I don’t have much time, but want to blog ON THE DAY damn it, instead of several weeks later when I remember, buried in a post in which I’m trying to do four things at once but fail because I should have been blogging regularly but wasn’t.
I may have actually heard about NaNoWriMo in 2001, but was working on My Grand And Epic Science Fiction Novel That I Had Started At Age 16 In Response To The Fountainhead Being Bullshit. Plus, I thought NaNo sounded stupid, so I didn’t bother.
Regardless, on November 8, 2002, I opened a forum account on the NaNoWriMo forums because some of my friends were doing it (from back in the Elfwood/IRC days, oh my). I wasn’t too excited about it. Actually, I thought it was a terrible idea, and I didn’t want to start anything new anyway, so whatever. I probably TOLD everybody in IRC that NaNoWriMo was the stupidest idea I’d ever heard WHILE I was filling out the account info. I was 18, and it was my freshman year of college, and I was kind of a shit.
(There are people who met me in my late teens/early 20’s and I have no idea why they still acknowledge my existence. Waiting for schadenfreude?)
It’s been ten fucking years, now.
I mean, it’s just this thing that happens one month a year. It’s an event, sure, sometimes little more than a social event. I’ve showed up to meet other people doing NaNo in Bellingham, Helsinki, and Seattle. This year when I stopped at Powell’s during Orycon, I ended up in the middle of a Portland write-in. Every year, I churn out about 50,000 words of shit, usually finishing right at the very last minute so I can get that pixel star or whatever next to my name.
Yeah, none of those books are published. We can argue about whether or not they were ever finished.
I’ve got some short stories, though. And the novel I’m almost-just-so-close-to-done-with now. The thing is, besides being 18 and a disgruntled college student, I was also a procrastinator, and I had no idea how to finish anything.
That novel I mentioned up at the beginning? That I’d started when I was 16? It persisted for a while (even post NaNo, and after I’d started other projects in November). By the time I gave it up, I did have about 40,000-50,000 words of manuscript! Awesome! And I was pretty sure the plot was just… about… to… start. Yeah, so it was kind of a soap opera that was supposed to be science fiction about an active rebellion, but really it was just a lot of people running around and being dramatic at each other. Yet, somehow I had a small fanbase for it even though I would currently title the project, “The Author Desperately Tries To Come Out of the Closet To Himself But Is Persistently Clueless.”
(Actually, that probably explains WHY people sent me folders of fanart…)
In 2003, Cory Skerry and Liz Coleman were doing NaNoWriMo in Bellingham, and they attempted to make contact, but that was during the one time I tried to date someone, and he was pretty much all of my social contact until he dumped me because he found my reluctant blow job unsatisfactory (and I beat him at Risk). Also, I was still working on the terrible novel rather than starting something new, so I still wasn’t too into the whole NaNo culture yet.
But in 2004, I responded to their NaNoLy summons and did something I had not done much at all during my previous two years… I DESCENDED FROM THE CAMPUS ON THE HILL.
The thing is, until I wandered through downtown Bellingham in search of this mythical place named, “The Black Drop,” I was totally and entirely one of those amateurs who is going to finish a story Someday. There was just other shit I needed to do first. Somewhere, there’s an alternate universe in which I’m working a perfectly ordinary job, and getting slowly more and more bitter about how disappointed I am in myself. I mean, more than I am anyway. Like the way I am now, but a thousand times worse. Alternate universe me probably gets paid more, though. Thankfully I was sucked into the weirdo artsy coffeeshop crowd in Bellingham before I turned into someone respectable.
I participate in NaNoWriMo every year and it’s part of my life, but it wasn’t until I sat down and thought about it this morning that I realized just how much it meant to me. Without the relationships I formed through NaNo, I suspect I may never have written short stories, found out I could finish things, had a webcomic, transitioned, gone to Norwescon for the first time, or found out about Clarion. I’d be one of those sad fuckers with a 9 to 5 I hate, a chip on my shoulder, and a sagging pile of overworked mush that I was still calling a novel “in progress” after 12 years.
I see new people show up at write-ins now, people who always wanted to write, but weren’t sure if they could, who aren’t too sure about what this whole nonsense is about and just want something to do in November. Most of them will just have fun and put everything aside for the rest of the year, sure. And there are always plenty of people writing their fanfiction opuses for themselves and their friends.
Still, when I see people joining for the first time, I wonder if what they’re about to start is a novel or something much more profound.