NaNoWriMo

National Novel Writing Month has cast its spell on me. Again. Despite all my writerly butt-dragging to the contrary.

I signed up for NaNoWriMo in early October, but as the month wore on, doubt seeped in and my Responsible Self began to natter. I have too much to do. I should focus on posting consistently to my blogs, not writing 1500 words of fiction every day. I should get my legal work done. I should eat better, floss, vacuum perhaps? By Halloween, I had written the whole thing off, resigning myself to having a word count of zero on my NaNoWriMo-Meter this year.

Then I woke abruptly at 6 a.m. on November 1, a novel seizing control of my brain and kicking me out of bed. It felt like having an overanxious dog on the leash, the words in my head dragging me to my laptop and begged to be committed to the page. And so I began. Two hours later, I had racked up 3500 words and it was effortless. Child’s play. It was also absolute dreck, but that’s okay. I have a lot of faith in dreck.

The key to a successful NaNoWriMo – to any writing – for me at least, is giving myself permission to write absolute crap. This is not news. Many writers have expressed this idea before me, most notably Ann Lamott who famously wrote about Shitty First Drafts in her exquisite guide to a writing life,  Bird by Bird. I figure that I actually take the shitty first draft down a notch, “dreck” ranking somewhere below “draft” on the scale of acceptable writing.  Even here, maybe especially here, I have to allow myself to write something less than stellar. If I didn’t, I might never write at all.

So, in honour of NaNoWriMo, here is dreck-excerpt (slightly edited, yes) from Day 1 of NaNoWriMo:

Elizabeth drives her daughter to school at lunchtime. Kids in school uniforms stand huddled in groups, chattering laughing, many with heads bent over cell phones, no doubt texting each other. The bell rings and they begin to drift in.

“Love ya, mom,” Taylor says and hops out of the car. As soon as she disappears behind the double-doors, Elizabeth realizes that she’s forgotten to tell her something. She picks up her cell phone and thumbs a text.

“You need to sign in. Have a great afternoon!”

“At the office?” Taylor texts back.

“Yes maam.” Then after a moment adding “but it is no big,” knowing that is a mistake even as she writes it.

“Do I have to?” Taylor asks.

“Well, you should, dear. So that they know you are there in case of avalanche or something”. She adds a smiley so that her daughter isn’t mislead by the reference to natural disaster, even though there is neither snow nor mountain within a 100 mile radius.

“….avalanche?” Taylor texts back, and Elizabeth can sense the smile on her daughter’s face, hear her teasing tone, even though all she holds in her hand is this one word.

“Yes,” Elizabeth quickly thumbs into her phone “You just never know. Or mudslide. Pestilence. Influx of, well, anything really.”

“Mother -.- ” Taylor texts back.

Elizabeth doesn’t know what -.- is. “Just bein’ me”, she replies . We’re only given a little spark of madness. We mustn’t lose it.

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