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Thursday, November 4, 2010

The Challenges of NaNoWriMo

National Novel Writing Month is a great concept! Write enough words every day in November to have 50,000, and that will be your first draft of your novel. It introduces some much-needed, concrete, obtainable discipline into the big idea of writing a sustained piece of fiction. Some of these books have gone on to be published and met with great success.

November is as good a month as any, I suppose. But my challenge with NaNoWriMo has usually been that it falls during a month when I've got some huge upheaval going on.

This year, we're getting ready to move. I'm lucky to write this bit here, since the computer is now on the floor, the desk having escaped to greener pastures a couple of days ago. Because my husband is out with his nose to the grindstone earning us a few dollars so we can eat, I'm left with most of the sorting, packing, and throwing away duty. I'm one of those writers who likes to have a dedicated nook for working, with everything close at hand, nicely decorated, ventilated, and perfumed, for maximum sense inspiration, so this is not the month for me to be writing. I admire anyone who can produce any creative work in a disrupted environment.

Last year, if you can believe it (I can hardly believe it myself!), we were also getting packed up to move! If anything, there was a lot more emotional strain in 2009 because we were leaving Cambridge, Massachusetts, a place I love as if I were born there. We came to this state for a job that didn't work out, and now every time we go downtown, my husband is appalled at how run down it is, and astonished that he ever took me here. In other words, we can't wait to leave. This time, we'll use our intuition a bit more in finding a new place to live. Cross your fingers that it works!

Two thousand eight was a banner year, as I met my husband! The part before November was pretty disruptive, and I wasn't in a mindset to take up the reigns of my writing career yet, and we flew to visit my parents in Oregon for Thanksgiving. Excuses, excuses.

The previous year, 2007, was the only November I had an idea, a plot outline, even! I had a desk to work at that wasn't going anywhere! I had tons of free time for the first time in five years, because I'd just completed my PhD! I was accustomed to taking on large projects! And most of all, I had ganas. I was able to keep up the NaNo pace pretty well for the first ten days of November, but then I started to feel pretty poorly. I thought, I'm sick, but that doesn't keep me from typing, I'll keep chugging...

But no. It wasn't to be. By the twelfth, I had self-diagnosed myself, using WebMD, with strep throat, and then it was off on a difficult journey to the doctor for tests and drugs, because back then, WebMD and/or other web sites had no qualms telling me that if left untreated, strep throat will kill you. YIKES. Now of course, they admit that that's not necessarily true, but it was pretty easy to believe at the time that I was about to die. Oh, the pain! Needles and knives all along my throat! I couldn't eat, couldn't speak, could hardly breathe. The last thing I remember about that November is that, in immense physical anguish, I had to call up a Spanish friend of mine I still haven't seen since, to tell him I couldn't meet him in New York, where he was running the marathon. Sorry, Antonio! And mostly, I'm so sorry, book!

Before that, I was shackled to my PhD, and NaNoWriMo was just getting started in California.

In November of 2011, I can only hope my desk won't have run away from me and that I won't come down with a dread disease. Just a little stability is all I ask. It's not a lot. I pledge now that, even if I'm working two jobs or something equally time-consuming, as long as I have some semblance of an idea and a desk to write at, I will participate in NaNoWriMo. I will write 1,667 words a day of the same story.

(Uneasy grin.)