The decisions I made this NaNoWriMo
It is November and National Novel Writing Month is upon us again. With everything going on in my life at the moment, it sneaked up on me yet again, imposing questions on me:
- should I even participate this year?
- should I (finally) finish one of the books I started or should I start a new one?
- if I do start a new book, what is it going to be about?
- how much time should I dedicate to NaNoWriMo and
- which moment(s) should I plan
- should I participate in meetings for (more) inspiration?
And pressure. Straight from day one.
But that is not what NaNoWriMo is all about.
NaNoWriMo celebrates writing. It is meant to encourage and support (aspiring) writers worldwide. It endeavours to connect them in their shared goal of being a writer.
Positive and uplifting ideas.
Then why does it feel as if I have been assigned yet another task I have to fit into my already busy days?
It is not as if I am short of ideas. I have been carrying around at least 6 book ideas for the past years.
When I started NaNoWriMo in 2015, I started a fantasy novel, but got stuck and did not finish. Next NaNoWriMo, I was set on finishing it. I wrote 14.347 words. Today, it still hovers in my cloud, untouched since October 2017.
At one point, I had a very clear idea of where the novel should be going, and yet I abandoned it. Perhaps because I let circumstances get in the way. The gnarly tree that sparked my novel was in the backyard of the small village home we were chased out of. I don’t exactly have fond memories of that place where were bullied, intimidated and terrorized. In blocking it all out, I must have blocked out my first novel, too.
Perhaps because it was never really my intention to write a fantasy novel. I started it by way of an experiment, to see if I could write a novel like that and find out if it could be successful if I were to publish it myself, online. I fancied myself the next J.K. Rowling. Silly, really. My writing, of course, is nowhere near as accomplished and I overlooked a ton of issues J.K. had to deal with — not to mention the resilience, persistence and patience needed before becoming the world-renowned author she is now.
But one can dream, right?
At the time I started ‘The Gnarly Tree’, I had the story in my head, from start to finish. I had a clear idea of my ‘leading lady’, the character just wrote herself. The other characters just seemed to grow naturally around her. I could picture her room in the new house in detail.
Now I am at the point where the heart of the story is about to unfold, but I am very weary of inadvertently copying someone else’s ideas or being cliche.
I am overthinking.
And again, that is not what NaNoWriMo is about. It is about writing. It is about actually putting in the work and the words and try to reach the goal of 50.000 words by the end of November. In fact, any number of words will do. Any amount of words that bring you closer to finishing a novel will do. It is about creating the habit of writing daily. It is about growing into your writer’s life. It is about the joint effort, the support so needed as a writer.
This rings true for me. Because being a writer is basically a lonely enterprise. Being a writer is met with much prejudice, objections and misunderstanding.
We can use all the support we can get, in whatever shape or form. NaNoWriMo offers that support. So does Medium. So do many other platforms, fora and ‘established’ authors.
Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time.
– Thomas Merton , No Man Is an Island
Of course, there are some who purposely choose a solitary writer’s life. If they are successful and, more importantly, content with that, more power to them. But for everybody else it is good to know resources are available, be it a fellow writer willing to proofread your work, a forum of people ready to bounce ideas off of or a seasoned editor willing to share with you what she believes will work and what will not.
Being a writer can be a lonely exercise. But it does not need to be.
We’re in it together.