November, where is your sting?

Writing Rambles


The internet — or the section populated by aspiring and established writers — is abuzz with preparations for NaNoWriMo. For those who are not writers, let me explain. NaNoWriMo is short for National Novel Writing Month, and it is about just that: Writing a novel, however bare bones it may be, in one month. 30 days. 50,000 words.

Last November I was gearing up for another edit on my as-yet to be published novel, Redhunt. November of last year was also the beginning of the end of my family’s time living in NYC. We were grappling with some tough decisions, decisions not really made any easier by my own internal struggle with a novel that had become a major thing in me and my life. Add in our souring relationship with a city that still held our attention, but not our best-interests, along with a  heaping amount of homesickness and the realization that home was decidedly different, and, well…you catch my drift.

Plus, my birthday is November 3rd. I am a person who lives in conflict with the day of their birth. I want the fact of my existence to be celebrated, but I don’t want to be confronted with the things left undone at the end of another year. I wasn’t always this way. In my teens and early 20s, I was actually quite the ambitious birthday haver. There was my 17th birthday, when I had an Academy Award themed costume party. Or my 24th when I threw a joint Murder Mystery Dinner Party with my birthday buddy Sam. But as my 20s have gone on, a switch has been flipped that makes my insides writhe in panic as my birthday approaches.

So, consequently, I usually approach November fighting anxiety armed with liquor and snark. I hide out or argue. I grumble. And all of this tends to last until I start getting excited about Thanksgiving, and pie, and family interactions out of a movie that have no actual bearing on reality or the family I really have. That leads right into more grumbling and usually extended Gilmore Girls viewing sessions and coffee spiked with Baileys.

All that, and it’s not even Christmas yet.

But not this year. In the throws of romancing a new novel, and in the thick of filming a short film, my usual moody, broody ugliness has become something different.

It has been a long time since I have been able to face November with more than a scowl and some empty threats. But as I, and the rest of the writing community gear up for NaNo, and November reminds me how I hate it and love it, threatening another Thanksgiving where I want to hide in the kids playroom with a bottle of whiskey and a puzzle, reminding me there is still no word on my novel, there is still no certainty that this year I will be braver, or smarter, or skinnier; I don’t flinch.

I make fake blood. I sew a coffin cover. I write 5,000 words in a week. I let anxiety settle around me, driving me forward not holding me back.

I realize I’m not alone. Not in wanting to be further along in my writing journey than I am. Not in dreading the last birthday in my 20s. Not in any of it.

Right now, writers all around the world are sitting at their computers, or are working at their day jobs, or are chasing their toddlers, and they are all feeling as wondrously uncertain and filled with anticipation as I. What NaNo reminds me of is that at the core of everything we do we nurture a simple, visceral need to connect. To know that this game is played by others. That we move along the road, not alone in our misery, not separate in our celebration, but as a part of the larger, the greater, the wider. That what we want is also what someone else wants. That what we see and feel, is felt by others.

Knowing we aren’t really alone in the struggle against sagging boobs and underachievement allows us to stop fighting the losing battle, and get to the one we can win. And so this year, November taunts, but I can’t hear her jeers over the sound of my writing playlist and encouragement from fellow writers huddled in the trenches beside me.

52 thoughts on “November, where is your sting?

    1. Agreed. Are you doing NaNo this year, Jennifer? I know you’ve been working on edits, so didn’t know if you were planning to do NaNo.

      1. I think that’s totally fine! I am generally a pantster who likes to be surprised by the plot of their books. This is both good (because I usually am excited to see what happens) and detrimental (because sometimes I write myself into a corner). For my NaNo book I have more figured out going in than normal. I can’t decide if this is a good thing.

    1. OH MY GOSH! The Breakfast Club fist pump is the perfect way to sum this post up, Brigid. Um, yes. I think as a NaNo reward we can schedule a Twitter (or something) viewing party. 🙂

  1. This is awesome! I am glad that I’m not alone in my anticipation and nervousness about NaNoWriMo, and the same goes for my hopes for success in life. We are never alone in anything in life, even if it feels like we are sometimes.

    1. No, not alone! We are all in this thing together. I think that’s what makes NaNo so great. The sense of oneness. The sense of being crazy as a collective.

      1. I agree! Even though it’ll be a brand new experience for me, I’m very excited! And hearing about so many others participating in the event makes me feel not the slightest bit alone. 🙂

      2. Oh, this is my first time too! I have friends who have done it multiple years, or who are plotters (I’m not), or who are much more Zen, but still they are nervous and giddy.

  2. Indeed, feeling a sense of membership in the collective whole of writers matters in many ways. Writing is a bit of a solitary existence and our enthusiasm over a beautiful tapestry of words strung together with raw emotion can only truly be understood by other lovers of literature.

    1. This: “Writing is a bit of a solitary existence.” Yes, and this is a time to let others in on the experience, if not on the words themselves.

  3. *cheers* I feel like being a NaNo cheerleader this year. I know a lot of people taking part and I’m taking it easier than last year (200k; it was a mistake), so I have time to cheer them on. Mostly.
    Hope it works out for you! Beat that November into novelling submission!

    1. Miriam, 200k sounds terrifying, but super badass. Happy to bask in your cheerleading, and maybe soak up some massive word count mojo.

      1. It was actually an accident. I was racing someone and they were aiming for 200k and it just kind of … happened. Words just work for me. Idk. (Everyone at NaNo London hates me, I swear.)
        *continues cheering*

    1. Oh, thank you for reading, for the comment, and the encouragement! I hadn’t heard of NaNo until I got into the YA Writer blogosphere. This is my first year to participate.

  4. I don’t like my birthday very much. It seems odd to me to celebrate the mere fact that I was born. I like writing much more. I’ve promised myself in the past that I would try the NaNoWriMo, but I’ve never had the time. Maybe next year.

    1. Or this year! *Nudges and winks* The birthday thing is very hit or miss. Sometimes I think I want to celebrate because I feel like I should want to celebrate. And sometimes it’s because I want others to seem happy I’m alive. 🙂

  5. Loved your post! My birthday is November 8th and I hate is every year, but it keeps coming back! Good luck with NaNoWriMo, I am doing it and already feel like it will be a long month! 🙂

  6. Love it! It’s always nice to know there are others preparing to bleed at their typewriters (or computers or notebooks). It’s my first year taking the challenge seriously, 1000 words and counting!

    1. Thanks for reading the post and the comments! Some great stuff being said in comments. 🙂 Hope you decide to participate this year, or next year!

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