The last couple of years I have been promising myself I would participate in (and win) NaNoWriMo. There have been two years in which I won. I’m convinced it was a fluke. Not that I doubt that I’m a writer. My cousin once told me that you’re not a writer unless you’re published. They were stinging words from a very frank person who I have always cared deeply for. It’s been a lifetime of people I have looked up to and received harsh words from. The words sting. They come back around when I feel most vulnerable.
However, I am a writer. My response to my cousin should have been, “you’re substituting writer for author”. But, that’s why I have always written. I can never think of the response I want to use in the moment and I would prefer to be silent if I cannot articulate what is within my mind. This year’s NaNoWriMo traveled along side a funk in which I found words challenging. I drew every day and it brought me enormous joy to not use words at all. Maybe this was a subtle rebellion against–everything. This year’s NaNoWriMo emails left me cold as they asked for donations. As the whole month filled my inbox with a variety of emails from a variety of sources I had once subscribed to that all ask me to open my empty wallet. Something about the emails and my own lack of inspiration left me uninterested in participating.
Over the years I have recoiled from making my work confessional. There’s a whole world of confessional work. I’m not entirely sure where my work fits in. This blog is a weird experiment for me to search for something…I’m not entirely sure what.
My cousin’s stinging words don’t stop me but I’m still not sure where to put them. There’s great value in the world in the moments where people’s indifference wounds without malice. It has a place in art. It has a place in writing. There’s also the counter to my cousin’s words. Words from someone I knew so briefly whose creative work I admired and who gave me words of admiration for my work. Words I have never felt worthy to receive but keep with me because they were offered with such ease and were just as genuine as my cousin’s.
When I tried to work on my NaNoWriMo story I didn’t feel connected to the characters. They were interesting but I felt the pressure of 50,000 words in 30 days and didn’t want to speed date my characters. The two years I won I did so with stories where I had already immersed myself in the people. I had gotten to know a few of them and I had gotten to inhabit their world. It wasn’t plotting. It was more like pantsing because I didn’t know the story precisely. I didn’t have all the pieces but I had explored the worlds enough to want to stay.
It is disappointing to set goals and fall short of them. Especially in a world increasingly defined by the accumulation of “achievements” even in video games. But, this year at least, I am glad I failed to finish my novel. There’s a journey to be had in everything. I don’t just want to write and publish so that my cousin will agree that I am a writer (and author). I don’t just want 50,000 messy words with characters I’m not terribly interested in.
I want to travel along the journey that’s mine. If I ever have some extra money in my wallet I look forward to using it to infuse and bring life to other people’s projects as well as my own. There’s a bizarre sense of disappointment and joy to being lost along the way. But there are all of these beautiful things to find along the path…