Confession? I quit NaNoWriMo. Wednesday, November 15 was my last day. I wrote (and fudged and outlined and talked to myself on paper) for fifteen days and 24,002 words, and then I decided to stop kidding myself. I had (have) an idea for a work of fiction. I wrote as much as I knew about it, and, yes, discovered more about the plot and the characters while I actually wrote the story, but I couldn’t continue. I had my writer’s group meeting Saturday, and because I spent so much time working on a single, large work for NaNo, I didn’t have time to prepare a short finished piece for the meeting. So I quit Wednesday, and Friday night I worked on a small piece from a draft I had started in between things earlier in the month. In working on that piece for the meeting, I found myself having fun. My fingers were lighter on the keys, whimsical ideas were flowing, I think I was even smiling. Realizing sudden joy, I thought This is what I’ve been missing! This is why I write! This is what keeps me enamored with the craft!
The other reason I quit was because another suitor was waiting in the wings. While hunting with friends for some promising used books, I was introduced to a book by a friend who said he had read it and loved it: The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce. I took it home as my newly- adopted book orphan. I held it and loved it and made it my own–(Like Lenny in Of Mice and Men–only I didn’t it “George”)–without reading it. I couldn’t because I had to do NaNo. That was consuming most of my “free” time. But I was curious, so I examined the cover and read the accolades from the critics. “Impossible to put down,” said the NY Times. If it was impossible to put down, how was I going to read it and manage my 1667 word quota a day for NaNo? So I resisted. But as usually happens with books (and chocolate truffles), my willpower took a hike. I picked up the book and started reading about Harold.
(***Don’t worry. No spoilers here that you can’t read on the back of the paperback.) Harold Fry sets off on a walk from one end of England to the other to save a friend’s life. It’s comic and absurd and, at the same time, full of the kind of truths that each of us faces in some form at some time. Harold and his wife Maureen are characters in this work of fiction in another country. They are a little younger than my parents, and yet so much of what they say, do, and feel resonate with me.
Normally, I would wait to finish a book before writing about it, but this time I’m making an exception. (Besides, my willpower hasn’t returned from across the pond.) It seems fitting to write about it while still in it–about halfway at this point–because I’m learning once again the importance of the journey. Isn’t that where the rubber meets the road? (Figuratively and literally. Usually we talk about tire rubber. In Harold’s case, it’s boat shoe soles.) I’m happy I quit NaNo. I’m happy I’m reading Harold. It is the right time for me to take this pilgrimage with him. I can’t wait to find out what happens next. He’s got a kid going through stuff. I can relate to that. I want to see how it turns out for them just as I want to see how it turns out for us. Joyce is a talented writer who knows me. How is this possible? I can’t say, but she is insightful and probably very honest with herself and her feelings. And also very observant to the world and the people in it.
NaNo was a journey. I’m glad I did it. Even if it was only for half of it. I learned a lot. And that’s what it was about for me. I wanted to write as much as I could about my idea, but, more than that, I wanted to learn something. I learned that the reason I write is because I love it. When I realized the color was draining from writing while doing NaNo, that defeated the purpose for me. But I also learned that I can make the time to write 1667 words a day. If I can do that for NaNo, I can do that for other writing as well.
And life, well, my goodness, that’s a journey, too. It’s not about where we’re going. It’s about what we do and think and how we love and help along the way. If we’re lucky–if we’re thankful–we’ll discover joy in the journey.