Wednesday, December 1, 2010

A NaNoWriMo Reflection

I wrote this last night, after my post-NaNoWriMo happy dance:

I never want to forget this feeling. I am exuberant, brimming with unbridled happiness! I feel such accomplishment and pride! 50,000 words in one month may be an easy task for some. For me, it was a struggle. There were days when I hated every word that I typed. Then there were the wonderful days where I swore I was writing pure gold. I wouldn’t trade those insane, contradicting feelings for anything. The reason this was so incredible was because of the challenge. NaNoWriMo pushed me in a way that I could never do for myself. It forced me to write when I didn’t want to and cheered me on when I was feeling particularly creative. NaNoWriMo made a writer out of me. And for that, I am eternally grateful.

Now that the day of incredible, fantastic, bordering-on-insanity joy has passed, I feel more able to genuinely reflect on the entire month. My feelings on the matter haven’t drastically changed, but they have been shed a in new light. In fact, I have even developed a mental list. I probably should have been paying attention in class, but this seems substantially more important!

1.      I am no longer ashamed to admit to people that I’m writing a novel. I use to be very secretive about my plans. Careful to reveal it to only a few select people that I knew would respect and appreciate the journey. Writing has helped me to embrace the inner nerd and admit to people that yes, I am working on a novel.
2.      Before NaNoWriMo, I talked about writing A LOT more than I actually wrote. In fact, before November, all I had done was create an overly extensive outline and suffer through a horrendous false start. To be a writer, you have to actually write. I understand that now.
3.      I learned much more about myself than I thought I would. I had always heard people say that in every character we write, we place a bit of ourselves. I did not believe this at all. Sure, I supposed that we may have a few things in common with our main characters, but that was it! That notion could not have been more wrong. Every character is a little part of me. I suppose this makes sense, after all they were born in my imagination. Whether it is an irrational fear of gaudy jewelry or a never ending hope to travel the world, I am able to see things that I never thought I would. Writing is a very introspective process, almost on a therapeutic level.
4.      I like to write in the dark. I’m not entirely sure why. Whenever I was having a particularly hard day with my words, I crawled into my basement and turned out all of the lights. With only a single candle illuminating the room, I was able to find inspiration. I’m not sure why, but there’s something soothing about darkness. Perhaps it’s the strange, invigorating fear that something could simply be standing, staring, waiting in the darkness and you would have no inclination of it.
5.      NaNoWriMo taught me discipline. Without this learned skill, I know there would be no way that I would ever finish this novel. I guess that’s why most of the other things I’ve written have been left unfinished.
6.      A few months ago I went to the book signing of Beautiful Darkness by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl. The two discussed their book and writing with all of us for a good hour or so. One of the things that Margi told us was that writing was like a natural high. I now know exactly what she means. When I’m writing, I find myself sinking deeper and deeper into the story. It was difficult to pull myself out. It’s completely true, the act of writing is a drug.
7.      I need grammar lessons desperately.
8.      My characters never fail to surprise me. At first I tried to follow the outline as strictly as I could. However, it was just too difficult. I have to let my characters lead me to where they need to go. It’s them that tell me when to move on, not a dry outline.  
9.      Finally, my last thought on the matter. NaNoWriMo taught me how to be a writer. When I first started, I thought that it would be simple. It’s only 1667 words a day. For me, that was easier said than done. However, along the way I fell in love with characters and got lost in the world that I created. As incredible as that is, writing 50,000 words in one month was excruciatingly difficult. I can’t possibly say it as well as George Orwell did: “Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.

So that was my first NaNoWriMo experience. November 2010 will go down as one of the best months of my life. Now it’s time to keep writing and carry on the drive that NaNoWriMo has given me! Thanks to all of those who supported me through the process and congrats to those who won as well!