Where Am I, and What’s the Deal With This Handbasket?

A number of years back I was poking around on LiveJournal and ran across the blog of a friend of mine who was describing this thing called National Novel Writing Month. Which sounded really interesting, and I decided I wanted to try it.

The only problem was that Nanowrimo runs from November 1 to 30 every year, and it was already the day after Thanksgiving.

I had just finished (? Was finishing?) grad school and I was looking for another all consuming obsession to fill the anticipated void. I had matured as a technical writer and writing term papers and giving in-class presentations was coming easy. Challenging, yes, because I still had to master the material, but the actual effort of repackaging [0] was running smoothly.

Writing fiction, however, was a nut I had yet to crack.

I remember that when I was a kid I had written a short play— the kind you act on a stage, not on a screen. I must have written that play three separate times because I was so in love with the story [1]. I never did get a chance to put it on, though, because as a shy, bookish, nerdy, introverted child I didn’t have enough friends to fill out the cast. Thank all the Muses that none of my schoolteachers ever found out about my playwriting— no doubt they would have considered producing said play the perfect social therapy for a shy, bookish, nerdy, introverted child. In the 1970s, the Geek had yet to inherit the Earth, and a girl who was smart rather than sociable was simply Not On.

Anyway, I had to wait eleven and a half months for my first Nanowrimo. By the time it finally rolled around I had already read No Plot, No Problem! and tried my hand at creating story out of the motion of pen over page. However, I looked forward to the discipline of having a series of deadlines as I experimented with long form fiction.

The book I eventually wrote was dreadful. But the experience was a revelation.

For some reason it has never been the online Nanowrimo community that caught my passion, which is actually pretty weird considering that I have been participating in online communities since approximately 1989 [2] and at the time lived and died by email. The greatest part of the Nanowrimo experience turned out to be sitting at a sticky table in some random coffee shop with a dozen perfect strangers, most of whom I would never see again, and bonding over writing absolute crap and bitching about it. Cheering those who caught up with their word count goals. Speculating about those mythical Nanowrimoers who supposedly hit the fifty-thousand word mark within the first week. Responding to challenges. Sagging in relief when your own fifty-thousandth word was completed on November 29 or thereabouts, and you could Have A Life once more. Applauding wildly those who met their own fifty-thousand word goal at the write-in.

A few years later some in my local Nanowrimo group started this thing they were calling the Lawrence Writers Group in order to continue that special energy of a Nanowrimo flash community throughout the rest of the year and for some reason the universal expectation was that of course I would be involved. I’m not sure why— fiction writing isn’t really My Thing, I don’t generally do recreational writing except in November, and I sure as hell have no intention of trying to get published. But Lawrence Writers turned into the Confabulators turned into the Cafe, and here we all are.

Like writing a Nanowrimo novel, I’m going to keep moving pen over page and see where it takes me.

[0] An actual term of art in library science meaning taking the stuff you learn for class and turning it into term papers and in-class presentations.
[1] I have absolutely no clue whatsoever what that story is now. But when I was 9, it was the stuff of brilliance.
[2] Yes, Virginia, that is three years before the formal invention date of the World Wide Web. Yes, I am older than e-dirt.

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