Desert Bus vs NaNoWriMo

November holds a catastrophic confluence of events for creative nerds on the internet. National Novel Writing Month, or Nanowrimo, is a wonderful event that encourages people to indulge their desire to author something by setting a goal of producing fifty thousand words in the month of November. This has become a global event, with a third of a million participants working towards that goal.

Desert Bus for Hope is the sort of charity event that sounds like a punishment for losing a bet. The participants play a legendarily terrible video game that involves driving a bus, in real time, across the Arizona desert along a perfectly straight, empty road. The bus pulls slightly to the right. They play this live, on camera, and people donate money to make them keep playing. This terrible notion has run every year for nine years and has raised over two million dollars for Child’s Play. It also happens in November, that is to say, now.

The stream runs twenty four hours a day for about a week. Since Desert Bus is intensely monotonous, by design, the team running the event has constant guests, interviews, auctions, raffles, challenges, and a button that creates spontaneous dance parties. This keeps the stream unpredictable and entertaining. More than that, though, it is a group of clever and creative people using their talents to do good for good’s sake. There is a certain “beatific joy” (JT. 2015) in participating in that. Those that watch desert bus, tend to watch a lot of desert bus.

Both of these are great events. They both inspire great creative acts and form a community of encouragement and support, and both eat up a lot of people’s time while they’re running. There is an interesting and dangerous overlap in the Venn diagram, though. Imagine, if you can, someone attempting to participate in Nanowrimo that also happens to be a huge fan of Desert bus for Hope.

I have witnessed this happening to our contributor, Jim, and it is not pretty. There is a constant push and pull in the psyche of these noble, yet doomed nerds. The drive to write enough words each day, coupled with the constant need to have desert bus streaming directly into their brains leads to a week-long struggle which they cannot win. Every moment spent watching the bus drift slightly to the right is a moment of guilt and shame at failing to write. Every moment spent writing is a missed moment of potential brilliance “on the stream.”

This says nothing of the other mundanities of life. Work, friends, food, sleep, all suffer at the hands of the great NaNo-DeBu tug of war. There are no winners in this fight, only the shattered wrecks of humans that tried to participate in too much awesome and have suffered complete, self-induced personality collapse.

There is a third circle. A deeper, darker circle. Imagine if you will… that some of these people… might also be Mo Bros. Imagine, these shambling undead husks of people, their unfocused eyes and sunken features punctuated by a half-grown and poorly trimmed mustache.

Next year, we need to set up a charity event to support these excessively socially involved nerds and help them recover.


Ryan is a professional nerd, teaching engineering in the frozen north. Somewhat less professionally, he is a costumer, author, blacksmith, juggler, gamer, serial enthusiast, and supporter of the Oxford comma. He can be found on twitter and instagram @studentofwhim. If you like what I do here, feel free to leave a tip in my tipjar.

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