For a variety of reasons — bad timing, too much work, impending cross-country move, holiday crunch, already got other projects munching on my lobes — I didn't participate in NaNoWriMo this year. No diss at all of you who did, though, and I know there's at least a couple of regular readers of this blahg who spent November bashing keys. Good going. Gold stars for the lot of ya.
Now here's a theory which may offend: I suspect I may have outgrown NaNo altogether.
Before you soak the torches in gasoline and ready the pitchforks, don't assume by this I mean that NaNo is a phase that writers should outgrow, or that everyone who does it is a bottom-runger. All I mean by this is, everything I once used NaNo for are now things I find I can do on my own without it.
The few years I did do it were tremendously fruitful. You wouldn't have seen Summerworld if it hadn't been for a NaNo year.* Likewise, Tokyo Inferno was a NaNo baby. And in both cases the think-fast! methodology forced me to narrow each story down, make them focused. (Another NaNo project, The Underground Sun, is currently in edit hell, but may emerge one of these years.)
What's key about NaNo is that it's as much a social activity as it is a privately creative one. You hook up with like-minded folks, share your pages, and swap ideas about how to get something started, keep it moving, bring it on home, and maybe also get it out there and get people to know about it. It's all laudable stuff, because writing is normally such private, recondite work. But I'm not at the stage where I need that kind of micromanaged peer support, and I suspect I haven't been for a long time — perhaps not even since two books ago.
A lot of why I did NaNo was tied into habits that for me were that of a talented amateur rather than an assured pro. This doesn't mean I think everyone else who does NaNo is stuck at that pay grade; it's what it came to mean for me, personally. It became less a method by whoch to bootstrap a book into existence, and more a way to remain locked into what felt like regressive habits about my work.
I won't rule out future NNWM stints entirely, but unless I find a fresh way to think about how I go about doing it, it's going to remain an artifact of my past. A cherished and valuable artifact, but a past one all the same.
* That was, by the way, the year I foolishly installed a beta OS as my production system, and so when my computer froze while writing the penultimate chapter, I had to reconstruct the results by taking a photo of the screen. Necessity is a mamma-jamma.
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Other Lives Of The Mind