So I wrote a 50,000 word novel in November. Right after moving, while still getting settled into our new place, during a month that saw my baby turn 1 and me stuffing my face full of turkey and pie. I kind of can’t believe that I did it. I mean, from November 1 I knew I was going to do it, it was just a matter of managing my time well, and so that’s what I did: I took care of my kids, unpacked as I had time, took naps when they did, and then wrote (mostly) at night after they went to bed. I usually wrote 1600-1800 words a day and I made it my mission not to give a shit if they sounded good. I am a perfectionist and so this was a challenge. But I’m done with trying to do it all perfectly, what matters is that I do it, and yes, I DID IT.
I am a novelist.
I would recommend NaNoWriMo to anyone. It was like therapy for me – it should be noted that therapy is another thing I recommend to everyone. All of my angst and sadness and happiness and experience and dreams got written into this book. I would sit at the kitchen table typing on my laptop and crying as I put all of myself onto the page. And while this book started out as being about me – I called it a “fictional memoir” – in the end the story won and it went its own way and I am thrilled about that. It’s not about me anymore, it’s about the characters. And the process. And letting go.
I had a boyfriend once who told me, “Be true to the art, and the art will be true to you.” I’ve spent the majority of my life writing because that was the only thing I knew how to do. I’ve always been looking for validation for my vocation and it was always disappointing when people said, “Okay, so you write, but what are you REALLY going to do with your life?” I finally realized that writing, among other things, is what I was really going to do with my life – and what I am doing with it each and every day. I may never get an agent, a book deal, or recognition that I am a writer. But part of the process, for me, has been realizing that none of that really matters. It’s all about doing the work. It’s about being true to the art. Art for the sake of art. Art because I don’t know what else to do.
I’m not afraid of the word “art” anymore. I used to cringe when I heard it, I could never refer to myself as an artist or a poet or a writer. It felt arrogant. I think the switch happened when I became a mother – whether or not people recognized me as a good one or even one at all didn’t matter – I knew I was a mother and I had the baby to prove it. I know I am a writer because I have the words to prove it.
Art and mothering are so closely linked in my life now, I was always afraid of having kids because I didn’t know what would happen to my writing dream, would I get lost in my kids and never find my way out? But as it happens, while most things change after having children, some things don’t. It’s important, I think, to dream big and live large after having kids, especially after having kids. I believe in making sacrifices but more than anything I believe in making compromises. I won’t give up this essential part of me, in fact the happiness of my children demands that I don’t. They need a mother who reads stories and changes diapers and chases them around the house as much as they need a mother who nourishes herself by writing or reading or taking photos. They need someone to give them permission to be who they are, whoever they are, and to be themselves unapologetically. I think that word unapologetically is the thing I’ve been reaching for, I’ve been wanting to live that way, and sometimes it takes writing a novel in 30 days to make a person realize that you only get one life, might as well be brave about it.
I used to always tell people that “I want to be a writer,” but like I said, that’s all changed. I am a writer. Unapologetically. And I’ve got the words to prove it.