true whether you're a dental hygienist, a stay-at-home parent, or Sirkka-Liisa Anttila, the Forestry Minister of Finland. Because careers tend to be all about specialization. Human beings, on the other hand, contain multitudes. Each of us has a wealth of talents spread broadly over domains both marketable and deliciously impractical. The tricky part is that we tend to develop the former at the expense of the latter. Passions become hobbies. Hobbies become something we swear we'll get back to when we have more time. Or when the kids are grown. Or when the stock market recovers.

Which means we leave unexplored many of those paths that ultimately make us feel most alive—the moments of creating, building, playing, and doing that lead to extraordinary and unexpected things.

Like writing a book.

Or, more loosely, postponing the must-dos of the real world to spend 30 days exploring an attractive, improbable dream.

Giving ourselves that time is so important. Because the world can wait. It's what the world does best, in fact. It was hanging out for 4.5 billion years before we arrived, and it'll be waiting around for another few billion after we're gone.

Our dreams, however, have much shorter shelf-lives.

If there's one thing I've learned from running NaNoWriMo, it's this: Whatever you think you are, you are more than that. You possess a fearsome array of skills and abilities, and the most satisfying of these may be completely unknown to you now. Your curiosity is a dependable guide; follow it. Put yourself in unfamiliar places. Kindle passions. Savor the raw joy of making things, and then remake the best of those things until they take someone's breath away. Wrestle bears.

Actually, skip the bear-wrestling.

But do keep trying big things, okay? Sometimes we can wait so long for a clear sign that it's time to begin, that the opportunity sails right past us.

Life is so short. Adventures beckon. Let's get packed and head out on a new one today.

I think it's time.

Chris
NaNoWriMo

Comments

( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
fountainpenn86
Dec. 15th, 2008 04:50 pm (UTC)
I really liked his prep talk, too. I'm glad I'm not the only one that wants to print it out and hang it up.
( 1 comment — Leave a comment )