Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Fear and loathing in November

I'm both excited and so-anxious-I-could-puke over the fact that November is right around the corner. Why? Because it's National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), which is, like, only the coolest thing ever. Sears. It's like a global literary movement that makes you feel like you're part of something, well, important. It really is "30 days and nights of literary abandon."

I'm still a relative newbie when it comes to NaNoWriMo, having only participated last year when I first found out about it. And last November I rocked it. The contest calls for writing 50,000 words in one month and I wrote 10,000 MORE than that, just because I wanted to prove my awesomeness to myself. I wanted to prove to myself that I could do it. My thinking was that if I could that, then I could practically do anything -- at least in the writing realm. I'm still proud of winning and writing (what I believe to be) 60,000  above-par words in one month. I worked hard for those hours, stayed up many late nights in a row, wrote through dinners and breakfasts. It was amazing and intoxicating. I was drunk off the written word and the story arcs I came up with it.

But now, this year, I'm more hesitant than I was before. This time I have a full-time job, one that takes 11 hours out of each of my weekdays (if we're counting commuting time here). And this is where my current anxiety comes in; if I do NaNoWriMo, I want to be in it to win it. My husband laughs that there's really no ramifications to losing, but I disagree. To lose at NaNoWriMo, for me, would be to admit that my day job has gotten the best of me. That it's taken away the one thing I love to do -- to write.

In essence, to lose at NaNo would be to embrace defeat, to throw in the towel and let conventionality reign supreme in my life. And I don't want to be that girl. The one who's got a trillion excuses as to why I couldn't do NaNoWriMo, or, if I got as far as entering (which I have), I don't want to be that person who then has a panoply of reasons why I couldn't finish. "I was too tired from work," "There was a Rachel Zoe marathon on," "My husband wanted to take a long weekend with me."  Excuses. All of them. They will only tell me that I simply didn't work hard enough. That I didn't want it that bad. Which is BS. I want it so bad I can taste it.

Which leads me to wonder: What compels one to do that one thing they love so much? Sure I love other things -- reading, dancing (was looking into flamenco classes today), classic films, poodles, etc. -- but what is it about writing that would make me actually take on the maddening endeavor of stressing to create and cram 50,000 well-crafted words, the skeleton of a novel, into 3 weekends and the 4 or so hours I have every weeknight after work? I'm not sure, all I know is that writing is cathartic for me. Little known fact about yours truly: I also do charcoal sketching. Which I love, but writing allows me to express myself more than any method I've tried. It's a release, it's satisfying. I'm curious to you all out there: How do you express yourself? Food? Fashion design? Tango?

Last week when people were betting on who would win the Nobel Prize for literature, a top contender was novelist, post-colonial theorist and social activist, Ngugi wa Thiong'o, who's currently a Distinguished Professor of English and Comparative Literature at the UC Irvine. Apparently, according to The Guardian, he began writing in English, but following his arrest and imprisonment without charge at a maximum security Prison in Kenya after the performance of his critical play I Will Marry When I Want in 1977, he made the decision to work in his mother tongue, Gikuyu. He then wrote the novel The Devil on the Cross on toilet paper during his time in prison. He wrote a novel on toilet paper, people. That's incredible. I've never read any of Thiong'o's work, but simply hearing that fact is such an inspiration. It shows how much this person loves their craft, and what lengths they'd take to practice it. It's that primal urge to create. (By the way, Thiong'o lost the Nobel to Mario Vargas Llosa, who himself is very deserving of the prize.)

So yes, I am reticent. I don't know how this November will turn out, but I know that I entered and I. Must. Win. If this Thiong'o fellow (and countless others) can hunker down and write a novel on toilet paper, then surely I can punch out 50,000 words on my laptop...

1 comment:

  1. I know you can pull this off, it's where your heart is.

    My passion/outlet that I can't refuse is cooking and even better -- cooking for others.