Before we get started, my insecurity today is that I will be hunted down, stoned, hung, decapitated, burned at the stake, my head mailed to some black-market ebay winner and my ashes strewn in three different oceans for writing this post.
I’ve re-written this post 8 times, trying to find a way to avoid that fate. I’ve decide it isn’t possible, so I’ll just try to tough out the next few years in my bunker and continue on with this post.
National Novel Writing Month is coming.
“NaNo is coming! What are you planning to do? How are you getting ready for it?” (I plan on doing what I normally try to do when my kids are in school – write everyday and try not to kill anything that gets in my way of doing just that.)
“I’ll bet you get a lot of writing done during November, huh?” (Only if my husband is actually home and able to watch the kids for me during Thanksgiving Break.)
“Ooo! Are you doing NaNo? I’ll bet you are! I’m planning to do it, too! It can’t be that hard to write a book.” (Please don’t make me shoot you. I have better things to do than spend time in jail.)
“Can you give me some tips for NaNo?” (Cancel all plans. Stock up on all your favorite instant foods and drinks. Do not make eye contact with anyone. Clean your house like a madman the last week of October. Do not acknowledge that anyone, even your newborn child, exists during NaNo. Above all, do not talk to me about NaNo.)
“Let me run my NaNo idea by you-“ (Let me try not to strangle you because you’ve had my manuscript for 2+ years during which time you said you would critique and all I ever got back from you was Chapter 1 and I know for a fact that you have read 15 other novels since then.)
“Let’s be NaNo writing buddies!” (Let me buy you a bus ticket straight to whichever hell will irritate you the most.)
I hate NaNoWriMo. I am the NaNo Scrooge. I am the Grinch Who Doesn’t Like NaNo.
I’m not saying you should hate it. If you like it, that’s fine. You do you and I’ll do me and we’ll all be happy. There are just 2 aspects of NaNoWriMo that make me want to draw my fingers along a blackboard to express my dislike of it.
My reasons are not deep and all about the craft and unrealistic expectations and all that. Nope. My reasons are personal.
Every NaNo experience I’ve had has been negative. I’ve:
– Been told “why yes we’ll support you through NaNo” by friends and family, after having been briefed on what NaNo is, why I wanted to do it and what I needed them to do, only to have them rip the rug out from under me about a week later every night until the end of the month because they discover exactly how hard it is to keep up with young twins by themselves.
– Agreed to be NaNo buddies and been incessantly talked to about this great idea and blahblahblah and wow here we are at the end of the month and I haven’t written much, how about you? Why are you looking at me like you’re going to kill me?
– Gone to NaNo groups with moderators and gotten nailed the same way as above by total strangers – people who want to socialize and kibitz, not work and write.
– Had people who’ve agreed to beta read my work, never get around to it for two years + because they “don’t have the time,” but have read 15 traditionally published novels in the meantime (I know because they’ve told me) and then have the gall to approach me and ask me to be their NaNo buddy and help them out after with editing and beta and all that.
I realize that this may only be indicative of the NaNo I’ve experienced in my area. And it is very possible that in a realm in which there is a moderator and what not who actually does their job, things might be different. But when you live vicariously without a consistent babysitter or the presence of a spouse, you can’t afford to try every single meeting group, every day/night. Time is a thing I do not feel I have excess of, so I hoard it, which means I don’t want to spend all of November looking for that one group in that one coffee house/library/cafe/fire station/whatever that contains people who won’t drive me batshit crazy.
I’m a bit of a misanthrope. I’ll admit to that. I also admit that my tolerance for bullshit has dropped dramatically over the years. When I show up at a writing workshop, I expect it to start within 15 minutes of the advertised time, not 45 minutes later. If I show up to work, I expect to be able to work. Not chit-chat for two hours about how you found these cute shoes that inspired your story.
Occasionally I get someone who knows my past and says “You’ve just had bad experiences with NaNo. If you come to my group…”
No. Do not invite me to your church. I have determined that NaNo groups react to my presence in a similar fashion as church pastors – I walk through the door, an alarm goes off in the office and the preacher immediately discards whatever sermon they had planned that day in favor of one filled with fire and brimstone and damnation.
Only in the case of NaNo, everyone discards the writing work idea and starts talking and chatting and laughing and let’s play brainstorming games and then I pack up my gear and leave before I end up on the evening news.
It isn’t that I’m against NaNo – I’m all for it. It’s great that folks get all fired up and want to write a book. I’m glad that people want to try and write a book. Great. Wonderful. You go with your bad self. I’m all for promoting literacy and creativity and all that – Yes! We need more of that!
ALL. THE. TIME.
Not just November.
And so many people don’t get that. Which is reason #2 why I don’t like NaNo.
“Oh, I want to write a book. It’s one of my goals. I’m just waiting for November.”
I think this is the phrase I hear the most often that makes me want to beat someone down.
Stop waiting for friggin’ November.
Get off your ass Sit your ass down and write.
“Well that’s easy for you to say, you’re a Stay at Home Mom with kids in school.”
Hold still while I slap the shit out of you.
