30 October 2015

To NaNo or Not To NaNo (that seems to be the question)

This past year my blogs have been few and far between. I've narrowed the cause to several likely culprits, some more serious than others. It's been a challenging year and one that has caused me to pause and focus inward, to withdraw from public view, to be quiet. Instead of sharing my life and my loves here, I've kicked it old school with a journal and the satisfying scratch of pen on paper. I've been writing selfishly, not publicly.

It's been a time filled with reading*, writing, traveling, listening to music. I've been to some amazing concerts and the happiest place on earth (Hogwarts, duh!). I've been inspired and challenged by some amazing writers. I've walked hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of miles. I've laughed to the point of tears and cried to the point where I felt hollow. It's been a year that has changed me.

Now, somehow, it is the very end of October with National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) visible on the horizon. Months and months ago I had grand plans to be at a different point in the editing process with the project I've been working on. I wanted to have this version done by the end of September so I could spend October planning what I would work on in November.

But then, life. And this time it wasn't a question of time. I had time. I had more of it in some ways than I had been expecting. What I didn't have was the mental and emotional space to do the work. After much internal debate, I decided to give myself a break.

A few people have asked me if I was planning to participate in NaNoWriMo this year. My answer has been, "Probably not." I have said things about how I don't want to start something new when I still have so much work on my current project. I've talked about how I don't want to make the same mistakes I've made before when it comes to the issues of Story and Plot. I've said that I will use this time to edit.


What a wishy washy kind of word, lacking in conviction and commitment.

Last week, while I was writing in my journal and thinking about what it would be like not to participate in NaNoWriMo for the first time since I started (2009), I came across an idea. It's one that I've imagined before, a kind of experimental type of piece and the more I wrote about it the more excited I became and the more I thought that maybe participating would be the best thing for me and my writing, the best way to get me back into my daily habits of writing/editing.

I told myself to give it a week and see if the idea grew any roots.

I reminded myself of this Ben Folds inspired post I wrote in 2012 when I was debating the very same should I/shouldn't I question.

Seven days have passed and there hasn't been a day I haven't thought about this idea and all the ways it might be exactly the project my writing life needs.

Here is an unsolicited truth about me: I don't give myself permission to fail.

That truth has been a double edged sword my entire life. It's held me back just as much as it's pushed me forward.

What does it mean for NaNoWriMo? In the past it has meant that if I start, I can't quit halfway through. I'm either in or I'm out. If I sign up, I'm going to find a way to finish, to hit 50k no matter what.

This year, I think I'm going to do something different. I'm going to try. And if that turns out to be a mistake, I'm giving myself permission to fail.

*A list of a few favorites from this year include: Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen, Bone Gap by Laura Ruby, The Game of Love and Death by Martha Brockenbrough, The Wrath & the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh, George by Alex Gino, Where'd You Go Bernadette by Maria Semple, After You by Jojo Moyes (see this blog re: the first book), The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness, Illuminae by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff, and Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo. Yes, this list is YA heavy, but some of the most interesting story telling is definitely happening in this category.

Walking among the fallen.