I’m behind on A to Z posts, and this one is out of order. It’s also a little longer than I hoped and way personal, but anyway, here it is!
I wasn’t going to write about NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) for N. I’ve written about this writing challenge a lot over the 12 years I’ve participated (10 of which as a Municipal Liaison). But while being behind on the A to Z challenge, and stumped on what to write for N, the perfect topic presented itself.
Yesterday I finally ordered a new netbook. I’ve been using the same Asus Eee PC on and off since Boyfriend purchased it in 2007. It’s a great little computer, and still has the same battery life it did when we bought it. (We got a longer battery and extra RAM at the time, had it refurbished in 2010, and reformatted it last year.) Processing speed had slowed down and one speaker blew out, but otherwise, it ran fine. I like it so much, that I purchased the most recent updated version of this model, the Asus VivoBook. (I went with the same size screen–11.6”–because I want it to fit in my purse.)
I’m really happy about getting a new machine. But the old one is covered in NaNoWriMo stickers from years past, and I’m kinda going to miss them. I posted a pic on Twitter yesterday, and a couple people pointed out that it looks like an old luggage trunk covered in stickers from all the places it has traveled. The NaNo stickers on my netbook reveal a piece of my writing journey.
The truth is, I think I would have given up on writing a long time ago if it weren’t for NaNoWriMo. I wrote a lot as a teenager, but after I moved out (a month before I turned 19) I fell out of the habit. I got caught up with college, work, and being young in NYC. I stopped writing. I stopped making art. It sucked.
When I was 21, I found out about NaNoWriMo via LiveJournal. (Remember that?) Somehow, I worked up the courage to attend the in-person meetups. I was a very different person then. People who know me now would be surprised to hear that I classified myself as shy. Becoming a NaNo ML helped break me out of that shyness, but that’s a story for a different time. The point is, I started writing again.
It was so freaking hard. And frustrating. And confronting. But I kept writing. And I met some people that November who have become some of my closest friends in real life. I met my friend Clarice at the TGIO (Thank God It’s Over) party that year. She and I talk every day, we’ve gone on vacation together, and she’s also participating in this blog challenge with me.
I wish I could say I wrote every day after that. I didn’t. But the next November, I did NaNo again, and I wrote. And the year after that, I returned as an ML. And wrote. In 2010, I joined a critique group that had grown out of the NYC NaNoWriMo community. I attempted to edit and revise my work, with dismal results. (I re-wrote the first chapters over and over again. Don’t laugh; you know you’ve been there, too.) I started participating in Camp NaNoWriMo and began working on projects year-round. I attended writers’ conferences and book events. My reading and writing network expanded as I found more communities to join. (Living in NYC makes it really easy. I know I’m lucky.)
Then, in 2013, I decided to get serious about this writing thing. I’d always wanted to write and publish novels, ever since I was a teenager writing fanfic on a clipboard on my bed at 3am. It was time to finish something.
As much as I’d been writing, I had never finished a story, beginning to end. So in November 2013, I wrote a complete first draft of a historical romance. My first time writing romance or historical, and my first time writing “The End.” (Although I don’t think I actually wrote those words.) That draft was MESSY. But it was done. In one month.
When I look back at where I was in November 2013 and where I am now, I’m kind of amazed. I still participate in NaNoWriMo every year, and Camp NaNo twice a year (with varying results). I’m still an ML. Last year I attended the Night of Writing Dangerously in San Francisco for the first time, and visited the NaNoWriMo office in Berkeley. So it’s kind of ridiculous to think I could blog about writing and not include NaNoWriMo. I don’t know if I’ll put stickers on the new netbook or not, but even if I don’t, NaNo is still a key part of my writing journey, and I’m eternally grateful.
Have you ever done NaNoWriMo? What was your experience? Was there ever a time when you thought about giving up on writing (or did give up)? What brought you back to it?