Creative Collective & NaNoWriMo
Updated: Oct 12, 2022
As National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo or NaNo for short) draws nigh, I’d like to take a moment to talk about the Creative Collective.
What is a Creative Collective? My definition is a group of people who come together to create. The product of this creation can be achieved by the group or by individuals within the group, fueled by the hive mind.
Writing seems like such a solitary endeavor. We can all imagine the lone individual sitting at a small table in a coffee shop, hunched over their laptop, earbuds in, fingers flying across the keyboard. Or perhaps they’re staring out the window, pensive, sharing internal dialogue with someone who doesn’t yet exist in our world, tapping a pen on a Moleskine journal. This image is the epitome of the writer, especially to non-writers.
I’m often asked, as the Municipal Liaison (ML) for my NaNo region, why we do “write-ins”. If you’re unfamiliar with the term write-in, it’s an event where writers show up at a place to sit together and write.
Weird, right? Wrong.
Counter-intuitive? Maybe a bit.
Many writers new to NaNo are skeptical. Some sit on the sidelines for a year or two (or more) before finally deciding to come to an in-person event. Some are active online but don’t take that step to a face-to-face. I know it’s hard. I’m an introvert. Most of the writers in my group, and those I’ve met online, are introverts. I understand the social anxiety that comes with going to that first write-in. But, the truth is, I rarely have “one event only” WriMos after that first experience. Something clicks into place. The value of the Creative Collective is understood.
So, what is that value? If we are all working on different projects, how does sitting around together benefit anyone?
First of all, there’s something to be said for a room (or even table) full of people creating. The energy is different. It’s inspiring. It’s motivating. It’s exciting. That energy spills over to others. A little bit of healthy competition never hurt anyone. In my region, we have word wars (similar to word sprints). There’s an energy that comes from battling against someone for the highest word count in 10-15 minutes that can’t be recreated alone.
Have you ever been sitting somewhere writing and had a question come up that you wanted to ask of someone who understood? Maybe not even someone who understands the subject matter you’re talking about, but someone who understands writing. Those things that you can’t ask a random person or even close non-writer friend.
Is this a creative enough way to kill this character?
What’s the difference in shifters and weres?
Does this dialogue sound natural?
During this sex scene does it make sense for that limb to go there while this is happening?
Writers are some of the most accessible and least judgemental people I have ever met. We understand that these things exist in our fictional world and can separate the writing from the writer. Just because someone wants to talk out creative methods of torture, doesn’t mean that person actually has a torture chamber in their basement. This judgment-free zone makes it easy to discuss these unique situations and problems at a write-in. Another win for the Creative Collective.
In the same vein, two heads are always better than one. Writer’s block is real. Sometimes the long shower or walk around the park or week off from the manuscript can’t break down the wall. Sometimes what the writer needs is another writer present to bounce around ideas. The other writer may be able to see the plot from a different angle or throw out new plot twists. Whether you use that writer’s idea or not, hearing solutions that you’ve never considered has the ability to get your wheels turning and take a sledgehammer to that wall.
I’ve been lucky to witness the Creative Collective in more than writing. I’m a musician by trade. I teach music in an elementary school serving 3-year-olds to 5th graders. I’ve seen what students can create when they get together, but I’ve also been a part of it. This year, I’ve been attending classes on new state music standards. In the first two classes, we’ve split into small groups and been given directives, as students might be, to complete projects. Both times it’s involved creating. The first class, I was in a group of three, and we had to use instruments only to tell a story about an image. The second class, I was in a group of four. Again we were given an image, but this time we had to create a jingle to promote the business of the character on the card. In less than 15 minutes, my group of four wrote a cohesive song complete with a beginning, middle, and end, not only with lyrics but with piano and auxiliary percussion. We created a story, a background, a life for this character based on a SINGLE image, wrote a fairly complex song with rhyming lyrics, and performed it in 15 minutes. I may be biased, but it was quite good. I’ve been told our character needs a TV show and was offered help to record it.
This project would have been a daunting solo task and the quality would not have been as great alone. The most remarkable part was hearing the other groups perform their jingles. Each had their strengths and quirks, and if the groups had been jumbled, the outcomes would’ve been completely different, because each person brought something unique to the table. We had a piano, another group had a ukulele, another used a xylophone. This is the Creative Collective at work.
It’s not so different in writing. The support and accountability alone make it worth it, but the sheer brainpower in a meeting of the minds like this is astounding. Of course, write-ins come with a healthy amount of procrastination and chatter about writing, but sometimes that’s exactly what we need. The camaraderie. The knowledge that we aren’t in it alone. Then, when those questions arise, when those plot holes open, or that writer’s block clamps down, the Creative Collective is there.
I encourage all writers (and all artsy folk at that), whether you do NaNoWriMo or not, to find a trusted group of fellow writers and creatives. Online is great. I love the Twitter writing community, but having a real-life group of like-minded, creative, individuals who understand what it means to be a writer is invaluable. I met most of my writer friends through NaNoWriMo and a few others at Cons. I don’t know what I’d do without my group, and this is coming from an introvert.
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