Why I'm Writing a Novel in a Month

Originally published Monday, 04 November 2013.

Day 1 of NaNoWriMo: Woke up, made coffee and wrote in bed. Started with 564 words written at 6 a.m. And somehow ended up with 522 at 6:30 a.m.

I guess I'll have to stop cutting and editing as I go. This may be harder than I thought.


Desks used to be a hutch for my daydreams, while I was in school. I told my mentor once that I couldn't write unless I had one. A space to lay out my thoughts. A place for my colorful post-its to flutter and fall.

"What's stopping you from buying one?" she asked.

I couldn't think of an answer. And so, that day I hopped on over to Office Max and bought a black desk. And another bookshelf (who can't use another bookshelf?).

At first, it was great. That my was domain. That was the place I knew my writing would be done.

Now, it's become a place where I store my dirty coffee mugs. Where bills pile up. Where I display my month-old birthday cards and pictures of my family at our annual trip to the Outer Banks. Where I check my Facebook and email.

It's become a place where my priorities have shifted.


This month, I'll have gone to five weddings in five months. Most of them out of town. I've been to Boston, Baltimore, Richmond, Asheville, NC. And this weekend I'm heading to Philadelphia.

And I love it. I love the travel. I love being on the road. I love living out of my Vera Bradley duffel bag. I love carrying with me the minimum of what I need for a few days. I love sleeping in hotels. I love feeling like I'm an escape artist, and that I'm moving and shaking.

I say all of this knowing that my other priorities, writing, relationships, friendships, prayer, sanity...didn't exist.

I know this because I didn't even have a place in the apartment that was reserved for my craft. It was superseded by scraps of paper and unpayed bills and criss-crossed to-do lists.

I had to clear out the clutter and create space for creativity to unfold.

A lot of people, when I tell them I'm a writer, look at me with a sort of panicked "I should be doing that, too" face. It's kind of the same guilt they show me in their eyes when they confess that they're "not really readers."

The same guilt I'm sure I so when I think about the last time I went running or played tennis.

They say things like: I'd write if I had the time or I'll write when I retire.But that sort of language worries me on several levels.

First, if you're waiting until you retire to start writing, you'll be surprised how it is, in fact, more work and discipline than it is a hobby. You have to make time for it, or else it will never get done.

Of course, I can't get too carried away. After all, we all have different interests.

But it also worries me when I think about all of the things that we always say we'll do, but never quite get around to doing. I worry about the people that we love the most that we tend to neglect. I worry about the words and travels and music that we're inspired by that we haven't picked up in days or months because we haven't created space for it.

Like my desk, I've taken advantage too much of the fact that my friends, family and writing will always be there for me. I haven't cleared out enough space to allow all of this to unfold.

I want my life to look like a pop-up book. I want the pictures and adventures to surprise me in a three-dimensional way. And in order to do this, I need to let go of the notion that life is about balance.

It was never about balance. It was about priorities.Writing and friendships with my sweet sisters are mine.

That is why I've committed to this crazy NaNo project. That's why I created a user account, and linked up with other writer buddies and told myself to write 1,667 words for 30 days.

That's why I cleared off my desk, so I'd have space to write. That's why I'm taking a break from Netflix and prime time television, to make space for my faith and friendships to flourish.

I'm clearing out space for the thing I'm most passionate about: freedom.

photo credit: mugfaker via photopin cc