So I missed Writing Wednesday–oops! But I wanted to write this article because it’s very important to me as a writer, an artist, and general human being. I’ve been asked a lot why I am not doing NaNoWriMo anymore and while children is a part of the reason it is not wholly the reason. So here goes!
NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month takes place during November and encourages anyone and everyone to throw inhibitions to the wind and put words on paper. It has been embraced by writers of all kinds, ages, and backgrounds and in many ways is a brilliant program. Schools have adopted it as a way to get students excited about creative writing which is probably my favorite thing about this idea. It builds communities of writers where they didn’t exist before and gives people courage to try something new. These are all spectacular things about NanoWrimo!
However, like everything, there are downsides to this idea and viewpoint about writing which it has taken me some time to realize. For many, myself included when I participated, November became a month of pure anxiety to meet that 1667 words a day to meet the 50,000 word quota. I know there is a lot of wisdom out there about how any words are better than no words at all but for a selectively competitive perfectionist it was a nightmare on my mental health that I masked with a veneer of “this is fun”. Granted, there were parts that were fun–the year I met empresscats three times a week to Nano and we ultimately won!
But looking back these months were filled with anxiety that hurt work, personal relationships and ultimately didn’t result in work I was overly proud of as a whole piece. For a lot of people deadlines like these work beautifully for getting the work done. For me it’s mostly word salad with a few good plots and characters that I then never touch again. I just don’t work that way.
It is also the WORST timing for me personally. November is our month for finessing craft goods for Christmas sales. That leaves little room for–you know, laundry and eating food let alone writing. And really The Fall as a whole is just bad for me. All that to say, if it works for you–that is wonderful! If it doesn’t I’m happy to talk through your process to find what might work better! I know for me I am a long distance runner as opposed to sprinter when it comes to writing.
To all, happy writing and creating however that takes shape!
I have a terrible memory.
It is a constant source of irritation and sadness for me. I desperately want to remember moments of my life–especially the happy ones and often they are more like floating clouds than clear snapshots. They are there and I can see the shape and color of the moment but nothing crisp and distinct–maybe that is not how memory should work. It definitely explains why I am a photoholic with my children. However, I digress.
Among the clouds of memories from my childhood something came through this morning, bright and clear and gleaming red. It was the red power light from my old radio I had as a kid. You see I had terrible nightmares as a child–I would get myself so worked up while I lay in the dark and silence, every sound and shadow magnified into monsters and Freddy Kreuger (my childhood nemesis!) in my closet. I cannot remember if my parents got me the radio because of the nightmares or if it came about as an arbitrary Christmas or birthday present but that radio was everything to me. The soft music ranged from Fox 97 with it’s oldies to, classical music on NPR to 99X as I got older which introduced me to alternative and rock music, and this music helped quiet my brain. It was a focus point in the dark. The little red power light was my beacon of safety and I do remember waking up to that light being extinguished and having moments of sheer panic.
I recorded my first mixed tapes on that radio. Picking songs I loved and hovering anxiously till they played again. I saved up my allowance to get packs of tapes to fill up. One of my favorite tapes was of haunting Russian Orthodox hymns recorded from the local public radio station at midnight on a Sunday evening. Hearts of Space, Sundays at 11:00 introduced me to the eerie soundscapes of ambient music which only fueled my obsession with science fiction. It’s funny how those details live on but I couldn’t for the life of me tell you the brand of that radio–perhaps that isn’t the important thing to remember. Memory is tricky like that. I recorded myself on those tapes too. Silly stories made up to sound like radio personalities. It was the first time I heard myself recorded and thought I sounded like a chipmunk! (I still do!)
That radio went on one of the few truly happy family vacations we had. My brother and I were strapped into an old van seat in the back of my dad’s pick up truck (covered with a camper shell of course!) when we wanted to escape the cramped confines of the extended cab. There were tapes of The Drifters, Ray Stevens and my brothers tape of cowboy songs. We went through a lot of batteries on that trip!
A lot of childhood items get lost to time, they just gradually disappear as we grow older and move on. This radio, however, lived a long noble life and died a noble death. It was replaced that Christmas by a shiny new stereo system with detachable speakers and played these new things called CD’s. I dove into this new era of music listening with all the zeal of a fourteen year old. That radio, though, will live on in my cloudy memory its red light shining like a comforting lighthouse anchoring my young overactive imagination and reminding me how important things are never truly lost to us.