Tuesday, December 1, 2009

My NaNo2009 experience in a nutshell

What prompted this post is an email I read this afternoon. It's time stamped two days ago (I haven't really had time to READ my mail, just skim through every few days for important notices & such) and tells me, at length, how pathetic and what a loser I am for not completing NaNo again this year.

Awesome. Good to hear from you. *delete*

How that email came about is that sometime in the later half of November (I don't remember the date, exactly, and not in a place where I could look it up right now) I got into a very short but heated argument with an author I'm acquainted with online. She's the published author of a couple of e-books and, if I'm not mistaken, at least one story in print. I only know her online, and don't even know that much about her. At best, we're acquaintances. At worst, we're strangers that occasionally bump into one another in writing communities online.

She caught me online one night and chastised me for not updating my NaNo word count. I explained that it hadn't been updated because I hadn't written anything beyond where it was at that time, that life had gotten more than a little hectic and I just hadn't had the time. And, without warning, that's when she took me to the mat. She told me that I was making excuses again, that other people manage to juggle life and writing, and that in the time she's known me (not quite 3 years) all I ever did was make excuses for why I didn't write.

I sat staring at the messages popping up on my screen, just one thought my mind. "What. The. Fuck." I didn't respond right away, very simply because I didn't know what to say. She, however, had plenty to say.

There were a lot of short, rapid-fire messages from her and, to sum it up, she went on to tell me that she no longer wanted to hear from me because I obviously wasn't serious about writing and she didn't have time for pretenders. She let me know that I would never be published, that I would never be successful, and that I should stop wasting people's time by bothering them when I had no intention of actively pursuing a writing career. She told me that I had to be willing to make the hard choices and make the sacrifices and do whatever it takes to make time to write because nothing was more important than that.

And that's about when I snapped. I wasn't nice in my response. I was downright bitchy. I basically told her to go her merry way, told where she could stick her judgments of me, and gave some explicit instructions on how to use them. I signed off without waiting for a response and cried myself to sleep.

Ok, so maybe it wasn't really an ARGUMENT so much as a verbal whipping and some heated lashing back and virtual stomping off. Still...

I know that I should be ashamed for my behaviour that night, but in all honesty, I'm not. I can't bring myself to be. I'm not sure yet how I feel about that, but now that the chaos in my life is starting to settle (or maybe I'm just juggling betting these days), I'll have some time to think about it.

What I do know is that NaNo is supposed to be fun. FUN. It's not some writer's rite of passage. It's not mandatory for publication. It's not even mandatory participation. It's voluntary, and it's supposed to be fun. It's about the companionship of getting together with local writers you didn't know existed. It's about meeting people. It's about sharing the experience.

Unfortunately, November is a REALLY bad month for me to try to add social activities AND extra word count to my calendar. It's hard enough trying to add just one of those to my calendar in the last three months of the year. My life starts exploding into flurries of chaos right around the middle of October every year and doesn't stop until mid-January. It's been like that for the past 20 years and this year was even worse.

I went into NaNo 2009 knowing that I needed to be done by the 21st, or at the very least be within 8k of being done by that day. Pure and simple. I HAD to be done by then in order to set up and cook for Thanksgiving. There would be no writing on the days immediately preceding Thanksgiving because I'd be shopping and cooking and generally preparing for the gathering of family. There was also my birthday to deal with and, thanks to my husband's travel plans in December, I had to jump on Christmas preparations before Thanksgiving even arrived. I had it all worked out. I started planning everything back in October.

What I didn't expect was that during the second week of November, my 91-year-old grandfather would be diagnosed with cancer (again) and told he had to start treatment right away because it was already so dangerously progressed. My mother couldn't take the time off from work to take him to the 32 daily radiation therapy sessions the doctor said my grandfather needed. My aunt (the one that lives with my grandparents) couldn't... wouldn't... whatever... do it. My other aunt lives in another city. There is no one else.

When presented with the options of letting the side of my 91-year-old grandfather's face and jaw be, literally, eaten by cancer or writing, it wasn't even a hard choice. There ARE some things more important than writing, and anyone that says otherwise is a damned fool.

My mom fought me on my choice at first. She said I shouldn't have to drive in to take him to the doctor. No, I shouldn't. But since no one else could or would, I would. And I do. Daily. Well, almost daily. Mom takes one day off a week and she takes him on those days, and she has vacation coming up.

It's a minimum 40 minute drive from my apartment to my grandfather's house. One way. In the morning, depending on the traffic and weather conditions, it's closer to 65 minutes. It's roughly an hour for my grandfather's appointment, including the travel time from his house to the radiation center and back. Most days it doesn't take quite that long. Some days it takes longer. Then I have the drive home.

