This post originally appeared as a NaNoWriMo 2015 Pep Talk sent to participants in the NH Region. I will be sharing my NaNoWriMo 2015 Pep Talks throughout November.
Welcome and congratulations on making a commitment to embark on this noveling adventure for the next 30 days. For some of you, this means returning to a treasured tradition; for others, it’s something new to try. Whether newbie or veteran, we’re all joining hands and taking a leap of faith off a creative cliff and for that, I salute you!
It’s Halloween as I write this, and our youngest daughter is dressing up as Hiccup from “How to Train Your Dragon, 2.” This is an important detail and she will correct me (not just Hiccup, mom, Hiccup from HTTYD2) because she prefers Hiccup 2.0. She’s eight, and yet she recognized how adversity shapes and defines character, and her favorite Hiccup is the Hiccup that is not wide-eyed and innocent (as in the original movie) but the Hiccup who has experienced events that have taken his left leg below the knee, a Hiccup who has proven himself to be a hero.
I get shivers thinking about it really.
For children, it’s so simple. Good guys + bad guys + stuff to do + problems + lots of monsters = satisfying story. For comedy, throw in a few fart or butt jokes and it’s a win. In a few years she might want to throw in kissing or zombies and it’s still a win.
For adults who have slid away from their creative side for a time, it’s hard coming back. Good guys + bad guys (which bad guy?) + stuff to do (help I need a word sprint!) + plot bunnies….(oh, look, my desk needs clearing/the dishes need to be washed/I’ll just check in on FB for a sec) = not many words on the page & disgruntled writer. I came across this quote which I think is appropriate as we embark on NaNoWriMo 2015, and while it’s inaccurately attributed to Tolkein, it’s a worthy nugget nonetheless:
This article unpacks the quote and explains that it really is a line from a book by Sarah Ban Breathnach called Simple Abundance. The actual Tolkein quote is from chapter XII of The Hobbit called ‘Inside Information,’ and reads, “It does not do to leave a live dragon out of your calculations, if you live near him.”
Breathnach spins the dragon imagery, theorizing that,
“Our dragons are our fears: our day stalkers, our night sweats. Fear of the unknown. Fear of failing. Fear of starting something new and not finishing. Again. Or the real fear, the one that sends shivers up our spines: the fear of succeeding, of becoming our authentic selves and facing the changes that will inevitably bring. We might not be happy with the way we are living now, but at least it’s safely familiar.
We don’t know where we are headed and it’s very scary. Old dreams are resurrecting, new desires are wooing. Instead of clarity, we feel confused. At moments like this, it is comforting to consider. T. S. Eliot’s belief that there is really nothing to fear from self-awareness because at the end of all our personal exploration, we will arrive back where we started and know in our hearts that we finally belong there.”
Life’s ups and downs…it’s what Story is, isn’t it? And the beauty of the NaNoWriMo process is that it’s an illustration of Story, too – a goal, obstacles, conflict, resolution… Some of us Wrimos are Hiccup in HTTYD 1: inexperienced first timers yearning for adventure, while others are the older experienced, maimed Hiccup who are still returning for another adventure.
I’ll tell you a secret: I’m accompanying my daughter aka Hiccup 2.0 trick-or-treating and I’m dressing as “generic HTTYD Viking” to the outside world, but to me, wearing my viking helmet, I’m a Wrimo setting my face against the naysayers and the dishes, the mind-numbing FB time wasting, the fear of success. I’m readying for the battle of 2015 and I’m looking for dragons to calculate, deciding which to slay or tame.
It’s very important Wrimo, to remember the oath you’re making at the start of this journey – we are writing a first draft novel, yes, but on a deeper level, we are freeing our creative selves and encouraging success. For 30 days we are putting writing first, and daily distractions second. We are honoring and nurturing our ability to create and this journey will help meet a deeper need.
Carve out your writing time, Wrimos, and protect it. Rally your troops and note your dragons. The world needs your novel.