I just deleted my NaNoWriMo.org account. I have participated in National Novel Writing Month for over ten years. Each year I donate at least a few dollars (usually twenty, and as high as fifty) to support the event, because it’s fun and because it seems selfish to take part for free. In more than ten years of participating, I have never once completed the NaNoWriMo 50,000 word challenge. Still, being a “contributor” puts me in a more exclusive group than mere completers. Fewer than 8% of NaNo participants actually contribute financially to the operation, even though about 15%, on average, complete the 50,000 word challenge each year.
For me, in addition to the disappointment I feel toward myself for never having put forth the necessary effort to complete the really-not-that-difficult challenge, it seems that NaNo has lost much of its charm. It’s too big now. It’s too popular. It’s too trendy. It has lost the slightly oddball, goofy appeal that it had when the participation rate numbered in the few thousands or even the tens of thousands. NaNoWriMo participation is now over 400,000 annually. Yet despite the greater numbers, NaNo no longer contributes a portion of the annual proceeds to non-profit literacy and library-building projects. The beneficiaries of their non-profit largesse appear to largely be the participants who choose to participate for free and themselves, to keep the operation running.
I decided, during NaNo this past November (2016), that I would probably delete my account if I once more failed to complete the challenge. Despite not really having any legitimate or compelling excuses to fail this past year, I simply failed to put in any time or effort whatsoever beyond typing in a title and making the usual contribution. Tonight I ran across a mention of NaNoWriMo somewhere and it reminded me of my intent to cancel my account. Having thought about it off an on over the past several weeks, I’ve come up with no compelling reason to continue my NaNoWriMo membership, so cancel it I did, about ten minutes ago.
I expected to feel more of a sense of sadness or loss, or at least of failure, but really, I don’t. In fact, while “glad” is too strong a word, I feel like leaving NaNo is the right thing to do. I think partly it’s because NaNo is a “big business” now, rather than an “exclusive club” or a “fun group,” and they don’t need me. Plus, after having contributed money to them for all these years, and even having purchased a poster or two from their online store, I’m feeling a little bit like a sucker for paying the rent for the hundreds of thousands of leeches and lampreys who go along for the ride every year but never pitch in for gas.