11 years. That’s how long I’ve been doing NaNoWriMo.
It’s weird to look back at my life and think of things that have happened in that span of time. New job. Marriage. Childbirth. Friends coming and going. Multiple iterations of the iPhone. And yet, every November, I start with a blank page and a stack of notes and write until time runs out. I spin straw into, if not gold, then at least yellow thread that I can maybe weave into a tapestry that I will eventually sell for gold.
At the beginning of the month, someone I follow on Twitter was trying to decide whether to try writing a novel when they already had too much on their plate. I told him, “Sometimes you get to the edge of the cliff and think, ‘Maybe I could fly.’” And he asked, “But what if I fall?” I said, “To paraphrase Douglas Adams: the trick to flying is forgetting to fall.”
If there was ever a year when I was going to fall, this would have been it. My job ramped up such that I had extra work on top of being on call for about 12 hours every day. I’m teaching two creative writing classes. I lost two days to driving back and forth from Georgia, plus the days in between where I didn’t want to totally ignore family. I was sick for a week while my husband was out of town, so I was single parenting while trying to extract some kind of sea urchin from my throat.
I also had a whole week of vacation all to myself. My first time off this year, in fact. It happened to be the week I was sick, but that meant I had the luxury of drinking hot tea and writing at a leisurely pace instead of struggling to make word count.
And make no mistake: for most of the month, it was a struggle. Every morning, I got up early to write for a half hour. Every day at lunch, I went down to my car and wrote. Every night, after doing work for class, I wrote for about two hours. I budgeted my time like a miser counting pennies, even set alarms on my phone to go off at different points during the day to remind me of what I needed to do when. That alarm tone is going to haunt my dreams for probably the next 11 years.
But I didn’t do it alone. My husband took over bedtime duties. My mom babysat on weekends. Netflix filled in where necessary. I went to write-ins at least twice a week, and sprinted with friends online every night. People even sent me pep talks–you know who you are, you glorious, fabulous people. Sometimes it takes a village to write a novel, and it is my privilege to have a damn fine village.
Every year that I do this, I remember that I can do it–relearn how, even–and this year doubly so. And here I am, 50,000 words later. Spinning straw. Forgetting to fall.
Can’t wait to see where I’ll fly next year.