Let me explain something: Yes, I am privileged to be a SAHM. Yes, it gives me some room to breathe. It does not give me unlimited free time. My husband travels. 90% of the time I am on my own with the kids: their schedules, their after school activities, their homework, their dinner, their night-time reading, their toy repair, their questions. I have the house to maintenance – I have to call the plumber, the appliance repair guy, the car shop. I have to do the mowing, the shoveling, the gutter cleaning and the errands and the emergency doctor’s appointments and any other damn thing that comes up. I do not have babysitters nor the funds to regularly hire same. I occasionally have the kids spend the weekend at the grandparents house, but during the school year, those plans go out the window in favor of birthday parties and other events, during which I also have to referee my child(ren).
I do not spend my days eating bon-bons and watching TV, waiting for the Muse to stroll in. Even when my brain is throbbing and I’m so tired I don’t want to look at another word for the next year or so, I’m still working – I’m scribbling ideas in the back of my planner. I’m reading books, doing research, ordering books that have no doubt landed me on a few watch lists. I’m writing notes to myself – double check this in manuscript X, research that for MS Y.
I grab my writing when I can. Sometimes I can edit a whole three pages while waiting for my daughter’s dance class to end before my son or some other mother’s child demands I somehow entertain him, despite having brought a bag of things for him to do (The Some Other Mother’s Child is really irritating. I can’t bark at the kid to shush and leave me alone, because he’s not my kid, but the Other Mother feels no need to tell her kid to shush and leave me alone, despite my polite attempts at getting the child to go entertain himself with whatever else except me.). Sometimes I can scribble a note in the waiting room of the doctor’s office. Even while I’m shoveling dirt to terrace the back yard or doing laundry, I’m thinking of dialogue, or scenarios, or sometimes planning dinner (Ha! Fooled you! Planning dinner requires that everyone in the house is willing to and able to eat the same dish – which they are not, so planning a meal is even harder.)
I understand people get excited about NaNo, and that’s great. What I don’t understand is this: Why do you need to wait for NaNo?
“It creates a sense of accountability.”
I am accountable for my work. I may not do it fast or well, but, dammit, I work at it when I can and as well as I can and I try to do a little something towards it every day. Even during my “Writing hiatus” known as summer break – I still read and research. I know my writing speed (Somewhat faster than a snail, but the tortoise is still lapping my ass) and my plot decisions and chronic overuse of adverbs and –ings and not all that are all mine. I can blame no one else. I don’t need some word count tracker to hold me accountable.
“It gives me a deadline.”
Okay, I can respect that. I suck at setting writing deadlines for fiction. Give me a date to stick to and I get all flavors of messed up in the head. Just setting a goal to finish the rough draft of the book 3 fantasy series before Christmas is enough to spin me up and make me focus on the wrong thing – the deadline, not the story. But do you know what my real deadline is? My deadline is when I say the story is done.
“It’s fun to meet new people and bounce ideas off of them and all that.”
You can do that almost anytime. Even writers. There are writing groups all over the internet. There’s a good chance there’s a writing group in your town that meets regularly. If not, I’ll bet if you posted a sign on the announcements board at your local library advertising that you’re trying to start up a writing group, people might actually respond to that. True, you’ll have to put up with people you don’t like until you find a group you can gel with, but seriously, if you want to meet writers – we’re everywhere, hiding our little manuscripts in the closet, desperate to talk about them to SOMEBODY, but quite possibly/probably too afraid of rejection. If you crave the physical camaraderie, you just have to be willing to do the organizing and not wait for someone else to do it for you.
“It’s just for fun.”
You’re sick. That’s all I can say – you’re sick and need professional help. I’ve done the 50,000+ word grind in thirty days. I’ve done it while a Muse was sitting on my shoulders whipping me into friggin’ oblivion and then my brain bled out of my ears for an additional 6 weeks as I wrote reams of … well, I don’t know what it is, exactly, when it happens. “More ideas for additional stories following up the one that I just slammed out” is one way of putting it, I guess. “Vomiting words out from the keyboard almost non-stop trying to get the ideas to slow down so I can step off the carousel that I foolishly stepped onto without the benefit of Dramamine and maintain something that looks like dignity” would probably be a more accurate description.
***On the other hand, there are authors that claim to be able to slam out 4-8 books a year, every year with little to no side effects. How they do this I know not, but they do and some even make a living at it.***
Yes, be creative. Yes, go forth and write that novel, that memoir, that short story, that critical piece of literature that only natives of Jupiter’s moon Europa will understand. Yes! Expand your horizons! Try something new! Reach for those stars! Have caffeine inspired hallucinations if that’s your thing.
Just don’t wait for someone else to tell you when. Don’t wait for November, or next year, or next month or after you’ve finished binge-watching whatever you’ve saved in your Netflix/Hulu/Amazon/Whatever subscription queue. Sometimes life happens and yes, it’s a really shitty time to start anything because you can’t focus on anything except for how crappy things are right now, but guess what?
Sometimes shit happens in November, too. It isn’t a month of magic in which the stars align and the universe cooperates because you want it to.
If you’ve got five minutes while you’re sitting there waiting for you oil to get changed, you can start writing.
Don’t wait for November.
And if you like NaNoWriMo and it blows your skirt up and all that – Great. Go forth and have fun.
Just don’t let November 30 be the day you stop writing to wait for another November.
Check out the Insecure Writer’s Support Group to see more writers dish about their concerns, their solutions to various problems, or just a general fear of spiders.