By the time we were halfway through November, I had already figured out I wasn’t going to make my NaNoWriMo goal. I’d paved my road to hell with plans of staying up late, getting up early, and dedicating a few kids-in-preschool days to churning out 3 to 5,000 words apiece to fill in the gaps. Starting with Day One, I was reminded about what G-d does (or the universe, if you prefer) when we plan our lives.
On the very first writing day, my littlest one came down with this weird, uncomfortable virus that comes with painful mouth sores and high fever. When he got better, his big brother came down with it, and I went from screaming, fussy infant to mushy pile of whiny three-year-old. When that was done, I had an all-day consulting project to prepare for and implement, and then a belated birthday celebration for myself to attend (not strictly necessary, you’ll say, but I beg to differ!). I’m every minute of thirty-seven, if anyone is wondering.
When the little one got sent home sick from school AGAIN three days later, I officially threw in the proverbial towel on reaching 50,000 words by the end of the month. I’m not giving up on the project itself, of course, just the absurd artificial deadline. And after talking to hubs and one of my writing buddies, I realize how things have changed for me since my first time participating in NaNoWriMo. Not only was my life different then (no kids, for example) but so was my perspective on writing.
For me, NaNoWriMo was a fun, useful experience when my main obstacle was the idea of writing. There’s a boldness of spirit required to take on, and continue, that kind of ambitious project. If you don’t think of yourself as a writer, or you can’t imagine “finding time” to write, NaNoWriMo is a wonderful way to explore ‘literary abandon’ and find out that you’re capable of more than you once believed.
But as they say in Texas, I’ve been to this rodeo before, and the idea of writing a novel doesn’t intimidate me the way it once did. I’ve finished and published two already, and they’ve been pretty well received by readers. So whether I can do it is no longer a question. How to build on past successes and make this a sustainable part of my life is the issue now. And whether I like it or not, my life is going to include sick kids and social commitments and schedule changes. I love living a ‘literary’ life, but right now I don’t have room for the ‘abandon.’
At the risk of sounding like a huge snob, I actually think I’ve outgrown NaNoWriMo a little. It’s been fun, and I’ve really enjoyed helping my buddies find their feet in the world of long-form fiction, but I think I need to find a way of incorporating what’s positive about NaNoWriMo (ambitious goals, writing without criticizing) into my life all year long. With room for life, of course. Off the top of my head, I’m thinking 5,000 words a week is more realistic for me.
What about you? If you’re NaNoWriMoing, how is it going? What are you learning about yourself as a writer? Would you do it again?