This week’s topic focuses on a yearly writing challenge called National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo for short. The event is also called NaNo. People who sign up for this challenge strive to write a 50,000 word novel during the thirty days of November. I’ve met many people who not only accept the challenge, but succeed and even surpass that word count, often several years running. I applaud these prolific writers. Unfortunately, I will never be one of them.
A big part of the problem for me is the timing. Since the university semester ends at the beginning of December I always have a lot of major papers to grade before final grades can be entered, and I don’t like to get behind. I spend much of November meeting with students, grading their papers, and then trying to explain to them why they didn’t get the grade they thought they deserved. Also, for each of the last five years I’ve had a new Christmas book out (this year I have three!) that I need to promote on social media. I love engaging with readers, but this all takes time.
Another deterrent to my signing up for NaNo is a major holiday that occurs at the end of the month. This holiday involves families gathering for a large meal. I have never had to cook the meal, thanks to my hubby and children, but when we started to host the meal I always had to clean the house before everyone came over. Those who are well acquainted with me know that cleaning is an activity I dread. I get anxiety attacks just thinking about it. Even though I’ve often had help with the dusting, mopping, vacuuming, and furniture-moving (we often have grandkids needing extra spending money, or a family friend who needs gas money to tide her over until her next paycheck), I still shudder at the prospect of having to put my stuff out of sight. What if I need it? Will I remember where I put it? Why can’t I just leave things where they are? To my way of thinking, if I can see everything, then I know where it is. But of course, all the stuff has to be cleared away before the surfaces can actually be cleaned.
Hubby is more than happy to help me with clearing away stuff. His method is to get several large boxes and throw everything in them, and then throw the boxes on my side of the bed (he keeps threatening to put everything in a dumpster, but I gently remind him there’s plenty of room in that dumpster for him, too). The first and last time he showed me his box-everything-up method, several ungraded papers (report card time was coming up) got mixed in with cookie recipes (for the faculty cookie exchange) and music I was playing in church the following Sunday. Dumped into the same box were several pairs of clean socks (including the pair my fashionista daughter needed for the Christmas program) and my mother’s birthday gift. Plus other odds and ends that I hadn’t yet found proper homes for. I refused hubby’s offer of “help” from then on and banished him to the kitchen. But dealing with the clearing away means I have to put away my laptop as well as all my notes, and I have to shift my focus from my imaginary world, and no writing is done.
So back to my dilemma. Cleaning is a traumatic experience for me. I have to ease into it slowly. I have to regard everything that’s out on the countertops, on the table, on the mantle, and other surfaces, and find a home for each item so that it’s out of sight, yet accessible. It has to be a place that makes sense, so that even if I don’t need it for a while I’ll remember where I put it. This all takes time, and it’s exhausting. I need frequent breaks to ease my troubled soul, and I often calm myself down by promoting my latest Christmas release on social media, or writing blog posts. I can deal with short bursts of writing, as in promoting stuff I’ve already written. But adding new words to a manuscript does NOT happen in November. I just can’t get into that frame of mind where I can be creative, because I’m too focused on that awful chore looming ahead of me – and hating it (the cleaning, not the family being here).
As I mentioned last week, our daughter decided early on that she wanted to host Thanksgiving this year. This meant that our house didn’t have to be spic-and-span. I thought maybe I could get some writing done this month. But no, that didn’t happen. We got new flooring in our family room last month, so my large desk was moved into the front foyer. And then hubby decided that instead of moving the desk back into the family room, he’d give it away. I had to clear everything out of it at a moment’s notice. I’m STILL looking for most of the stuff that I used to keep there. Somewhere in this house is a computer bag that I use when I want to go somewhere else to write. I’m going to need that soon.
I’ll probably find it just before I need to start cleaning up for Christmas – which is still scheduled to be at our house this year. And maybe after THAT holiday is over I’ll be able to sit down at my kitchen table and start writing, as long as nobody makes me put my laptop away.