My laptop in 2009
In 2009 I participated in NaNoWriMo. The goal: write a 50,000-word novel in a month. I “won” the challenge, which in this context means that I churned out 50,000 words in 30 days, and that it was as near as a coherent novel as you can expect in that time frame.
I had all the time in the world to be doing this in 2009, because it was the year I was underemployed and freelancing, which meant I spent a lot of time in coffee shops and wandering the streets of Toronto. My novel was about young people in their twenties and thirties, who were all various forms of underemployed in arts and science, and who spent a lot of time in coffee shops and wandering the streets of Toronto. Write what you know.
There was also an extensive subplot related to one of the main characters’ band, and various key scenes set at rehearsals in the basement of someone’s house. A year later I read Scott Pilgrim for the first time. Same thing, even set in the same neighbourhood! The exact same record store gets a mention! I can assure you, though, this is just what life in Toronto is really like. I, too, have spent evenings in friends’ basements listening to their band rehearse, and I dropped off a ton of old CDs at that record store before I moved away.
Doing NaNoWriMo in November 2009 was good for me. Therapy for a year of not quite knowing what was next, and forcing me to sit down and work on something systematically, yet creatively. That same month, I flew to the UK twice for job interviews, writing on the plane to reach my word count. I got one of the jobs, and by early December I knew what I would be doing in 2010.
Since then, I have worked a lot. I do not nearly spend as many time in coffee shops as I would like, and I haven’t lazily sat in the corner of a basement listening to a band rehearsal in years. Lately, I don’t even have time to join an orchestra myself. My life has been nothing but science. There’s no balance anymore.
Balance is important. I’ve talked to many people who are both active in music and in science, and most of them mention that it is the combination of the two that gives them the balance they need to perform in each field. These conversations were part of interviews I did to find out why there are so many people doing both music and science. It’s for a “project” that I have recently decided should be a book. I still haven’t *done* anything with it, though, after getting an initial pitch rejected. I took a Gotham Writers Workshop course on how to write a book proposal, and now I know exactly what to do, but I just never sit down and *do* it, because I’m tired and jaded and always on a plane or a train for work travel or at a social event that I have convinced myself I need to show my face at.
What if I had an excuse. Something to force me to write that proposal. Something like NaNoWriMo.
NaNoWrimo’s guidelines clearly state that your 50,000 words should be a novel, and that it needs to be an entirely new project that you started in November. But the pressure of that word limit, and the sense of community you get from thousands of people participating, that is what I need. I couldn’t be the only one…
That’s when I found it, near the bottom of the NaNoWriMo forums: NaNo Rebels. A group of people who are using the NaNoWriMo interface and community for projects that break the official rules: PhD theses, non-fiction books, academic readers – and book proposals.
So as of today, I reactivated my account on NaNoWriMo, and I will try to reach the 50,000 word goal as a NaNo Rebel, with sample chapters and a proposal and notes from previous interviews. I might not make it – I’m not counting on it – but at least I’ll finally sit down and do something, and hopefully feel better about myself.