This past weekend, I took part in the inaugural North Shore Readers and Writers Festival in Grand Marais, MN, along the North Shore of beautiful Lake Superior. It was stunning, it was magical, it was invigorating and informative. I met people, reconnected with people, had fun with friends and learned a lot, as well as enjoying teaching sessions to other writers. It was a very centering experience in a place that has long held an other-worldly quality for many.
I am not participating in NaNoWriMo this year, but I know that many are. If I were, this would have surely given me a shot in the arm to spur me into a flurry of writing. But I’m not worried about it – I’ll be sitting down and writing this week anyway. NaNoWriMo is a great idea, and works for a lot of people. The idea of being surrounded by like-minded individuals, even virtually, is a great motivator. And lots of places hold meet-ups, in-person writing sessions at coffee shops and so on, where you can meet your fellow local NaNoWriMoers.
But for many, it just doesn’t work to try to play by the calendar. November is a busy month, particularly if you have kids, book-ended by two holidays and full of the logistics and preparation that the holiday season often entails. It is also a busy month for me personally this year, with two conferences and several author events. I simply would not be doing myself a favor if I tried to hold myself to it.
But I can make my own little NaNoWriMo, riding on the coattails of the North Shore conference and the cooling weather outside to put my butt in the chair and make some headway on some projects. I’m currently working in three genres, but my focus right now is on the first draft of a novel.
I got a good start on it when I participated in my own little Writing Month in August. I had purposely arranged my schedule and prepared myself mentally to sit down and write in August. I didn’t clear my schedule as much as I would have liked, but enough to give me mental and physical time to get a good start. I found the online Writing Challenge group, which I mentioned earlier, and that, I think, was the game-changer. So I wrote over 20,000 words in August. Amazing what a motivation a hashtag can be.
And I encourage you to do the same. Someone asked me this weekend when I found time to read. I simply said, “At night, or in the evenings, instead of watching TV.” The honest truth is that you have to prioritize – you have to decide what kind of life you want. If you want to focus on writing, you are going to have to give something up. And truly, how sad would you be to give up The Voice? Will you be less of a person if you do not watch that?
This goes for any big goal you have, of course. Sit down and think about your goals and how you want your life to play out. How do you want people to see you? What do you want to leave behind in this mortal coil? There was a session at the conference called The Writing Life. I didn’t take it, but I have a pretty good idea of what she covered. Take a look at A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf, If You Want to Write by Brenda Ueland, Still Writing by Dani Shapiro. These are not so much writing guides as they are guides to building the life you want as a writer. Ultimately, of course, building that life is as individual as the leaves on the trees. And it’s up to you.