I did it. I jumped. Well, dove head first without checking to see if there was 20 feet of water or a puddle below. I first learned about NaNoWriMo years ago and thought what a massive project that was. Why would anyone want to torture themselves like that? And yet, here I am.
In the past several years, nearly all my writing has been non-fiction. The thought of writing fiction felt too difficult and too time-consuming. It’s just so free and full of possibility–how frightening. Then I did fictional writing for video game narratives a couple of years ago. That was fun. Maybe I could attempt some fiction. But a novel? An actual book, like that may one day be read by an agent and an editor and then published and I could call myself an author and have fancy book signings and my book would sit on shelves in libraries and be bought by people at The Strand and… As exciting as that sounded, I was quite sure it was something I was not capable of. I mean, books are magical, authors are legends. As I found myself spending more time with writers, it helped me realize that they are actually human beings. They have faults like me. Some have faults that are way worse than mine even. Those names on my bookshelves are not the gods I’ve made them out to be in my head. So maybe, just maybe, I could write a novel.
In the past year, I’ve been working on a collection of personal essays. Most are still in progress. Many are stories I’m afraid to tell. I get to them when I have time, and when I’m feeling particularly brave. There is one I’ve been wanting to tell for years. I’m not sure the moment I decided I needed to tell this story, but it’s been at least 10 years. I began writing a personal essay about it, and I had so much to tell I realized an essay could never contain all of my story.
After BinderCon, I was full of vigor, inspired to write and write and write. I felt capable and brave. I was ready to rip off the chains that have held me back and fearlessly put myself out there. I’ve been submitting to publications and reaching out to editors. I’ve been doing it. I saw NaNoWriMo come across my Twitter timeline about two weeks before November 1st. I decided to at least check out the website, for future reference. A few minutes later, I found myself signing up for it. I kept it to myself for a few days. I felt embarrassed. Who was I to write a novel? What a fraud. I am not a real writer.
I’d had these same feelings a few weeks earlier at BinderCon. I nearly convinced myself to skip the speed pitches with the editors. I told myself I had no talent, I was not a real writer, and I was wasting their time. I had no business being there and my pitches were awful. I worked for a while the night before, tweaking my pitches, choosing some writing samples, and freaking the fuck out. I finished up and was still considering my options. I could cancel now and let the BinderCon organizers know so they could open up my appointments to others. That would be a nice thing to do. I imagined myself telling everyone I felt a little ill. I can’t admit I’m scared shitless or that I think I’m worthless. I’d have a bit of a headache, and pass on an opportunity to someone more worthy than me. That would be for the best. Thankfully though, instead, I took some slow breaths. I read some inspiration. I went to sleep.
I woke up the next morning, and somehow felt ready to take on the world. I had a couple of hours to get ready, washed away all my doubts and self-depreciation in the shower. In line before my speed-pitch, I met others who were just as nervous. They had never pitched before. They were sure their book was nowhere near ready to be seen by an editor. They had thought of skipping too. I felt enormous relief.
I walked into the room and found the first editor I was to meet with. I admitted I was nervous, stating I’d never done a face to face pitch before. She smiled and said, “I know, it’s really odd. I don’t even know exactly how this works.” And then I felt okay. We went over my pitch and she liked my ideas. The next publication I met with had recently shifted their format and my pitch would no longer work. However we spoke about my experience and other writing, and came up with several other pitches I can research and get back to her with. I will hopefully have relationships with both publications going forward. I walked out of that room feeling like a rock star. I am a writer, dammit.
With all that negativity and self-doubt once again creeping up on me after signing up for NaNoWriMo, I reminded myself that I am a freaking writer. I also told myself anyone can write a book. I’ve spent enough time in bookstores to know that is true. I revealed the fact I’d signed up on my 5 Things post a few days before NaNoWriMo kicked off. I was afraid to say it aloud. I didn’t want to tell anyone, I was afraid I’d be made fun of. I thought people wouldn’t understand. I’d hear it was a waste of time, that this would get me nowhere. I can hear a certain someone asking me, “aren’t there better things to do with your free time?” Silently putting the news out there in a Tumblr post and then connecting with fellow Binders and others who had also signed up made me feel more confident. I wasn’t foolish. This is a thrilling endeavour I was embarking on. In a month’s time, I will have a rough draft of my first novel. That is a massive accomplishment. The next day I spoke to TK and the girls about it, they were all stoked. I then told my close friend who has been nothing short of supportive. I’ve yet to tell my family. There are some things that require a lot more time and energy, things I’m short on these days. I will tell them eventually.
My friend and I were just discussing serendipity. I can’t help but think the timing of BinderCon, some small writing successes I’ve had, and an essay by Sara Benincasa all came together to give me a much-needed kick in the ass. I have decided to do it anyway. To pitch to as many places as I can. To reach out and ask for a gig. To write a freaking book. To call myself a writer, a real freaking writer!
Good luck to everyone else who has stocked up on caffeine and candy for the month. Extra good luck to our loved ones who will have to put up with us during this time. Feel free to find me here so we can be buddies and help each other through the inevitable hurdles to come. I have made a Pinterest board for NaNoWriMo & writing, full of inspiration and tips that I’m frequently adding to.
I leave you now with a bit of wisdom. I believe it was Ernest Hemingway who said:
“It’s like I got this music in my mind, saying it’s gonna be alright
Cause the writers gonna write, write, write.”
Happy #NaNoWriMo to all!