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.