National Novel Writing Month!

It’s almost here! 

I’ve participated in NaNo since 2007, and with the exception of 2008, when my son was 2 months old, I’ve managed those 50k in 30 days each time. Once, in-advisably, in ten days. Holy Moses I couldn’t use my hands after for the life of me. I’ve written promising things, I’ve written two things I’m really proud of. I’ve written something terrible I’d like to pretend never came from me and was a bear to get through. 

NaNo is terrifying and exhilarating and daunting and incredibly motivating. I love that there are no rules. I love that no matter what happens — if you make it or not — NaNo pushes people out of their comfort zone into the land of “maybe I can” or “yes I did”. 

Before my first NaNo, I was a writer who lived in Never Can Land. I didn’t think I had interesting stories to tell. I never thought I’d harness the discipline, and I wondered what the point would be when nothing would come of it. 

But then the universe arranged itself, as it sometimes does, and things just…happened. I was at a terrible job with awful people that I dreaded seeing each day. It was soul sucking, horrible…all of those things. 

The only other person in my office I could stand confessed to me that she wanted to write a book. She had no idea why, seeing as she didn’t like to read (I still haven’t figured this out). I’d just finished my second or third re-read of The God of Small Things and it had lit a fucking bonfire under me. I always knew I was a poet, but for some reason, I’d never really thought that I could take that poetry and learn to write fiction in my own way. Books like this are the kind that make one realize that you don’t have to follow the “rules”. You can do any fucking thing you want with the space and time and a blank document or sheet of paper in front of you. 

And that’s when, somehow, I ran across the NaNoWriMo web site. It was already November 3rd or something like that, but it…was a little more gasoline on that bonfire. And my friend and I decided then and there we had to do this crazy thing. 

The more I’ve written in my life, the more I realize I’ve come to obey a lot of the unwritten “rules* of writing. This is something I love because process and progress and learning: all good things. But I also love that I’ve honed my craft. I love that that push NaNo gave me each year taught me to be confident. Not in how others would perceive my stories (that’s a fanfiction story), but in my ability to find and tell a story. 

It doesn’t help to hear from your editor that the poet in me comes through in what I write. Discovering that I can blend my love for words and making images and movement from them with storytelling…what a lovely affirmation. 

But honestly, I don’t know if any of this would have happened without NaNo. I don’t know that I ever trusted that I would get published for anything, ever, but now I am. I don’t know that the first book I wrote is something I’d ever show anyone now, but with 7 original books and over 400,000 words of fanfiction written (that last part in the span of three years), I have an incredible amount of confidence I rarely let myself feel in my writing. 

If you have a dream or a hope or a longing, write. Fuck the idea of an audience if that scares you. Flip off that voice in your head that tells you you can’t, or won’t, or that you aren’t capable. Let yourself connect with that ache that urges you to make something. If you write 500 words, celebrate the shit out of that because *you did it*

I always encourage people to participate in NaNo because the structure is motivating for so many. The idea that this is a tiny space in time to let go and let yourself dream works for so many people. 

I go into each NaNo thinking “oh fuck what the fucking fuck will I write?”. But somehow, each year, something comes. So yes, November looms and I’m not sure what I’ll do but I feel that tingle in my fingers that says something’s coming. Let’s see what it is. I hope, so much, that for any of you who want to write, or who just want to say you did something crazy that once, that you’ll hope on this speeding bullet of a train too. 

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