Please welcome my dear, dear friend Suz Blackaby to the blog today. I first met Suz (I think!) at the wonderful Haystack writing conference at Cannon Beach, Oregon (the conference I still called Haystack long after it moved to the Reed College campus). The last book of hers featured on this blog was Nest, Nook and Cranny, illustrated by another friend of mine, Jamie Hogan. What a great world I live in --populated by such talented friends!
National Novel Writing Month? OhNo.
There are a bunch of things I feel reasonably certain I’m not ever going to attempt: Everest, Julia Child’s coq au vin, skydiving, wrangling (pretty much anything to do with livestock is out), Zumba. I know my limits. And if dismal history is any indication (trust me, it is), NaNoWriMo can safely be included up near the top of the list.
I do, however, wholeheartedly embrace the spirit of NaNoWriMo, which is a completely different story. I’ve splurged on the brand new notebook that cost a tiny bit too much; I’ve fetched the Uggs and the old sweater out of the back of the closet; I’ve tidied up my work space, filing, sifting, shelving, recycling, and dusting as necessary; I’ve stocked up on the obvious supplies—tea, Cheezits, jumbo boxes of Mike and Ike Hot Tamales, index cards in two sizes, post-its in good colors, and a wide selection of perfect pens. The pencils are sharp. The Brandenburg concertos are cued. The space heater is plugged in.
If anyone is prepared to join my Muse in entertaining the merry twins, Motivation and Resolve, I am.
|Suz and Lottie, hard at work|
And let’s not for one single second underestimate the giddy power of the rank and file. Zingy energy proliferates as fellow writers pace through their own preliminary rituals, making mental maps of opening scenes; comparing software options; trading wisdom gleaned from Stephen King, Anne Lamott, John Gardner, Natalie Goldberg, Katherine Paterson, Donald Maass, and Harold Underdown; and scheduling morale-boosting meet-ups. Awesome.
Am I immune to such a rich abundance of good juju swirling around my team? Hardly.
Add to the irresistibility of the countdown the inherent and obvious mood enhancement of the season. Except maybe for peaches and Vitamin D, I’m not a fan of August and am never sorry to see it go. Give me chilly mornings, tule fog, edgy breezes, patchy sunshine, and lots of deciduous plants, perfect conditions for quietly hunkering down to the task. For me, fall and all its trappings herald the very essence of industry. You call it a pumpkin latte, I call it creative juices, with whip.
So yes. I totally get it. But forget it. It isn’t that NaNoWriMo is too much work. It is too much like work.
On the clock I write for the educational marketplace, which means that my professional life and my creative life overlap in untidy ways. I like to keep them separate in my brain and in my world, insofar as that is possible, which often means saving up ideas and inspiration until I can put them to good use. Tens of thousands of words a month is not necessarily unusual, workwise, cranking away; when I get the chance to sidestep the grind, I choose a more leisurely gait.
So while my friends and colleagues tackle NaNoWriMo, I’ll stick to a slower, shorter, steadier version to suit my time and my temperament:
CoPo2: Compose and Polish a Couple-three Poems per week
PicSix: Those six picture books you’ve been fiddling with? Finish one.
ChaChaCha!: Three Chapters!
Toast: Try Outlining A Story
24/7: Twenty-four prompts every seven days
Keep At It: (Book ain’t gonna write itself, just sayin)
Susan Blackaby is the author of over 150 books for beginning readers. On her own time, she is an award-winning poet, and her latest picture book, Brownie Groundhog and the Wintry Surprise (Sterling Children’s Books), was released October 1.