By doing NaNoWriMo, I’ve discovered that I can write that much, that intensely, for a month at a time. I can listen that closely to a story, and get it down on paper in a blaze of concentration and intensity. I can make a commitment to myself and keep it. This is the basis of my writing life–a commitment I made to myself in September of 1999 that I would give a part of each day to writing stories. It was hard, in those early days, to grab time away from my job as a mom with little kids at home, but it was crucial for my emotional well-being. I needed the intellectual escape into creating a world of my own, writing a story that I would like to read. I needed to make a commitment to myself, that I would honor the work I’d been called to do. I promised myself I’d write a page a day. A page of story, or if I were between books, memoir exercises I found in Writing From Life by Susan Wittig Albert. Every day, every week, every month, every year. As anything one does daily for months, it became a habit. As anything one does with the conscious intention of honoring spirit, it became a practice.
Fast forward nine years. I had over a dozen manuscripts filling my trunk–the result of enjoying writing first drafts more than revision–and I’d been circulating revised and polished manuscripts for a while. I was frustrated with not “breaking in” to the publishing world with my novels. I needed something fun. I had an idea for the next book in my queue. I debated about trying NaNoWriMo. Then I had a dream, of an ancient ancestor, and I saw that my dreams wanted me to write the ghost story “Birdie’s Journal.” What November of 2008 proved to me was that I could spend longer hours in the chair and feel even better about myself at the end of the day.
I couldn’t do it every month, because I can’t edit other work while I’m doing NaNoWriMo. I admire writers who aren’t pulled away by their obligations as parents and householders and are able to write a few thousand words every day. Maybe one day, when my nest is empty, I’ll find that I’m one of those writers. Since I’m not there yet, I’ll plunge into NaNoWriMo.