Now this is coming from a (mostly) grown adult who has come to terms that big dreams often come with big price tags. Currently I'm not willing to sacrifice my house for the sake of writing - maybe that makes my skin burn upon entering bohemian cafes like a vampire in church - but that doesn't mean that all my dreams are dead (yet). Still, I consider myself to be one of the lucky ones. I see children everyday who are running themselves thin striving to do everything right. No one under the age of 10 should have crippling anxiety over school. I see teenagers who are so convinced that dreams are for "other people" because they "aren't good at anything and never will be". And speaking as a child who felt alone and voiceless, I know important it is to find that one thing that is yours.
It was only an average day. It was only an average assignment. And yet, for the first time in so many years the bullies I grew up with acknowledged something that I was good at - and for some reason they didn't use it against me. I wrote a story. Hardly three pages and definitely in need of better research, but at 13 years of age I realized that I had something that was mine.
I may make mention of my own self-confidence issues from time to time, but what I have to work with now is far different from what I had back then. Compared to the preteen me, I am Wonder Woman! That spark I attribute to the one I found within myself that day. It wasn't one born from nothing. I had always been telling stories. That day was simply the moment I realized that what I could do was powerful. I became far less shy about announcing that I wrote. And I wrote everything. I did poems, songs, plays, novels. Most of these amounted to pretty much nothing and I'd hunt down anyone who read it now because it's awful, but the point is that during a time when I was most vulnerable, I began to find myself again and take back the power that I had given away. I wish I could say that I did this all overnight. The truth of the matter is that it is a work in progress, and probably will be for the rest of my life.
So what does this have to do with NaNoWriMo?
It has to do with the fact that somewhere out there is at least one more young person giving up who they are and what makes them happy because it's easier to be invisible than to be mocked. Not every life will change because of a story, but someone's will, and that's reason enough. I donate to the NaNoWriMo program so that they can find these lost storytellers and help them shine. Someone's life can change because they feel the spotlight on them for something amazing, and more than that, for what it will mean to them when they realize that it wasn't the spotlight being pointed at them, it was only ever a mirror, reflecting back the light they'd forgotten about.
Stories helped me get back on my feet - at least confidence wise. Then life got real, it got busy, and writing was essays and terms papers and university exams. That's when NaNoWriMo came into my life. My friends were doing it and so peer-pressure took its course. I lost sleep, but my assignments still got done, my tests taken, and I wrote about 60,000 words of novel in 30 days! I CAN DO ANYTHING!!! And that is worth more to me than the few dollars I give back every year. Maybe I do give NaNoWriMo too much credit, maybe what I'm really trying to give back to is the gods of writing (Apollo and Dionysus, do you take cash or credit?). Like any deity, I'm going to assume that they work in mysterious ways, and if NaNoWriMo is that annual dose that reminds me that I am all powerful, then what better way to say "thank you" than to pass it on.
If you would like to say your own "thank you", buy a mug, a t-shirt, or just put your day's coffee fund into the donation box. I know that there are always worthy causes out there begging for money, and while a silly writing program may not seem like the most worthwhile one, I hope that you think about what sparked the superpower in you. Give to that. If you haven't found it yet, why not try this one?
All information about NaNoWriMo can be found on their website http://nanowrimo.org/
Read about their Young Writers' Program at http://ywp.nanowrimo.org/
And you can help me give back on my sponsorship page https://www.classy.org/fundraise?fcid=270573
"Long live literary abandon!"
Another WriMo probably said that before I did.