Field Notes

NaNoWriMo / Language is a Virus

Words count. That isn’t meant as a philosophical statement, at least not in this particular post. That is the heart of National Novel Writing Month, known as NaNoWriMo. 50,000 words count, to be more precise: that’s the goal for the month.  As the title might give away, the idea is to write a 50k-word novel in the month of November. People do this. My writing partner, Dot, has done it every year since forever and has completed the task within the 30 days! She’s back at it again this year, for what will likely be the sixth year in a row she writes a book from scratch in November.

I tried it once about six years ago.  Lasted about a week before I realized the insanity of the proposition. I felt like the person who decides to walk from Miami to Seattle only to get to the Everglades and start hitch-hiking a ride back home. Then I suffered temporary amnesia and tried it a second time a few years later. I don’t even think I made it out of the city limits that time. So why am I trying it yet again? Did I not learn my lesson? I thought I had.

And then one of my best friends from junior high, my friend who has encouraged me at every step of the way with every academic, writing, or personal goal I’ve ever had since I was a newly minted teenager, tells me she’s discovered this crazy project where people write a novel in a month…And she’s going to do it! She’s going to get back into writing and enter into December as a novelist. And, of course, I’m going to do it, too, right? Right. Let me go get my walking shoes.

The difference for me this year is that I’m not attempting to write a novel. I’m what’s officially considered a NaNoWriMo Rebel, someone who is writing 50k shiny new words outside of the fictional novel format. Some rebels are working on creative non-fiction books, others on their dissertations. I’m considering myself a NaNoWriMo Wanderer. Thus far, I’ve written a blog entry, the starts of three essays, the beginning framework for a Scrivener How To series, and more than a few false starts that might not ever go anywhere other than toward my word count. I fire up my working Scrivener file and start writing whatever comes up until it peters out and then move on to another piece. And as we get to the end of week one, I understand just how difficult it is to average almost 1,700 words a day when one is not working towards a specific plot, character development, storyline. I’ve also been sick with my annual fall bug this first week of NaNoWriMo, making it particularly difficult to get into a good writing groove.

Days like today, where my brain goes ________ as soon as my fingers hit the keyboard, I am incredibly grateful for the website, Language is a Virus. Not only because it is sporting a great photo of Gertrude Stein, Alice B. Toklas, and a very fuzzy dog, but because it loads immediately to a compelling writing prompt and a creative writing tool. If the prompt leaves you uninspired, refresh the page for another one. And, if that doesn’t suffice, it has links to a variety of other prompts, tools, essays, and other writerly resources.

Language is a Virus describes defines itself thusly: exists to cure writer’s block and inspire creativity. You can choose from a multitude of writing games, gizmos, generators, writing prompts and exercises, tips, experiments and manifestoes from infamous avante garde writers and how-to articles on fiction writing and poetry. – Lake”

I have to confess that I have no idea who Lake is but they’ve done a damn good job with the site. Yes, it’s a bit ad-heavy but since I’m not tipping Lake I know the funds for the site upkeep need to come from somewhere. I’m also not sure how often the site is updated but I haven’t worked my way through its entirety yet. Although the month is young and there are many thousands of words ahead of me so I’m sure I’ll get through a good bit of it by the time the calendar flips to December.  If you need some inspiration and a way into your writing day, try going to and responding the first prompt that loads.

And if you see a lone writer wandering the Everglades, please encourage her to keep going.

Write On,


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