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.