Writing is a joy, writing is a slog. Writing is a challenge, writing is an escape. Nowhere are the contrasts of our chosen method of creativity more obvious than in the hectic days of November – The National Novel Writing Month.
Every year, all around the world, nearly a quarter of a million people dedicate a month to Thirty Days of Noveling AbandonTM – a breakneck, write at all costs challenge to write 50,000 words of a novel by the stroke of midnight on November 30th. This is take no prisoners, correct no typo, guerilla writing. There is no time for procrastination, no quarter given for editing. House chores are allowed to pile up, phone calls go unanswered, emails unsent. The book is the thing, the only thing.
Except, when it isn’t. This November the Presidential Election in the United States hacked its way into week two with a vengeance. Those who voted in this election were distracted. Those that did not vote were spectators to the shock and awe of a country divided against itself. Suddenly, this little hobby, this crazy lark of a November project seemed less important. Words on paper are so flimsy against the backdrop of momentous human events. The question WHAT NOW took over the space we had reserved for WHAT IF.
The novel is a long-form art that reflects the patterns of life itself. If you answer all of your reader’s questions in the first couple of chapters they will not read on. If you answer none of their questions until the last chapter, they will also abandon the effort of reading. Instead, you must answer questions throughout the text, while simultaneously adding new things for the reader to ponder. A writer provides answers readers can follow to more questions. Just as the answer of who won the US elections has led to a multitude of new questions.
The joy of NaNoWriMo, (the National Novel Writing Month) is the thrill of discovery. The sheer joy of posing questions and then answering them. Many writers began this month thinking they were writing one sort of question, but thanks to the events of this past week have discovered that they need to ask a different sort of question all together. As we write through the second half of our month of abandon I would like to remind all of the writers who labor beside me: The questions we ask are important. The stories we tell can point the way out of confusion. The characters we create can demonstrate how we should live with each other. And mostly, this messy, chaotic process of creation is the most human of all acts, and the world could use a little humanity just now. Write on WriMos!