It’s almost NaNoWriMo time, National Novel Writing Month, where crazy people like me — who enjoy scribbling down stories (or punching keyboards in frustration when the stories don’t come) — try to write 50,000 words, all in our imagined worlds.
It’s my favorite time of the year, the busiest — and, over the years, it’s come to mean so many different things to me.
While my first NaNo merely started as a time of the year to write 50,000 words — a big task, if entirely mundane — it very quickly morphed into a time to meet new friends and look at writing in a whole new, social way. It became a community.
Most of us writers are not surrounded by people in our everyday lives who are enamored by the fact that we write — casual indifference can sometimes be the best we can hope for from friends and family who are otherwise awesome and supportive, but just don’t ‘get it’ when it comes to our little quirk.
Then, all of a sudden, an entire month comes along where many countless thousands of people just like us — from all over the world, all walks of life, and ever-critically some in our own communities — collectively say “to hell with it!” and embark on an ambitious, crazy journey of a project.
Often it’s a project where we only start with a tiny germ of an idea — amounting to what will be a very big leap of faith. And yet we jump.
Whether we only participate in NaNo online, or race to all the local write ins, we see that we aren’t alone. We may share our ideas, or even select passages — the only words I’ll edit in November — among people who care about writing as much as we do. Often times, we’ll see the spark in their eyes that says “you’re not crazy, I like something about this, keep digging.” A little validation like that can go a long way, and in November the magic happens where it’s suddenly much easier for aspiring writers to find that kind of support.
As my years of participationg have continued to mount, though, it’s come to mean new, even more important things to me.
- It’s when I forgive myself if I didn’t get the amount of writing done in the previous year that I should have — then recommit and do better.
- It’s when I reconnect with friends I hadn’t seen in a while, instead of letting them accidentally slip away into the aether.
- It’s when I assess what I’ve done with my craft, where I want to it be — but am also honest with myself about what I need right now from it. I’ll look at old worlds unfinished, and think “is it time to resurrect this?” I’ll weigh the need to work on a current project against the cleansing desire of creating something all new. An answer will come, and whatever it is, it’ll be right.
- Heck, it’s when I write on my website that I haven’t touched all year, because I have a good excuse to jump back in, and something I very much want to talk about.
It may sound weird to some, but the whole experience has what I can only express as a spiritual quality to it for me. Ritual. Community. A whole lot of hard work on a craft. Connection and reconnection. Forgiveness. Support. Imagination. Creative expression: that voice we didn’t know we have, or had about forgotten for a whole year.
It’s got history, lore, debates, meta, icons, wine and food, garbs to wear. It has community and website leaders doing work that’s downright pastoral. It even occasionally has people asking for donations for the good cause that it is.
There’s music, literature and visual art we NaNo writers like look to for inspiration — we just call them prompts. Cafes and libraries are our temples. Then there’s the zone, where the writing just flows — meditation if I’ve ever seen it.
Finally, the month is over. We pour heart, body and soul into it. Life inevitably gets in the way, and we do our best to overcome. Or perhaps our spirits fail along the way, and we just don’t want to continue working on a project. We don’t believe in it anymore. Maybe there’s time to course correct, work on something different — maybe there isn’t, but we do our best.
At the end, win or lose, there’s still the payoff – the fact that we tackled something hard, and that we did it together. We know that, at the very least, come next November we’ll be back again, our spirits renewed. We feel healed.