Wednesday, 27 November 2013

What I Learnt Taking Part in NaNoWriMo

Regular readers will know that during November I've been taking part in NaNoWriMo - in essence writing a 50000 word novel. And I'm pleased to say that I did it! I signed up on a whim thanks to Nomad Mom Diary, and even though I was determined to give it a go, I wasn't wholly convinced I would get 50000 words together on the topic of my expat life. The elation when the word count ticked over from 49999 wasn't as high as I had imagined it would be back on November 1st. For two reasons.

Firstly, there is lots more writing to do and it still needs an awful lot of editing and crafting to create a novel that I would be happy for any one of you to read. Despite working for many hours, it really is a long way from being a finished product. Some of you have asked 'when will we get to read it?'. I'm guessing about 2020…..

Secondly, the 50900 words I have written so far were hard. Not as in a struggle to get words on paper, but an emotional struggle to relive events of the past and get them written. My life has been pretty uneventful, nothing out of the ordinary, no extreme events that warrant a best selling book. I had a happy childhood, I went to university, spent a year in Toulouse, messed around for a bit retrying to deicide what I wanted to do with my life, decided on a career in Human Resources, met a Dutch man and moved to the Netherlands and had three sons. That's it in a nutshell.

Photo Credit: Pear38
As I was writing some parts of those 50000 words doubts took over - was there really a book here to write? But I kept going, because even if there is nothing I have written over the course of November that is worthy of gracing the pages of a published book it was actually a therapeutic exercise. I have realised that there are some events in my forty years of life that have happened which I haven't put to rest, I haven't given it 'closure' as the Americans put so well. Taking part in NaNoWriMo forced me to confront some ghosts, brought emotions to the forefront that I didn't realise I still had about things I have been through. I felt anger, hurt, sadness, regret, happiness and joy whilst writing. I have had tears streaming down my face whilst typing. Life is very much about the details and not what you can wrap up in a nutshell. It's about the emotions. It's about the relationships.

Some of what I have written will never see the light of day - that would be unfair to loved ones - but the act of writing about some things was enough reward in itself in some cases. Writing about some events made me feel like it had just happened, all over again, and I found myself feeling furious at some people in my life. It really has been a tough writing journey. And it made me think over and over about the words from writer Jo Parfitt about your best writing coming from writing from a place of pain. Truer words have not been uttered! Raw emotion makes for good writing.

My memory databanks have been working overtime during November. One memory has sparked another and I have been amazed by the depth at which some things were buried. NaNoWriMo pulled them all out to the surface, things I haven't thought about for years.

I have also been incredibly grateful during this last month for the journals I have written over the years. There are gaps in my memories, or things were not as I remember them. Or I have long forgotten the details. Rereading my journals helped me get right back inside the moments of my past. I have relived happy and sad times through my journal writing. It spurred me on to get back to writing in my journals more in the present. I have been seriously neglecting them over the last year and I have vowed to correct that. Every day there are moments worth writing about - things that seem so mundane and uninteresting yet in five years time they will be confined only to our memories. Our routines change, our daily lives evolve with the months and we won't remember how our days looked when we look back in a year. Yes, seems like I am back to that theme of capturing the moments…..


  1. So neat to read about your NaNoWriMo experience! I like you have a pretty "normal" life experience, but I can imagine it would be an emotional ride as you describe. :) I admire that you have kept journals through it all...that's not easy to do, especially with three children!

  2. Well if you, with your 'normal' life can find a way to put it into words, I have no excuse. Thanks for reminding me not to set the bar so high I scare myself away. Everyone has a story and I should have more compassion for mine instead of making comparisons and finding myself wanting. Just what I needed to read today x

  3. Kali - thanks for your comment. The journalling has been neglected of late but so thankful that I had captured such major milestones so far in writing!

    Aisha - normal is relative isn't it? I recently read Harvesting Stones and thought wow - I thankfully don't have a story to tell like that - but does it mean there is no story because it's all normal? I think the answer is just write and let someone else tell you if there is a story people want to read!