That three hours or so I'm using to take my grandfather to get his face cooked is all of my allotted writing time in a day. And that's if... IF... I don't actually spend any time with my grandparents. If I just pick them up, go to the radiation center, then drop them back off at their house. If I actually spend any time with them, I pretty much don't get anything else done for the day. And, in all honesty, I have to say it's worth it, even on bad days when my grandmother can't remember what was said three minutes prior and is being verbally abusive and generally nasty to everyone around her. It won't be too much longer before she doesn't even know who I am or before they're both dead. Not many 40-year-olds can say they still have grandparents who are alive.

I also didn't expect my cousin's troubles to eat up more than a few hours of my time, and I'm not even directly involved in that chaos. Yet. The whole mess is still eating up my mother's weekends. And I can't even start thinking about what it will bring in the next 5 months or the 9 or so months after that. My head will explode.

I didn't expect a lot of the chaos that happened in November. Maybe I should have.

But then again, maybe not. I'm only human.

And, apparently, a pretty pathetic and useless one at that. Because I only wrote 11k and change this year for NaNoWriMo.

Awesome. Just... fucking awesome.

Love and bondage,
Rubi Jayne <3<3


Stacy said...

Ugh. A) you shouldn't feel bad - sounds like she needs to be bitch slapped (sorry whoever you are but the truth hurts) B) *HUGE HUGS* for all you've been going through. I thought of you a lot and now know I should have texted you - at least to let you know I was thinking of you. I'm so sorry. - You do know that you can ALWAYS call. And I'm super duper sorry I didn't even send you the birthday wishes! I wish I could do more for you!

Keri Stevens said...

I wonder what aspect of your life at this time set off such a violent fear reaction in that other writer? When I hear about people going over the edge, I have to ask, "Where's the real wound?" Her rant sounds a lot like a 2:00AM confession. I bet if you reread her e-mail and replaced all of the "You" with "I" you'd have a fairly accurate view of how she sees herself.

In your case, the wounds are literal and ongoing, and I'm sorry you're riding the crapstream right now. As a 39-year old with one grandma left (I lost two grandparents last year) I know what that sense of fortune is to still have them, even if watching them go downhill hurts so much.

Glad you're part of my twitterverse. Also glad that you've met Crazy at this stage in your career and know what/whom to avoid. How much worse would it be if she were ranting like a freak at you during your NYC booksigning?

(Captcha is "ouncolia". I bet she's got a bad case of that.)

Jill Sorenson said...

I'm sorry that an insane person bothered you. 11k in a month is good progress! I've spent entire months thinking, reading, and researching. It's part of my process. Who is she to judge you by quantity? Pfft.

11k of good writing, or 0k of good ideas, is better than 50k of crap. Nano or no Nano.

Good luck to you!

Anonymous said...

Hear, hear for knowing your life. I'm a longtime-non-NaNo-er. This year the planets aligned, though, and I signed on and learned something that I really needed to know. Not everybody needs to know this, though, or via this mechanism, so I'm sure not going to go around telling everybody they have to do NaNo to become a Real Writer. Hang in there on the family stuff--they're lucky to have you!

Summer said...

Keri's thoughts make a lot of sense.

You're right. NaNo is supposed to be FUN. And writing is important but like any job, it should not ever come before things that are more important. Like grandparents. And family time. Such deep emotional commitment makes one a better writer anyway.

I made my NaNo goal. I did it because I don't have kids, I don't work a 9-5 job, I don't cook Thanksgiving dinner, and I don't have much family left. And you can bet I'd give everything I have to sit around a Thanksgiving table with my grandparents and my baby nieces and cousins one more time.

Write when you're able and make it count. That's much better than just sitting in front of your monitor churning out words because "nothing is more important than writing." Bah.

My Captcha is "cholena." Bet she's got a bad case of that too.

Elise Logan said...

Jeebus. What an insecure and unprofessional thing to do to another writer. I'm sorry you were on the receiving end.

I must really suck. I didn't even DO Nano. Why? Oh, dissertation, life, the universe, everything. I don't even have the excellent reasons you have.

I think you did a marvelous job.

Penny Dune said...

that's the worst thing I ever heard! Jiminy! Unbelievable. JSYK, I did 12K...and I don't have a grandparent dying of cancer. Crap, I didn't even go anywhere for the holiday.

What a crock. 11K is really good progress. :) enjoy your december.