It’s September again, which for me, in my current, graduated, semi-employed, and socially stunted state, means only one thing: November is fewer than two months away.
For me, November feels like a month that would be kept out of most professional sports due to its use of performance-enhancing drugs. In my mind, November looks darker, bigger, and more full of days than all the other months. November takes forever to get to me and then becomes, simultaneously, the month that never ends as well as the month that takes the bullet train out of town. I both love and loathe November. I anticipate it with both excitement and anxiety. It’s like the Senior Prom, if your senior prom fell on the same day as your assigned Jury Duty.
Why November? And why think about November when it’s still two months away? Anyone who knows me personally will understand, and some of my close friends will even sympathize. November is National Novel Writing Month, which is one of the few “National ____________ Month”s that is actually nationally recognized and celebrated.
NaNoWriMo season, for me, always starts out like what I would imagine a pilgrimage would feel like. A sense of duty washes over me around September, increases tenfold in October, and immediately transforms me into a completely different person at 12:00 a.m. on November 1st—a person who works without ceasing, a person who is open and willing to meet new and similarly minded people, a person who forgets her Netflix password. But what starts out as an ethereal journey of the heart and spirit quickly becomes a practical, down-to-earth war between the mind and the body, similar to the one college students face around midterms or finals: “to work or not to work?” that is the question, which is quickly proceeded by “how and when best to work?” and then “have I worked enough for today and am I allowed to sleep now?”
By the time November starts, finishing my 50,000-word novel in thirty days doesn’t feel any more spiritual than other deadlines I set for myself, but because I set it for myself, I am more invested in it than I am in most other things. And because I am not doing it alone, I have yet to not meet that deadline. All four years that I’ve participated in NaNoWriMo, I’ve “won” in the sense that I copied my draft into a word-counting website and it tells me that I’ve met the goal set for me by the staff of the Office of Letters and Light, and the big novel monster is defeated yet again, allowing me to travel back home and be welcomed as a victor by my friends and family.
Ironically, the little certificate that they give me to commemorate my triumph doesn’t really excite me as much as my other winnings. In the past, I’ve won confidence from my consistent ability to finish on time, I’ve won entertaining evenings when my classes were boring or frustrating, I’ve won control over some aspect of my life when everything else was spinning away from me. Over the past three years especially, I’ve won friends from my interactions with other “Wrimos,” friends who, though they range in age and interests, have become as close to me as any of the people I’ve met anywhere else. Some of these friends even wrote me an incredibly beautiful, uplifting story as a going-away present when I moved from Grand Rapids to Pittsburgh.
So, now that it’s September and I’ve got my novel-planning materials out, I’m looking forward—in my patented, heady and mystical way—to the winnings I plan to claim this year. I’ve joined my new regional NaNo group and I plan to go to as many of the meet-ups as I can; I plan to harness that strange, spiritual energy that has for many years given me confidence and extroversion that I don’t have in any other month. I plan conquer this new city of mine, one novel at a time.
Mary Margaret is a 2013 English, history, and secondary education grad who went rogue and became a Social Worker in Pennsylvania’s Child Welfare system. Specifically, she works as a caseworker in the Statewide Adoption and Permanency Network finding families for children and educating the masses about foster care, adoption, and permanency planning. She made it over the grad-school hurdle with gold stars and warm fuzzies and is on to the next big adventure: the unknown of adulthood. Her major writing dream right now is to finish her science fiction novel that explores the concurrent futures of child welfare and artificial intelligence.