We’re in the sweaty, swampy, bug-slapping throes of Camp NaNoWriMo, friends.
Camp NaNoWriMo is the red-headed third step cousin to NaNoWriMo. Despite the awkward family dynamic, I keep returning camp after camp. You know the feeling of having failed even before you’ve begun? That’s usually how I feel during Camp. Perhaps you have never had this feeling, or are new enough to this crazy writing life that you haven’t yet fallen victim to the madness. I’m here to warn you: It’s very real, my friends.
Camp is the thing that sounds fun and super easy, and then ends up being a disaster. Maybe it turns into a good story after (long after, sometimes), but that doesn’t mean it’s not shitty in the moment. For me, this camp is no different.
The Real November NaNoWriMo comes with magic fairy dust and mixed with a dash of the impossible made possible. To say there is a mystical energy in November is like calling a forest fire a spark. The energy and optimistic naïveté that accompanies NaNoWriMo in November is the thing drugs try to accomplish. It’s the high an addict is always chasing. It’s the first kiss with your great love. It’s your first swim in the ocean, or the first cold snowflake caught on your tongue.
It’s an experience worth experiencing. Many fail in November, yes. But many of us surprise ourselves year after year. Our writing is fueled by the passionate hordes of wanna-be authors and writers of all levels. We learn from each other. We laugh. We cry. We ignore our other responsibilities. But it’s okay, because it’s November. It’s okay because we give ourselves over to the magic.
Then Camp NaNo comes along and it’s full of swamps and washed out gravel roads, smelly kids and horny, absent camp counselors. The tents are mosquito-infested and we’re pretty sure there are rats in the latrines. The brochure is more colorful, more cheery, and overall more interesting than the actual experience. But the magic just isn’t there. The fairy dust is clumpy and the hordes of wanna-be authors are hiding under trees and bushes, trying badly not to get burnt.
The expectation of Camp nearly ALWAYS outweighs reality which can put in you in a Grade-A funk.
Camp puts the F-U in funk, as a matter of fact.
So what’s November’s secret? It’s not stuffing-stuffed turkey or chilly autumn nights. The secret is really not a secret at al. Fire.
If Smokey is the little angel bear sitting on your shoulder saying “only you can prevent forest fires,” then it must be the little pyromaniac Komodo dragon on your other shoulder, snickering “Do it! Light that fire…”
Look away, Smokey. Everyone else, huddle up. Its campfire time, and we’re taking this fire and spreading it far and wide. Let it burn deep and hot.
Light a fire in your writing- start by being obnoxiously passionate about your story. Get emotionally attached to your characters. Bond with them in a way only a slightly psychotic writer can bond with people who aren’t real. Feel that burn in your chest and the ache in your belly? That’s empathy- use it as fuel for your infant fire.
Build a pyre and burn the bodies of your dead. Make entire civilizations weep. Bring the stars out the sky and have them rain down upon your world. That red hot sun? Burn it out. Make the oceans rise and the land give way to destructive power of whatever force rules your imagination.
Do you feel it inside you? All the power is yours. Create with it. Destroy with it.
If you are like me and find yourself thigh-high in quick sand in April and July, build a bridge over that shit and walk across it. Building a bridge may not be easy, but it’s a better struggle than slowly sinking into a pit of blackness.
But, Sarah, how do I light a fire? I’m a twenty-or-thirty something hipster with absolutely no scrap of survival instincts left.
Great question, you. Here’s what you’ll need: an idea, something to write with, and maybe some music. The louder the better, when it comes to your soundtrack. A friend or group of friends that like to write, or talk about your stories, is also helpful. Then, literally, sit your ass in a chair or on a patio or on a deck and start telling a story. Don’t worry about your grammar or spelling or punctuation- FUCK the Oxford Comma!- and just tell a cool story!
Make ‘em laugh. Make ‘em cry. Make ‘em feel something. Make ‘em feel the heat and set them on fire, too.
Light a fire with your writing by being fiery about your writing. If you are not excited, no one else will be excited.
None of this is new advice. You’ve probably heard it a hundred times before. Take this little pile of flammable writing advice and use it as your fire starter. Then, use your ideas to spark a flame and let that mother burn to the ground.
❤ Sarah and the Wordwraiths.