Goodbye, 2014.

anguish

These last few months I’ve tried to stay quiet. Scroll through my social media feeds and you will see reposts from Tumblr, some chit-chat about books I’d like, or my growing obsession with all things British, but you won’t see many personal statements save the occasional Holiday greeting or writing status update. If social media is a sampling of a person’s life, then mine should tell you one thing: I am processing.

Processing. It’s a word I use a lot to describe my need to riddle out difficult situations without being bothered for an opinion on the subject. Sometimes, I do it while writing, others by griping, and occasionally, by watching Downton Abbey or Harry Potter and taking quizzes online to find out what fictional city I belong in (Hogsmeade) or what literary character I am most like (Sherlock?). It’s necessary, healing, and made better with a very large cup of tea or whiskey, or whiskey in tea. I’m not partial.

This year has been hard, and not just for me. I would challenge you to find a single person in your life that would categorize 2014 as anything but rocky.

We live in a dark and broken world, one populated by people determined to wreck dreams, destroy lives, take lives, confine lives. It is a world where a young man is gunned down and then accused, not accused and then tried. A world where girls are stolen from schools or given away by their families, raped, brainwashed, lost. A world where schools are not safe places because bullying runs rampant, boxes are still built for kids to stay firmly inside, and bullets might fly, taking lives barely lived. It is a world where wars escalate, and death tolls rise.

But it is also a world where voices can unify across race and religion, for change, for justice, just to be heard for a moment, together. Where hashtags get the word out to #bringbackourgirls, to remind us #weneeddiversebooks, and for better or worse, start discussions about feminism, sexism, racism, and sometimes are the only way to follow stories being ignored by major media outlets. It’s a world where a teenage boy from Texas can independently produce a music video about gender stereotypes and watch it climb past 1 million views.

It’s a world where my son lives, plays, learns, and grows. Where he can pray to meet the Pink Power Ranger, and watch his prayers be answered. It’s a world where he knows, no matter what, his mom and dad love him, his mom and dad listen to him. Regardless of how bleak or bright this world may be at times, it is his world. It is my world.

This year was a batter-ram. It was a punch in the gut, a smack in the face, an ugly whisper in my ear. Sometimes it was like sliding down a rainbow to fairyland, full of fun and unbelievable blessing. It was the year I flew on an airplane for the first time by myself, and then got on three more planes, alone and changed. Where I got upgraded to first class when I shouldn’t have. Where I wrote another book, revised it into a thing I’m proud to call mine. It was the year I set out to write a screenplay and I succeeded.

But it was also the year my grandmother died. And her death forced my family to change.

It was the year I questioned everything.

It was the year where certain futures became impossible, where certain relationships became the past, where what seemed steady became shaky.

It was the year that I had to turn inside myself and find my own answers, and be okay with those answers, and trust my faith to carry me past all the questions, all the setbacks, all the loss — it is still carrying me.

And maybe that’s the ultimate answer. Being carried. Allowing yourself to breakdown. Taking the hand given to help you back up. Without that, we would be forced to declare darkness the winner. Yes, the world is filled with darkness, but I refuse to live in a world where it wins. I refuse to be altered by it. Instead, I choose to do whatever I can to alter it. I choose to let myself fall down, but not to stay down.

The kind of magic that exists in fantasy novels, the kind I write about and grew up pretending to wield — it doesn’t exist in this world. Real magic is an act of will, a step forward instead of back. Real magic is living, breathing, forgiving, loving without condition.

It is processing, large teacup in hand or not, and then it is moving forward. Forward is not about forgetting the past, or ignoring the problem. It is deciding not to accept more of the same.

2014 is nearly over. 2015 begins anew.

go

On Winning NaNoWriMo. Or, Why That Wasn’t My Goal This November.

medium_12850434815 I signed up for NaNoWriMo this year, same as last year, but the difference this year was I gave myself the freedom to lose. And did, with an abysmal showing of 12,383 words. A meager offering for a month — any month — I quickly realized this November would not, could not be about word count.

On November 3rd I turned Thirty.

On November 5th my grandmother passed away.

I had setbacks in the publishing game. I made progress. I rode that roller coaster and tried not to lose my lunch.

I did write. Whenever I could muster it. Whenever I had a chance. Yet…12,383.

I started late. I wrote my first words of the month on my actual birthday, but those words ended up being all wrong. Not because they were of the shitty first draft variety (though, realistically they were that as well), but because it was the wrong book. 3,000 words in the crapper.

I didn’t write everyday. There are many days not during NaNoWriMo when I do not write, for whatever reason and usually because I am taking care of other life business that comes with being a mom, a wife, and part of a community. But even those days I am thinking about the words. There were many days this November when I could not think about the words. Loss has a way of confining your thoughts. There were more days spent staring out the window with tea, or talking to family, or feeling aimless, floaty, sinking. It wasn’t just the missing person — my grandma’s non-presence had created a hole, but it wasn’t just that. I was taking a long sigh in, exhaling slowly.

I couldn’t muster the need to compete. The manuscript I started this month is based on a screenplay I wrote in my early twenties. Because of my history with the project, I had a certain ownership right out the gate, an unwillingness to give this project away, to just write it so I’d have another potential book to query.

I refused to ignore the Muse when she came calling. I woke up November 24th with a burning desire to finish the screenplay I began writing last year. The desire was so strong that I actually outlined — a dirty ugly word in my world. I planned out the scenes and began nailing them down. It stole my focus and refused to return it. I didn’t fight it.

I spent time with my son and my husband, with my family and my friends. I watched movies and read books. I loved things deeply this November. There is something to be said for casting off your cloak of ambition to cuddle under the blanket of all you’ve already been blessed with. When someone dies, it is normal to feel sadness, to cling tight to your dear ones, but it can be even more normal to recede. I couldn’t do that. My son is growing up fast. Already he watches older boys for cues on how to be grown up, already he crushes on pretty girls and dreams of having one to buy flowers for and give kisses to, already he is changing. Still he will hug me now, kiss my cheek, cry on my shoulder and for how much longer will that last? By next November he might not want to climb in bed with me because he’s scared.

I couldn’t fight just being. I wrote for myself, for the thrill of discovery, for the love of story. Publishing is a fickle creature, a flash of teeth capable of ripping out your throat. Publishing is not why I write. I want it, desperately, compulsively, but never do I want only that. If there were no market for my manuscripts, I would still tell those stories to myself. I would still love the craft. I would still be a writer. I wrote that way, this November.

I believe NaNoWriMo has merit. It forces you to start, it compels you to keep placing your fingers to the keys even when your hands are made of lead. I do not believe you have to write 50,000 words to Win. As a competitive individual, a person driven and focused and uninterested in bullshit procrastination, this is hard for me to admit. But winning, it just isn’t everything. It just isn’t always actually winning at all.

This November I rebelled. I won.