Before I get started: these reasons have nothing to do with my co-MLs, Wrimos in my region, or the NaNoWriMo staff. Seriously. They’re all wonderful.
I didn’t meet any fellow NaNoWriMo particpants in person until my fourth NaNoWriMo. This was primarily because of growing up in a small town in the hills of north Georgia, so the few fellow Wrimos I knew, I had told them about NaNo myself. (One of them is still doing NaNo over ten years later!) So when college application time came, I based my college choices almost fully on creative writing programs that I would never complete and active NaNoWriMo regions.
That was how I wound up in Atlanta, a large city with plenty of Wrimos and plenty of classmates to spread the NaNo news to. I remember attending my first in-person event, a kickoff at a coffee shop within walking distance of campus. And even though there weren’t any other spring chickens like me in attendance, there were writers of all ages, a Municipal Liaison (ML) giving out stickers, and people I would see regularly at write-ins and kickoffs and TGIO parties over the next several years. I would host write-ins at this coffee place over the next several years.
It was during this time I thought of how much fun MLing would be. Besides being in charge, I’d get to meet all kinds of Wrimos and help them toward their goals. Sure, this was something I was kind of doing on the forums anyway, but in-person encouragement! Meeting other Wrimos! The highlighter yellow shirt! Over the next few years, the Atlanta region grew by leaps and bounds. I graduated from college and did an internship, but still found myself back in the boonies where I grew up by 2010.
But I’m not a small-town girl, and I had no desire to live in a lonely world. So after nearly two years of scraping by, I sold some possessions and started taking up freelance gigs in the hope of moving back to Atlanta before NaNoWriMo 2011. This prompted the current Atlanta MLs to invite me to apply as a co-ML. I did and became one of the NaNoLanta ML Quartet, then moved back to Atlanta just before Labor Day weekend. It was ON.
…until I actually got to work on ML tasks.
Since my ginormous region had four MLs that year, we decided it was time to do all the programs. Reaching out to schools, complete with a custom guide to getting NaNo enthusiasm in schools. Adopt a Day. Goodie bags and prizes. Our first local Night of Writing Dangerously spinoff, the Evening of Writing Wildly. A customized Google map of all our region’s writeins. Customized newbie and mentor pairings. And a bunch of other things that are slipping my mind now.
It was going to be the best NaNo ever! I was excited and idealistic… and then the panic and freak out mode started.
I was living on a shoestring, and while some of my co-MLs were pouring in money for prizes and goodie bags and other exciting things, I would risk missing some important bills if I tossed money around like that, and my Night of Writing Dangerously plans weren’t helping with that. Even though I know now it didn’t make a difference to how my co-MLs saw me and my MLing duties, nor did they expect me to pour in a bunch of funds myself, back then it only increased the guilt and stress.
That year my attention was divided into four major areas: MLing, the NaNo forums, Wikiwrimo, and Night of Writing Dangerously planning, compared to the only two (and previously, one) that I was used to. I spent my days working and looking for better work, while my nights were devoted to pairing newbies with mentors and writing a school guide and answering emails/messages and plotting write-ins on a map and trying to check in on the forums and updating Wikiwrimo and about a thousand other things.
Slowly but surely the ML duties took over, leaving the forums and wiki neglected. Around mid-October I told myself I was never ever doing this again, and that feeling only intensified as the month went on. I might have sobbed on my co-MLs on multiple occasions and to myself on a daily basis.
Because while I was good at encouraging local Wrimos and hosting write-ins and many of the ML duties, I didn’t feel like I was doing enough for the rest of the NaNo community. The forums had kept me company during my first few NaNos, and NaNo season is incredibly busy for Wikiwrimo. But in my MLhood, I found myself connecting to and getting to know fewer Wrimos, not more as I had hoped. I remember reading the ML forums and seeing stuff like “You know you’re an ML when…” and I had related to a bunch of those things for years. (In fact, a few folks thought I was already an ML!) Was I gatecrashing the club? It sure felt like I was, especially in a community where so many people already knew each other–probably the most awkward social scenario for me.
And on top of that, 2011 was the year of the big relaunch, when the NaNoWriMo site was rebuilt from scratch with Ruby on Rails. While my fellow beta testers and I tested everything we could on the beta site, but a few bugs returned or just went unnoticed. The ones relevant to MLs led to a LOT of (understandable but still irksome for me) complaining on the ML forums. Can’t everyone just be friends (or at least friendly acquaintances) forever?
October went from the second most exciting time of year (after November, of course!) to the most stressful. And I was not okay with that.
It wasn’t all bad, and November was a breeze compared to the constant nervousness of October. The midnight write-in I hosted at my house was a jumping board for many of my good friends now. I met several far-flung Nano buddies over a weekend. Despite being broke, I attended the Night of Writing Dangerously and had a blast. (Pssst, I’m going again this year.) I joined the @NaNoWordSprints Twitter team (and have stayed there since–word’s still mum on this year). I watched as so many Nano buddies crossed 50k (and more!), a few in the first 24 hours. I joined them. Oh, and I wrote 234k over three novels–my second highest NaNo word count of all.
But even a fabulous November couldn’t make up for the October stresses, so I swore to myself never to ML again, if only to turn October back into a fun month. Plus this means lots more time to forum and wiki and encourage even more Wrimos, things I can do and am good at. Even my September wiki panics are nothing compared to my ML panics of 2011.
Still, sometimes you have to find out the hard way.
If you want to ML, I absolutely encourage it! Don’t let my tale scare you away. The NaNo staff and other MLs are wonderful, supportive people, and chances are your Wrimos are too. Just remember the first step to MLing: take care of yourself and don’t take on more than you’re comfortable with. A happy ML leads to happy Wrimos, and that’s your goal: encouraging Wrimos to the finish line.