It’s NaNoWriMo time (National Novel Writing Month) this November! I signed up to write a 50,000 word first draft of a book along with hundreds of thousands of other crazy people around the world. That’s 1,667 words per day, for those of you doing the math. This is my third time around, and I’ve already made the goal, but I’m still going! All this means so far is that I now have three shitty first drafts adrift in the Cloud. But I’m having fun, and it’s helped me commit to a daily writing practice.
I started this irregular and un-scheduled blog four years ago to push myself into a writing routine. I also wanted to explore being retired, aging, and grandparenting while exploring my new city. I feel at home with this short essay form, writing reflections on life. If there’s not something new to say it means I need to rustle up some adventure or discovery.
I also meet with my beloved “writing practice” groups that grew out of a course I took in 2019 with writer Natalie Goldberg (Writing Down the Bones, 1986). Since then I’ve continued to meet with various groups almost every day on Zoom and have dear friends I’ve never met in the flesh. Perhaps you too have Zoom friends. This astonishes me. Friendships go deep as we listen to each other read words from the heart, sharing innermost experiences and thoughts, along with delicious sentences and scenes.
Back when I led writing classes for homeschooling kids, I used Goldberg’s rules of writing practice: keep the hand moving, don’t worry about spelling or punctuation, lose control, be specific, and feel free to write the worst junk. After reading aloud, listeners only say thank you, no criticism given. It works! Kids who were bored with writing assignments, or disliked the kind of writing taught in school rediscovered the joy of making up delightful stories, as they had when they were younger.
But I was my own worst student, and I still couldn’t write freely without stopping and starting a thousand times, waylaid by self-criticism, fear, indolence, or insouciance.
Now (it’s never too late!) writing is a daily habit, and NaNoWriMo offered an irresistible opportunity. This time I’m sharing the experience with about 20 writing buddies, all scribbling away in parallel universes. We check in with each other and share the highs and lows of the adventure. It keeps me going!
My granddaughter joined in with a more modest goal, appropriate for a nine year old. Listening to her adventures of Detective Corn, a unicorn that appears to be her alter-ego, has been a charming infusion of energy to my own project.
It feels like I’m pouring out all the thousands of words that I avoided for so many years. My shitty first draft may end up floating about on the Cloud as well, but for now, I’m having fun.