When I started writing a novel for National Novel Writing Month, I knew I couldn’t do it. I knew I’d quit by the second day, overwhelmed by life. At any given moment, I’m dealing with two little boys who are either trying to commit double fratricide, or need three snacks in a row. At any given moment, Mount Laundrymore threatens us with death by jeans avalanche. At any given moment, chickens, bees, a geriatric dog, a woodstove, the plumbing, supper, work, or emails need attention.
But somehow, I have made it to the eighteenth day, and I’m on target to finish my 50,000-word novel by November 30th. Hopefully my novel will not turn back into a pumpkin at midnight…
I think I forgot to take into account stubbornness, perhaps my one great virtue. If there’s one good writerly quality I have, it’s stubbornness. It tends to make people not like you so much, but hey, I’m an introvert. I can live with that.
Now, I’m 32,343 words into a new story, one I’d thought about but hadn’t dared to begin until this month, spurred on by a ridiculously imminent deadline.
With only a month to write, I’ve learned to turn off my inner editor, to stuff her in a closet and close my ears to her nagging cries, and just write. I’ve learned to write in the purest and freest sense of the word, to let the story tumble head over heels onto the page, flawed and unpretty and half-dressed, with no makeup on. My previous stories wouldn’t be caught dead ducking out to the grocery store for a gallon of milk without lipstick and cute shoes. This story is different. It shows up to parties in its jammies, neglects to comb its hair before work, and always forgets the deodorant. And somehow, it feels more alive than anything I’ve written yet.
It’s not pretty, this story. With a one-month time limit, a lot of things have gotten messy. Characters change names, the sequence of events is fluid (if not nonexistant), and I’m still figuring out how it ends. But it’s been incredibly liberating to write with “literary abandon,” as the NaNoWriMo website proclaims.
I’ve struggled with nearly crushing self-doubt through these past eighteen days. Sometimes it seems blasphemous to even think that I could write anything that anyone would ever want to read, to dream of publishing, to dare to imagine entering the ranks of the Real Live Authors.
But I am stubborn. And I am doing this. At the end of the month, whether it finds its stride or ends up as a jumbled and hopelessly irredeemable pile of words, I will have written a novel I never wrote before. If I’m ever going to “make it” as a writer, I have to just shut up and write, and that’s what this frantic, impossible, ridiculous month has goaded me to do.
So, NaNoWriMo, bring it.