Into the forest of words

In just a few more days, writers, would-be novelistas and hobby scribblers all around the globe will give themselves up to 30 days of literary abandon.

In just a few more days, writers, would-be novelistas and hobby scribblers all around the globe will give themselves up to 30 days of literary abandon.

Yes, as of November first, it is National Novel Writing Month again, the month-long event that aims to bring to fruition and completion those half-baked ideas and dust-covered manuscripts that have languished, unfinished, for way too long. A time when authors can labour with the knowledge that millions of others are trying to achieve the same goal at the same time: to complete the rough draft of a novel or other form of writing to the tune of 50,000 words.

I will try to toil along with the masses, guiltily aware that tucked away as I am in a log cabin way out in the woods, my set-up is exactly that of the most touted writer retreats. Just what I need – more pressure. Other writers would give their eye tooth for a month of seclusion and here I am, enjoying 12 months a year of it, and what do I have to show for it?

Of course, there are the dogs, chickens and my partner who add a fair bit of action (I’m hesitant to call it disturbance though sometimes it is just that), and there are the daily chores. Water has to be hauled, wood split, chickens fed and watered, let out and locked in again, bread needs to be baked and every so often, dishes do have to be washed. But it really doesn’t add up to more than maybe two hours of “work” per day, so that I find myself in the uncomfortable position of having signed up for NaNoWriMo with no excuses on hand. And I will need excuses, I’m sure.

I tried it last year, a bit half-heartedly and late, to be sure. After two weeks of dithering (should I? Shouldn’t I?), I succumbed to the temptation to tackle book writing the way one takes up a casual new hobby. Alas, our SUV of a laptop prevented me from actually typing anything and posting it to the official NaNo website. It would have sucked the batteries dry every two or three days.

So after justifying myself for joining so late, two weeks into the event, by reasoning that no real northerner is ever on time, I later found my non-use of the laptop to be a handy excuse for petering out at around 23,000 words. It was just because I was unable to get in on the online frenzy, watch the ticker tape of my word count on the website and couldn’t commiserate with fellow NaNoers in the online forums that I fell short of even making it to the halfway mark. Or so I told myself.

I had stuffed my dogeared, hand-scribbled pages into a binder and then more or less forgot about it. Once a month or so, I’d guiltily think of it, the manuscript that never was; every couple of months I even air it out and try to write a bit more, but to no avail. With a certain dread-filled anticipation I’ve flipped the pages of our calendar at the end of every month, drawing closer and closer to November. Now we’re almost there.

And here I am, outfitted now with a slick new netbook that draws only a little bit of power and runs all day on its battery pack, signed up for the event and with half the book already done, ensconced in a most retreat-like setting. Surely, it must be possible to finish the bloody thing next month.

I have already made myself a cozy nest upstairs, away from the general fray of cabin life, ferreted out a six pack of earplugs and am overall behaving like a nervous bride before the nuptials. Sam is encouraging it all, thinking it a great idea and vowing to keep the dogs out of my hair whenever humanly possible. The weather seems to conspire likewise, with each day looking more drab than the preceding one.

This is it, then. The end of lame excuses, fidgeting and dithering. No matter what, I shall produce a string of sentences each day, a whole long necklace of them, and if this time around, I don’t clock in at 27,000 words at the very, very least, I will … sign up again next year, I guess.

Lisa Hasselbring is a writer who

lives at the headwaters of the Yukon River south of Whitehorse.

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