Hurricane Sandy and NaNoWriMo

01 Nov 2012

written by Carolyn


Well, Hurricane Sandy is behind us, and I feel blessed that we fared just fine in the storm. We didn’t lose power, and suffered no flooding or damage to our apartment or building. It’s been a bummer not being able to see the dude, but we’re all hoping mass transit is up and running in New York City and the tri-state area soon.

It’s November, which means it’s National Novel Writing Month, or, as it’s irritatingly called, NaNoWriMo. The idea of National Novel Writing Month is just that – to start and complete a novel in one month. I’ve planned to do NaNoWriMo every year since I first heard about it, but this year is the first year I’ve actually committed to it. Why this year? Because I think the “write every day” structure will force me to do something I am not very good at doing with longer projects – finish. For example, I’ve been working on a memoir for what feels like forever. I’ve written segments that I think are pretty decent. I even did the Morningside Writers’ Workshop a year ago to kickstart the project in earnest

But then I got stuck, and I abandoned the project – or at least, walked away from it for a while. A year later, I know it’s time to get moving on it again.

So I’m writing a novel for NaNoWriMo, to re-energize myself back into working on my memoir. No. Really.

With the novel I’m working on for NaNoWriMo, I’ve already encountered the clarity that comes from not abandoning the work, but sticking with it and continuing to write. I started working on this novel in October – so technically, I’m not playing by the rules – but I am confident that I will complete a draft by the end of November. And then I can decide what to do with it. If it seems to have promise, I can keep revising and editing. If it’s trash, I can trash it. But psychologically, I think I need to finish something first that is easier, emotionally, to write — then get back to tackling the harder job of writing about my actual experiences.

The poet, essayist and now published fiction writer Saeed Jones – whom I met on Twitter as @theferocity and had the honor of getting to know briefly during his time living in New York, before he abandoned NYC to travel the world and land in San Francisco – is also working on a memoir. Like everything Saeed writes, it is sure to be brilliant. He wrote this on his Tumblr about writing one’s memories. I copy it here because it states so perfectly why I keep running away from my own memoir:

“Writing about your memories means that you’ve agreed to lock yourself in a room with them. Even when you’re not writing, part of you is still in that room reliving your best mistakes in first person, no second person, past tense, no past perfect tense, again and again.”

My NaNoWriMo project is not the memoir. It is a work of fiction, loosely based on certain experiences but not at all limited by the boundaries of my own life. But all writing roads lead me back to those places in my memories I can’t seem to escape. It’s a strange tension — the pop psychological need to “get over” and “move on” from one’s best and worst mistakes, while the storyteller’s brain keeps going back to them over and over again, the way the tongue returns to the spot of a missing tooth, tasting the absence over and over again, each time discovering a new sensation, or a new sense of loss.

I may try to update the blog daily during November as well (which BlogHer called “NaBloWriMo” last year), but I won’t commit to both. If November ends and I’ve written 30 new blog posts and finished a novel – great. If I’ve managed to publish elsewhere during November in addition to my blog? You’ll know I didn’t get much sleep. Either way, I’m looking forward to a month filled with inspiration and achievement. And if this 30-day challenge format works for me, perhaps I’ll take on other 30-day challenges after this one.

If you’re doing NaNoWriMo, or are taking on another 30-day challenge in November, please let me know in the comments!


One Response to Hurricane Sandy and NaNoWriMo

  1. Sarah Buttenwieser

    GO Carolyn! I did nanowrimo maybe two years ago? Was that it? Worked on a memoir. Did the 50K words (plus). It isn’t finished. That quote is so apt!

    For me, the artifice of that word count pushed me to dive IN and to make my way through a lot. In the end, it felt like such an important push in terms of that material and in another boot camp like experience for me as a writer — both so great (a blog is its own boot camp writer thing too right?). I lost A LOT of sleep. I don’t want to do that right now. But I am going to be watching/reading/waiting to see your new work! And cheering.

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