Some time last year before my first Crossroads Writers Conference, I happened upon National Novel Writing Month quite unexpectedly. I’m not sure exactly but I believe a west coast writer friend “liked” the Office of Letters and Lights on a social networking site, and sounding quite lovely, I endeavored to find out what exactly that was.
Part of it was restlessness; a restlessness that I am sure many writers feel when they are struggling to find their way with the written word. (I had my work as an alt-weekly journalist, although I was still somewhat intimidated by the process of interviewing others.) But first and foremost, I felt born to tell big stories using my own voice.
It’s a birds-eye view of a labyrinth, sitting down at one’s desk and sifting through the ball of string that will ultimately lead you out, safe from the monsters that haunt blind alleys and dead ends. Needless to say, that sensation is not a little daunting. Recharged by the creative inspiration from the conference, inspired and driven by a sense of competition, I dived into the NaNoWriMo experience with a hunger that kept me pushing forward.
Watching the little blue progress plotter was like running a marathon against myself. Knowing that others were staring down the same struggle with varying degrees of success and failure made me realize that though I was in my own world, we were part of a system of worlds. We saw each other from telescopic distances, in awe and comforted by possibility. Every day I wanted to be at twice the necessary word count, because if I could do that, I could literally finish a book in one month. A novel. Maybe not the magnum opus but still…something.
I didn’t finish but the strange thing is that, though I would have liked to, I glimpsed in myself that raw passion that can’t be taught in a class and that only comes with the hunt. Because telling a story is a solitary, predatory endeavor at times. You smell it on the wind, hear it rustle the branches, and your mouth waters in anticipation, the hair on your neck stands on end. You realize that though there is a goal, to make the kill and to satiate the hunger, when it comes down to it writing is thrilling and the chase is part of the fun.
Rachel Helie is a freelance writer and journalist, aspiring novelist, sometimes ghostwriter, and regular contributor to The 11th Hour. At eight years of age she stepped into the wardrobe and never quite made it back out.