Something you may or may not know is that November is National Novel Writing Month. Yes, that would mean that in the month of November a few hundred thousand crazies from all over the globe try to write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. That breaks down to 1,667 words a day. It is a crazy, kamikaze way to try to write a book, and many other areas of a participant's personal life suffer for it, but it is exhilarating, inspiring and empowering! I did it last year, and only made it to 20,710 words, which is about 68 pages, but it was literally the first time I'd written a single word creatively since finishing college in 2001, and I also had a 2 year old and hosted my in-laws for a week, so I'm still quite proud of myself. Furthermore, I had never heard of NaNoWriMo until October 28th and had no idea of what I would write about. I had so much fun exploring the characters that came tumbling out of my head, and watching them come to live. In fact, I fell so deeply in love with my characters, that I decided to attempt the same story again this year. One of the NaNoWriMo rules is that you have to start from scratch, so I can't start writing 50,000 added onto my 20,710 from last year. But so much of my time last year was spent on research (one of my main characters "turned out" to have been in the Coast Guard, which I knew nothing about, and was also from Illinois, where I had never been, so there was a lot of research to do on the back story. Not to mention that it was set in a town I'd only visited for a total of about 4 hours! So much for the old "write what you know" adage!) that I think I'll consider all the work I did last year as pre-writing, and start the story from scratch, but use some of the ideas I explored last time. I just can't recycle any of the words I wrote.
Which brings me to this morning. I hadn't looked at my story since last November--when you're writing a couple of thousand words a day, you can imagine that the quality is pretty low (you basically vomit the words onto the screen stream-of-consciousness, aiming only for word count) so I was somewhat trepidatious to turn back to it. But I just finished reading through the whole thing (it does flow narratively, but cuts off in mid scene) and a surprising thing happened! IT MADE ME CRY! It actually drew me in emotionally! MY STORY HAS LIFE!
Now, I'm not posting all of this to brag in any way, but just to say that writing has been a deep love of mine since I was six years old, and yet I haven't devoted much time or any discipline to it, even when I was studying it in college. I am SO GOOD at not taking myself seriously! Why do I do this? I don't know, but it is a very dark impulse, and one that I am getting ready to shake anew as I gear up for another crazy November.
I put this out there to all of you as both an invitation (writing a novel is a good exercise for everyone!) but also as an encouragement to all of us to give ourselves over to our passions and not be AFRAID all the time! What do you love? What is something that you have refused to let yourself take seriously? We all have aspects of ourselves that we dismiss as frivolous, but sometimes these things are our very essence. We all need to reach into ourselves and find what is there so that we can then hold it out as an offering both to God and to others. As Wendell Berry so eloquently and hauntingly writes, DO NOT BE ASHAMED!
I'm crying as I write this, because I feel so deeply the need in myself to CARE! To take myself and all my little quirks seriously! And I know that I am not alone in this journey. This blog grew out of my NaNoWriMo experience of last year, because it awakened in my my passion to write, and I couldn't keep up the pace of 1,667 words a day. I have been so blessed by the response I've gotten on this page from all of you, and the conversations that have grown out of it. If I have anything to give back to all of you it is this: GO! Dance, sing, write, laugh, love, do whatever it is that you are holding yourself back from... Give yourself to it and LIVE.
"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others."