November is ending, and with it my daily push to write at least two thousand words and complete the first draft of a novel as a participant in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). I exceeded the fifty thousand word minimum by six thousand, though the novel is only about two-thirds complete. My plan is to finish by the end of December. I can do this with a mere thousand words a day and perhaps still manage to make a few holiday cards and find a gift for my husband.
This month of daily writing has been the experience of a lifetime. I feel like it has changed me in some way. More disciplined? Maybe. More focused? Probably. More committed to completing not just one, but as many drafts as it takes to end up with a worthy product? Perhaps. If this was a life-changing experience, why am I so tentative about the outcome? The answer is that also during November I watched a few episodes of a new show on HBO called “Enlightened.” The story is about a woman who snaps at work and gets fired. She goes on a $27,000 retreat and returns with a large, unpaid bill, as well as a new world view and inner peace, or so she thinks. Unfortunately, the peace comes and goes. She returns to a much worse job with her former employer and fails in her efforts to get her new boss and co-workers to adopt her changed values. When no one, including her mother, seems to understand her, she relapses into her former, stressed-out, angry self.
Often when we experience something we think has changed us — like a vacation — it turns out it hasn’t. And that’s why I don’t want to make any claims for benefits of NaMoWriMo lasting more than a month. A month was long enough to show me that I really do have a novel-length story in me, that after about thirty minutes of writing I get into the zone, so to speak, where my characters take over, and their stories unfold, and that I’m as excited about their lives on November 29 as I was on November 1. If I don’t continue to work with the same intensity and enthusiasm, so be it. I once heard an author say she had twelve different manuscripts rejected before a publisher picked up number thirteen. That’s determination. One month won’t tell me if I have it. But I’ll have my framed “Winner” certificate and I’ll wear my “Winner’s Circle” t-shirt to remind me of what a truly thrilling experience I’ve had.