“So let me get this straight,” my mom says “You’re paying to go away for a weekend and do the same thing you could do here… for free.”
“Right, except I won’t,” I say.
And I won’t. I write for a living, but when it comes to writing for me, for fun, for the love of writing – you know, all the reasons someone chooses “writer” as a profession – I don’t do it.
Let’s back up. My mom’s referring to a “camp in” writing weekend at Lake Louisa State Park. It’s a three day weekend spent in the company of other writers who, like me, hope to pen 50,000 words between November 1 and November 30 as part of National Novel Writing Month (affectionately called “NaNoWriMo” by participants). The cabins have no television, no Internet access, and some of the crappiest cell signals in the organized western world.
It’s perfect. It’s three days out of thirty, but it’s a great little respite from everyday life and a wonderful way to kickstart what NaNoWriMo bills “Thirty Days and Nights of Literary Abandon.”
Now, I get my mom’s logic – I write for a living, largely from the comfort of my own home. Indeed, although it’s just past 11 a.m. on a Thursday morning, I’m writing this from my couch. I’m still in my jammies, and Calypso the WonderHound snores next to me. Sounds perfect, right? I should be able to write a novel right here, saving myself $95.
Well, except I started writing this three hours ago and was constantly interrupted by Facebook, Pinterest, e-mail, work, and a host of other things my brain deemed more important than writing a silly little blog entry. A novel? Forget it. No WAY am I going to be able to do that as easily as I’m almost not writing this blog entry.
Follow my logic here: it’s because I write for a living that I don’t write. I’m lucky in that I eke out a living by writing; I am unlucky that, because of this, I feel horribly guilty whenever I sit down to write something not knowing if it will ever yield a paycheck. My brain – and by “my brain” I mean the voices in my head – starts to tell me I should be writing something that will make me some money, or that, at the very least, I should maybe tackle things like cleaning or paying bills instead of frittering away my life on blog entries and novels that may never see the light of day. (Those voices, I’d like to note, have no such problem with me being on Facebook. I didn’t say the voices used the best logic…)
Enter NaNoWriMo. For one month every year, I give myself permission to write a novel with no end game in mind other than writing for myself. It’s a guilty pleasure and it’s wonderfully liberating. I do as little as possible with any other writing, and for that one month, I feel the rush of stringing together words just because I like the way they sound when they clink together, like two wine glasses toasting at sunset. And, like that last sentence, I don’t worry about how dumb what I write sounds: I’m just writing for the love of writing.
That’s something I don’t get to do every day, or even most days, professionally. However, taking this one month out of the rest of the year recharges me for the minutiae of covering city council meetings, writing pet obituaries, and photographing countless community events.
That’s why, the first weekend in November, I will gladly pay the $95 to deprive myself of my better half, my canine companion, the Internet, and television. Because that weekend – and the entire month of November – gives me back a love of writing and that, my friends, is priceless.