It’s National Novel Writing Monday!
Not quite. But it is–or until ten minutes ago at the time of writing this–the first Monday of National Novel Writing Month, November for those unawares. Since the year 2006 I’ve been a dedicated participant and often find it’s one of the few things I do truly for myself, and mine self only.
The story of my Wrimo-ing is purely coincidental. I was on a writer’s forum for Neopian Times writers (who write for the Neopian Times, a subset of the Neopets virtual pet site, which contrary to popular belief, is not just for children), and it came up in conversation about writing novels this thing called NaNoWriMo. I was intrigued.
So I researched: It’s a challenge for writers to complete a 50,000 word manuscript in one month, November. Of course, I knew that “real” novels were really much longer, up there in the range of 150,000 words, so of course I knew I’d have to go above and beyond to truly have a piece I could get published. So for that one month, I had no life–which at the time was already pretty apparent–and in the end, I managed nearly 170,000 words.
Then I realised most novels are actually much shorter, and the chances of a first-time novelist getting anything published outside the range of 80,000 to 120,000 words is pretty much impossible. But I had a lot of fun, tried a lot of new writing styles, and ended up with two stories that, although desperately in need of desperate rewriting, are actually–for the most part, I believe–fairly good stories. And there’s this saying (by someone whom I can’t remember, my apologies) that says something of the sort that every artist has a thousand bad pictures in them, and after that they’re all good. I hoped there was a similar correlation between quantity and quality for writers and assumed if nothing else, at least it had been a good experience.
I repeated my wordiness the next year, and the year after, and then again last year, and this year will be my fifth year writing–and hopefully my fifth year winning as well. (To be determined, what with all the school work I’ve acquired of late this semester–but I shall be hopeful! And I shall prevail.)
Last year I also took upon the volunteer position of municipal liaison, or regional coordinator, for the Greensboro region, so I get to help inspire people to write and set up write-ins (semi-social events to break the monotony of writing alone at home), and although I make it seem all lax and dull, I actually have a great time being able to meet so many like-minded (that is, rather insane) writers from around NC and to have the opportunity to help motivate and inspire others. NaNoWriMo has been a staple experience every year for me, and I hope to help make it the same for many others as well.
NaNoWriMo is also one of the few things I truly consider wholly “my own,” as I said before. It seems everything else I do has an inherent quality to which it places me in the service of others (which I won’t say I don’t enjoy, but it does give a certain sense of obligation that although itself motivating to proceed, is sometimes lacking in the actual aesthetics of personal pleasure). Going to school is not merely my own choice; it was a condition for continuing to work at my synagogue, and also a general expectation of my family and (most) friends. Being a club leader may certainly be personally fulfilling, but it also puts me directly in the service of others–which without a doubt is selfless in the end (not to say I’m selfless, but the position by definition is a selfless one to fill). Working at school and at my synagogue allows me to teach others. Babysitting my niece helps my sister; doing chores helps my family; and even being a good friend, those few times when I truly am, is a commitment to another, not wholly done so for myself.
But NaNoWriMo is different. Up until last year when I became an ML, NaNo was a purely personal endeavor (and even now as an ML, the actual writing part purely personal). I do enjoy writing short stories (and for those longing for my next, I should have one prepared to post shortly), but they’re brief and passing and capture an idea, a moment in time, and instance of inspiration–and little else.
Novels are different. Novels capture a series of events, a series of moments. What a short story is to derivation, a novel is to integration–it takes a starting function, and instead of reducing it to something merely tangent to the initial condition, it creates a collection of points, an accumulation of quantity that describes a whole, something truly greater than the sum of its component parts.
And therefore I share a special bond with my novels, especially those of which I refer to as my NaNovels (which is an obvious portmanteau of NaNoWriMo–itself a portmanteau–and novels, and ingenious as I may be in saying it, I’m not nearly the one to take credit for its invention). These novels, comprised in a month with such a rush to the finish line that no active thought can dictate it in such ways a short story may succumb to, or especially of a longer piece taking years to complete, are instead akin to a form a free-writing, the ultimate active meditation I indulge in, one that opens my mind and frees my soul–and ends up often being a time capsule for myself at the moment of writing, a memento of who I was when I wrote the story. My feelings, my fears, my wants and desires. All of them become innately, inherently, accidentally incorporated into the stories, and that itself is testament to how personal an experience NaNoWriMo had become for me. And shall remain to be.
Calculus and physics are killers (metaphorically speaking), and for as much as they inspire me, they also bombard me with an intensity not even NaNoWriMo could prepare me for. Among classes and clubs, I will face a challenge this year greater than any year prior, but I shall press on, just as all others aiming to make this endeavor will press on beside me. The collective runs high each November, and for many, for most, it shows.
So here’s to another November, another NaNo, another Monday that’s more than a Monday, but someday special, that shows the start of a new journey, a new story, a new self.