Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Guest Post by Alicia Hayes, author of 'The Thread That Binds'


WHAT NANOWRIMO TAUGHT ME ABOUT WRITING

When summer draws to a close and everyone I know is thinking about sweater weather and Halloween and Christmas, I’m thinking of one thing, with both excitement and dread: NaNoWriMo. NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month, is a challenge where participants aim to write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. There is no prize. There is no guarantee of publication. There isn’t even any guarantee of quality. So, why on earth do people do it?


That’s the question I asked when I first heard of NaNoWriMo (or ‘NaNo’) in 2006. I was fifteen, and when my friend asked me if I wanted in on this challenge that she was doing, I pictured my name in lights. “Youngest contestant ever wins NaNoWriMo!” “NaNoWriMo winner given Pulitzer Prize!” When my friend told me that there was no prize for winning, I scoffed at the idea.


Fast forward to 2011. By that time, I was living in the US: a newcomer, and a newlywed. I did not yet have work authorization, so I spent my days as a rather unhappy housewife. When my then-husband left for military training for several months, I found myself without a vehicle; without a job; and without anyone to clean up after (yes; these days that concept raises even my own feminist hackles). I was bored. Incredibly bored.


As November approached, I remembered NaNo, and since I had far too much time on my hands – oh, how I miss those days – I decided to try it. I am now hooked. I skipped it one year – in 2012, I moved house twice in the month of November; my daughter was four months old; and I wasn’t going to take on any extra stress: I’m not a masochist – but other than that, I’ve been a ‘Wrimo’ every year since. I’ve written great things. I’ve also churned out some awful work, because NaNo, at its heart, is about quantity, not quality. But that is so freeing, and there lies the beauty of NaNo.


Margaret Atwood said that if she waited for perfection, she would never write a word. NaNo doesn’t give you time to wait; because writing 50,000 words in a month is manageable only if you don’t let yourself fall behind. I’ve found that writer’s block goes away if I lose my focus on perfection and force myself to write something, anything at all; knowing that anything terrible can be edited or cut later. Sometimes, though, it sparks brilliant ideas: in my young adult novel War Wounds, a minor character developed a full back story which made her richer and more prominent, all because initially I wanted more words. During NaNo, I drive myself crazy. I start out with the best of intentions, and by the end of the month I am a sleep-deprived quivering wreck, existing on ramen noodles and coffee (because I don’t have time for things like “eating” or “sleep”).


It sounds like punishment. It sounds awful. Yet, it’s the most enjoyable month of my year. Because somewhere along the way I learned something about myself. I don’t write for fame or fortune. I don’t write to see my name in glittering lights or to break records. I don’t always aim to create stunning literature. I write because it is my passion.


I write, simply, because I must.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Not a SPAM comment! :)