NaNoWriMo: How My Tiny Word Count is Saving Me

I was looking forward to kicking myself into high gear this month, for another round of NaNoWriMo, but I quickly realized that there was just too much life happening. There was no way I was going to finish my next novel this November. December? Maybe. This month? No way.

Instead of giving up completely, I decided to take a different approach. Yes, it was unlikely that I could write 2000 words a day for the novel that’s rolling around in my head. But I still need to write. It keeps me sane, and this year has been a doozie.

Earlier this week, I wrote in a guest post for the Tall Poppies about this need to “seek the wonder.” An author friend, Ron Rash, inscribed that phrase in my copy of Above the Waterfall and it struck a chord with me. I feel like I’ve done that my whole life—that’s part of the appeal of being a writer, for me—but with all the chaos of the last year, I’d stopped seeing the wonder around me the way I used to. It felt like a part of me was broken—like the engine that kept me running.

So for this NaNoWriMo, I will seek the wonder and retrain my eyes, my brain, and my heart. For 30 days, I’m writing down something that struck me as wondrous—no matter how small it seems. Small things can be pretty amazing, too.

We’re ten days in here. I’ve logged ten entries. I’m writing these words in ink, in my handmade notebook, because I want to hold them in my hands and remember these moments.

Here are my favorite five, so far:

1. In the bathroom sink, in the campground where I sometimes work, a bright green tree frog peeked out of the drain hole as I washed my hands. He sat perched in his porthole, blinking his copper-colored eyelids, curious, unafraid.

2. Driving home from work, just after 4:30, an early sunset. The sky was deep periwinkle over the ocean, golden in the west. The light in the lighthouse was already shining. When I stopped, there was the chirping and whistling of starlings, a murmuration that whirled in the sky.

3. A row of pelicans following the waves, cruising just above their crests in the mist. Brown feathers and whitecaps, the sun bright on their bellies. Somehow they move up and down with the rise and fall of the waves, never getting wet, always just a few inches above the whitecaps.

4. A flock of ducks flying overhead, toward the wildlife refuge. Big black ducks, chattering to each other as they pass over me, their bills glinting in the light. One flock, then another, and then another, coming from the ocean side, moving towards the sound.

5. Two young campers from Switzerland, a guy and gal filled with delight. They’ve rented a camper van that’s a swirl of red, yellow, and green, with enormous parrots painted on its sides. When they check out, the guy says, “I hope you have a beautiful day,” and I think to myself, I will do just that. I should do that every day. And I should help someone else to have a beautiful day.

To all the NaNoWriMo writers, I raise my glass to you. I’ll catch up with you next month, when my cross-training here is done. I’m ten days in and feel a little more like a my old self, like the engine wasn’t completely busted after all.