NaNoWriMo begins again. This time I am writing from Yangon, Myanmar. Though I have been thinking about NaNo since I completed it for the first time in 2013, I was surprised to check my phone this morning and see that it was already November 1st.
I’ve only been in Myanmar for four days, one stop on a 6-month trip around SE Asia. Before I embarked on this journey, I had little idea of what my life would be like on the road. I’ve been writing nearly everyday, but not for my novel. It is challenging to step into a world I created when I am still absorbing and interpreting the very real world around me. Since starting my journey in Bali over one month ago, I think I’ve devoted a grand total of three hours to novel writing. This is a bit scary if I am expecting to devote 50 hours over the course of this next month.
This year will present new and different challenges to me as a writer. Compared with last November, I am in an entirely different place in my life.
Last year I was settling into my house in Shimane, Japan, and this year I am without a stable home, wandering from place to place across Asia. Today I am in Yangon, tomorrow Mandalay. This constant change of setting is likely to both inspire and impede the way I work.
Given that I am on the road, my schedule is far less predictable than last year. I know which cities I will be in, and how I am getting from place to place, but I have little understanding of the kinds of activities that will occupy my days in each place. Last year I was working a full-time job,. This November I am not employed, but that certainly doesn’t mean I can devote those 8 free hours a day to writing. One of the things I learned from NaNo last year is that my capacity for writing is a maximum of four-five hours per day. While not being tied down to a 40-hour work does free up my time, the lack of structure and routine actually makes it harder for me to focus on tasks. I have no idea how productive I can be with absolutely no structure.
I am also lacking a NaNo community this year. While I was living in Japan, I joined a community of other writers and took part in write-ins both locally and around the country. This year I doubt that I will be in one place long enough to cultivate the kind of community I had last year.
Lastly, my content for NaNo will be different. Though I am continuing to work on the original novel that was the subject of focus last year, I also want to begin developing a new piece. At this point, I have only a theme and an idea, but no solid story line. We shall see what emerges.
Things I learned from last year:
- Make a Writing To Do List. Know what you will be working on before you start.
- Schedule time. In my case, I will only be able to plan my schedule that morning.
- Pace yourself. Divide up the work evenly throughout the month so that it is easier to manage.
- Focus. Last year was easy because I was only working on one story, but this year will be harder.
- Just do it. Even if the creative juices aren’t flowing, sit down and get the job done.
- Enjoy! If it’s not fun then why are you doing it? This should hurt like a good workout.
My questions for this year:
- Can I be productive and achieve my goals with no structure or routine in my life?
- Can I write while moving (literally, on a train, bus, airplane, etc)?
- Can I write without a designated “writing desk,” or any kind of physically comfortable space at all?
- Can I write without a community of friends and peers who support me?
- Can I be flexible and adjust my schedule to accommodate the unexpected?
NaNoWriMo 2014, here’s to ambiguity!