Wednesday, October 31, 2012

To NaNo, or not to NaNo: That is the question

I'm pretty sure that Shakespeare was thinking about NaNoWriMo when he wrote this soliloquy. How do I know that? I know, because I feel the absolute anguish that Hamlet is going through in this scene. I totally identify with Hamlet.

You see, today is October 31. For most of the world - or at least the parts of the world that celebrate pagan-turned Christian-turned secular holidays - today is Halloween, which means I will be spending the evening sitting outside, freezing my butt off and handing out candy to adorable children and surly teenagers.

But to a smaller portion of the world, this dates signifies a countdown to midnight, when the date rolls over to November 1 and National Novel Writing Month (that's NaNoWriMo to those in the know) begins. In case there is anyone reading this blog that doesn't know what NaNoWriMo, here's the quick and dirty:

National Novel Writing Month is a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to novel writing. Participants begin writing on November 1. The goal is to write a 50,000 word, (approximately 175 page) novel by 11:59:59, November 30.

And why does this stir up such an intense reaction in my gut? Because I've done NaNo pretty much every year since 2004, and I've done Camp NaNo (NaNoWriMo in the summer) in both 2011 and 2012. Well, I should say "attempted" rather than "done," because I've only successfully completed NaNo once, in 2009. Since then, I've felt a discordant combination of emotion: on one hand, I'm thinking, "I did it once and I will do it again!" with all sorts of bravada and optimism; on the other hand, I'm thinking, "I've done it once, so why bother proving that I can do it again?"

So, I want to do NaNoWriMo this year, but I feel the weight of many unsuccessful years that have already passed. (The one year that I did win, I practically gave myself carpal tunnel by writing something like 24k words over the last three days of the month, finishing only minutes before midnight.) At the same time, I feel like I HAVE to do it, because I'm a writer, and writers are supposed to write; I've been extraordinarily fallow since I finished my thesis last spring, and part of me thinks this might help get me out of my funk. At the same time, if I DON'T do NaNo, what will I do during the month of November? I do this EVERY YEAR.

So, to NaNo, or not to NaNo? I have no idea, no kernel, no plot or characters in mind, so what will I write? I've been investing all my mental energy into this historical novel idea, but I'm not ready to write that novel yet. And should I be investing my creative energies into another project right now? To be perfectly honest, I haven't been doing much work on the historical novel, so maybe working on a different creative venture will help get the juices flowing again.

What have I gotten myself into here?
Ok, so maybe my problems aren't as big as Hamlet's. He has Danish prince problems (like his uncle trying to kill him), I have first-world writer problems (like my printer won't connect to my wireless network). But really, if you think about it, Hamlet has a really hard time keeping things in perspective. At least I don't have that problem.