Memoir Month: 50,000 Word Challenge

November, as you may be aware is National Novel Writing Month, an idea that has irritated me since I first heard about it. The notion that novels are written by doggedly churning out (crappy) prose to meet a prescribed word count–preposterous! It’s pretty much the polar opposite of what we do in an MFA program (revise, revise, revise).

So what brought me to the NaNoWriMo website today, wondering if memoir would count?

Rewind to July 2010. Each morning I woke up at 6:00 to write (still later than my writing practice while I was teaching: a year of 4:30 a.m.) I luxuriated in the full day ahead of me, writing for an hour, journalling or freewriting or whatever I chose to call it, trying to generate material and/or connect to my “authentic voice.” Only later would I begin on pieces destined to be sent to my teacher.

Since then, my schedule has slid later and later in the day, and it dawned on me today that at some point I’d discarded that writing practice. Every time I sit down to write, it’s something destined for either a blog entry or to be sent in my monthly MFA packet.

What if I got back into the habit of just writing and not worrying what it sounded like and if anyone would want to read it? What if I stopped censoring myself and just wrote whatever came out? I could keep it in one long file on my computer: a bunch of impotent words, headed nowhere.

NaNoWriMo is specifically fiction, and while I could join those masses and subvert the project to my own genre, I decided to just follow my own path. Besides, I didn’t feel like waiting until November. October has two distinct advantages: 1) It starts today. 2) It has an additional day.

My plan: 31 days, 50,000 words, or an average of 1612.9 words per day. I wrote 1685 today in less than an hour. They were whiny and petulant and flared into anger. They ranged from the writing task itself, to self-doubt, to feedback I resented, to scent memories: Chanel No. 5 that my mom used to wear, and when my dog smells best. I have to admit, I am already wondering if this project is a good idea. And then I go into my yoga training and think, trust the process.

So that’s my October challenge. Anyone want to join me? You can come up with your own word count, genre and rules that suit you. Go ahead, specify your personal challenge in a comment. Also, feel free to post writing prompts.


  1. What an inspiring idea! I’m in! I’m going to write about what it would be like to watch the Yankees-Tigers series, sitting between my dad and Nolan (which is pretty much been a fantasy for days now). Love you!!

  2. LOVE this idea!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *