I stink: Why I failed at NaNoWriMo – and why I am ok with that

I tried, or I think I did. But I failed. NaNoWriMo has come and gone and I got 1/4 of the way to the finish line – which by anyone’s measuring is pretty dismal!

The problem was this – 1/4 of the way into November I went to the place where a chunk of my novel was to be set – the Tsunami devastated region of Tohoku, Japan. It was a very moving experience. But it also made me realise that what I was writing was pale in comparison and did not do justice to the emotions that I felt simply walking amongst the rubble of thousands of homes.

It was at that point a lot of things came to me. Many I won’t share on here, yet, but one was a thunderbolt:

Be true to yourself.

I knew what I was writing was not what I wanted to read. I was writing for some invisible audience, not for myself. It made me scrap the idea and reevaluate.

I have to relate one thing that happened to me while in that region.

Standing in front of the Kadonowaki Elementary School in Ishinomaki I met an old man who lived up the hill. This school looks completely destroyed, though it did not suffer the same fate as the Okawa Elementary School not too far away. For those of you who don’t know, this school lost 75% of it’s student population and 10 of it’s 13 teachers. I asked the old man in Kadonowaki – in my simplistic, broken, Japanese – if he lived here. He pointed up the hill, to where the houses were untouched by the devastation. I nodded my head and looked for the words. What he must have seen that day and in the days to come would have been devastating to most of us.

He simply shook his head and said ‘difficult time’.

He then looked up the rather steep path to where his house was and said ‘lunchtime. thanks for coming to Japan’.

I guess you can’t dwell too much on the past. But you have to live, and not squander the gift of time.

Or, he wanted to go have lunch.

Either way, I am here to hold my hands up and admit defeat to the gods of NaNoWriMo – but also to thank them. If not for this challenge I never would have gone to Tohoku. It has changed me. And for that I am grateful.

One of my photos of Kadonowaki Elementary School in Ishinomaki, Japan. Totally devastated by the tsunami.

Forget Halloween – here comes NaNoWriMo!

For thousands of people tonight is not about the terror of Halloween… it is about the terror that tomorrow NaNoWriMo starts.

For those of you too lazy to click the link, let me tell you a little about NaNoWriMo. This bizarre words stands for ‘National Novel Writing Month’. The national is not really applicable as it is real InaNoWriMo (international!). Around the world, right now, thousands of writers and would-be writers are coming to the realization that tomorrow they have to start writing a book and they are not in the slightest prepared. (And if you think you are, you aren’t!)

This is my second stab at this insanity. A couple of years ago I attempted the feat – to ‘complete’ a 50,000 word novel in a month – and failed. Life got in the way and I let me project slide beyond the state where it could be revived and the target hit.

Will this year be different? Who knows! I can already see problems: on the 8th I am flying to Japan. But, a 12 hour flight is a good chance to get some writing done, right? And while I am in Japan I am making a brief side trip up to the disaster zone, as my novel has a chunk of it set there… maybe.

So, forget about the ghosts and goblins ringing your doorbell tonight. Tomorrow you will have some real demons to wrestle with!

Good luck, fellow NaNoWriMo-ers. And, to the partners and friends of this insane group of people, please, give them a chance! This is a hard enough task without someone stomping on your dreams.

See you in a month.