A heavy cloud rolls over a spiked sky-line, catches on a steeple, and rips open in torrents of cold, gray rain. I can hear it outside my window, ancient panes that keep out water and little else. I don’t mind; I like to hear the outside trying to get in. November weather doesn’t bother me, but it is a haunting month…
Just Listen. Can you hear it?
Go ahead; press your ear to the glass:
Out there, on the wind, is a low sighing. It winds up, slows down, echoes along the streets and under sodium lamps with its cold questioning: Remember, remember, to write in November! Are you writing, writing, writing?
That’s right. It’s National Novel Writing month. AND its Academic Writing Month. It’s probably poetry-and-play-writing month, and maybe even obfuscating-fine-print writing month. The point is, if you own a pen, your supposed to be using it between Nov 1 and 30. It is supposed to offer support to the writer, a reason to buckle down and produce text. But frankly, I just find it unsettling.
Oh, it isn’t that I dislike the idea, of course. Who wouldn’t love to have a month for writing? The trouble is… who has a month for writing? Not me, as it turns out. And I’m not just whistling Dixie. I am the managing editor of a medical anthropology journal, the research associate and blog content writer for a museum, a professor teaching medical humanities and gen-ed courses, the co-editor of a volume of essays and a review writer for Huffington Post (I also write for InsideHigherEd).
The point is, I write. A lot. When, in the midst of all of that, am I to finally return to my lost love, my sweet fiction that languishes on the shelves, bleeding a quiet death from my negligence?
Ah. I know what you are thinking. She just hates novel writing month out of bitterness at not being able to enjoy it.
Well, yes. Of course. But I do have another point to make here, and it’s for those out there who–like me–find themselves hard pressed to find a moment for a limerick, much less a monograph (though I am, in fact, in the midst of writing one of those, too). I have some news: a kind of candle in the window, or cotton for the ears to block out the whispering remember, remember!!! Ready? Here it is:
Every month is a novel writing month.
Every week–every day–every sunlit morning when you choose not to turn on the TV or the PC or the RSS feed–every long afternoon when the shadows lay long and seem full of promise–every dark night before shutting your eyes on the day: If in any of those moments you have space and nearby scratch paper, dare to dream. Yes, dream. Busy people get things done, they say. But in the ‘getting done,’ we should make space to breath freer air. Fiction, for me, is the promise of that freshness. But in making space, let’s not turn it into another deadline we must meet, lest in failing to meet, we sink under failure.
In the end, don’t worry about the word count. After all, that isn’t what made you fall in love with words in the first place.