Self-exploitation or self-help?
November is more than half-way through, and I thought I’d give you an update of what I’ve been doing lately. If you’re a writer or even if you aren’t, you may have heard of NaNoWriMo, the National Novel Writing Month, which long since hasn’t been so national but a very international affair with hundreds of thousands of participants from all over the globe.
As the name suggests, the goal is to write a whole novel in a month, that is 50,000 words in 30 days. In the past I have taken part and succeeded with some projects–and failed with others, for it can be a really daunting task in the best of circumstances. This year, I hadn’t planned to commit myself to such a looming deadline. I didn’t feel like I would be able to write anything substantial while my mind is still preoccupied with feelings of loss and personal reorientation.
The first week passed, and writers all over the world were posting online about their 2021 NaNo experiences. And suddenly the thought occurred to me: isn’t that what NaNoWriMo is all about? Writing a novel without concern for validity, just for the thrill of creating a new fictitious world, knowing countless other writers are building theirs, right now, somewhere in the world? On impulse, I logged into my old account and set up a project for 2021. And so here we are.
You see, I had this idea pinned down for a few years. Just a few pages, a character, a situation, a mood. And I’ve been wanting to make it into a novel, but never found the spirit to do so. Now, I figured, was the time. And even though I started way behind schedule and have been struggling with my daily word count the writing itself is rewarding enough. Connection to the NaNoWriMo servers is much faster than in previous years which makes the whole experience that much more fun, as well.
The healing in the making
Disclaimer: I “stole” this line from a book title written by a photographer and filmmaker who I admire for his work and view on life: Sean Tucker, The Meaning in the Making. Go check it out!
As it turns out, one of the characters in my WIP reminds me a lot of my late friend and creative partner Natascha Randt. Although she is not the one doing the flying in this story, Nafuna Mbundu (called Naf) is one heck of a spaceship mechanic and has many traits that make me smile, whenever I write about her. Fun fact: the character and her name have existed for many years in my ideas folder, and I never consciously associated her with Nat. It took me all this time and about 15,000 words to realize I was writing a homage. How cool is that?
Some might consider it too painful or even unhealthy, building a whole virtual world or basing fictional characters on a person who’s passed on–while oneself does not. The opposite is true for me. Recalling those memories while imagining fun and adventurous storylines helps me heal. I’ve long since found that allowing myself to wallow in all kinds of feelings–even painful ones–leads to clarity of mind in the long run. Of course everyone is different, but it works that way for me.
I will close this post with a picture of how I imagine this character Naf Mbundu:
Up, up to the stars!