With a great sense of purpose I flew headlong into NaNoWriMo this year. I’ve done it other years too, and found that this time, more so than others, it was less arduous to meet the 50,000 word goal in 30 days. That was an interesting observation.
What I also discovered in its wake, is that I may never do it again. If I want to write 50,000+ words in 30 days, I can do it on my own, in any given month. Or I can choose to take more time. Or write differently. In my own style. In my own way. In my own time.
For the first time this year, I had a sense of the experience, though not the content, being soulless. It felt like driving through a beautiful countryside, and not at a slow pace, with the windows down, so I could take in the scent of the pines, the spray from the river, the mountains, the skies, and the wild flowers. It felt more like zooming around the curves in an air-tight, high-speed automobile, with everything being just a blur as I whizzed by. When it was over, I felt empty, cheated. Kind of like having sex with a faceless stranger instead of making love with someone you care deeply for.
This is not a condemnation of NaNo in any way. It is a fun activity, very social, and helps many people do what they ordinarily would not do on their own. But after having participated for several years, I have to say, I’ve discovered it’s just not me. It’s not my style. It removes my intimate connection to my writing, always rushing forward instead of taking a pause to look back and see what I’ve managed to write so far, and how it sits with me. That is the intimacy part I mentioned. That is what was missing. The truth about that is that I could have read over what I had written so far, but I was afraid that if I did, my inner editor would kick in and I would tear everything apart , become discouraged, not reaching my goal. So I dare not look.
However, when the month was over, I took the time to read my 25 days of work, and discovered that even under those circumstances, I wrote some very good material, and I wrote some crap. Not total crap. You can put an S on the front of crap, and it turns into scrap. Sometimes you can make something lovely out of scrap. It just needs more work than the stuff that already looks pretty good. So my month was not wasted.
But here’s the thing. For me, writing is not just about writing useable material. For me, it is as much about the experience of writing, as it is about producing a finished manuscript. Being in the moment of it, holding it, nurturing it, helping it take shape, those are the gifts of writing to me. And I didn’t get as much of that as I wanted. What I missed was stopping in the middle of my writing to go for a long walk down by the river while I shaped an idea before I spilled it onto the page. What I missed was reading poetry in my sunny window before my sessions, listening to ethereal music and getting lost in the ecstasy of it. What I missed was writing with my eyes closed, my fingers moving so fast that I could not even connect with them, going on auto-pilot while an idea played out, directly from somewhere inside of me and out through my fingers onto the keyboard. Then reading it afterwards, surprised at what I found there on the page.
That is how I connect with my work, and that is what I felt I had missed out on. So, no, I don’t think there is another NaNo in my future. I’ve always been the type of person that has to do things her own way. What works for others may just not be the thing that will work for me. I honor and respect that in myself, and to write counter to that, well, it just makes no sense. I believe in going outside my comfort zone to try new things. In fact, I do it often because I think it can often provide experiences that are both rich and rewarding. And sometimes, let’s face it, it’s just a flop. Better to recognize that, and go with what resonates inside of me.
So farewell, NaNo. Thank you for your gifts, for the people I’ve met through you, for how we encouraged one another along the way, for the allure, the excitement, the challenge. The truth is that I will never be able to stop writing. I’ll just be doing it solo in the future. It was a wild ride, but I prefer to travel the dusty paths on foot, stopping to smell the wild flowers along the way.