Where I live in the mountains of Panama, the only change of season we see is from rainy to dry. This begins to take place in November. There’s a shift in the wind and the town braces itself for the Fiestas Patrias (Panama’s Independence Days). Strings of small plastic flags crisscross the streets and flap with a smacking sound as if applauding you whenever you drive beneath them. Grey clouds hover above the town as barjareque, (not quite rain, but heavier than mist) falls on the tourists and marching bands, covering them with a sparkling layer of microscopic droplets.
November also signals National Novel Writing Month, which I first participated in 2012. I had been wanting to write a novel my whole life, and the only thing that forced me to get a book started and finished was NaNoWriMo.
I completed my first ever book, surprising myself and triggering an addiction to finishing books ever since. Now when the winds of November change and I hear the echoes of the marching bands practicing for the Independence Day parades, I feel like a horse at the starting gate ready to race to my word count with all the other bucking writers.
I think anyone who’s participated in National Novel Writing Month start to look forward to it as a yearly tradition. It’s something to get excited about, and you are not alone in your enthusiasm and anxiety. You can connect with other writers who are on the same crazy train. NaNoWriMo helps to stop the usual procrastinating and put writing first for a whole month.
Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to participate in the last few years. My job consists of mostly writing now and my creative juices and tolerance for sitting at the computer are wiped out by the time I finish my work for the day. I’m often traveling during this time for the holidays, which makes it difficult to scurry off to some quiet place to write.
I also don’t allow myself to participate because have to stop piling up manuscripts. It’s becoming a problem. I wrote three novels in a mad dash and they are still left rumpled up and tossed aside like piles of dirty laundry on the floor. I have no business writing more Nano novels until I clean these up, right?
But I wonder… just because I wrote them, does that mean they should be published? Is it worth salvaging them? These were my first practice novels, before The Sick Series, when I had no idea what I was doing. Hell, I don’t even know if I should’ve released Sick on the world. I can just leave these drafts in some dark corner of my Dropbox and begin something with my new writing experience. Jack Kerouac’s debut novel was lost until 2011, and thank god it was because it was deemed sophomoric and might have barred him from the literary world.
I’m not sure who really said this. I’ve seen it attributed to Cesar A. Cruz and Bansky. Either way, it’s exactly what I believe art (especially writing) should do.
What do you think?
I’m now on Instagram! @christawojo
I live in the Chiriquí highlands, a land of eternal spring that bursts with flowers all year long. My yard is full of countless colors and species. There are pinks, yellow, blues, reds, purples, fiery oranges, and blazing whites. There are orchids, daffodils, roses, hibiscus, and many kinds of plants that I can’t identify.
I try to make sure I crawl out of my writing/working cave for a few minutes a day to appreciate the flowers. Not only is it soothing to get away from the glowing screens of my electronics, but I do it for the plant life too. I feel it’s a shame to ignore them as they strain upward to bloom as brightly as they can. I know that all too quickly they will wilt and die. Someone should be there to watch their performance.
On hikes through the cloud forest, I often notice a lone, exotic flower in the mist. It waits there in silence, sparkling with dew, and trembles in the breeze like it’s excited to see me. I think of how easily I might not have been in that spot at that moment to witness it in its pinnacle of existence. What a pity for those countless hidden beauties who go through the trouble of making a such a performance only to be missed!
But I realize that whether I was there or not, the flower would’ve opened in the darkness of the jungle anyway. It would have raised its petals to the moon and folded back into itself again, a marvel never to be seen.
I think of artists like flowers – painters, dancers, singers, and writers. We are designed to bloom and can’t help ourselves from doing so. It doesn’t matter if anyone is there to witness it or appreciate it. It doesn’t matter if it’s practical or not. It’s what we were made to do, and we must do it or we’ll be miserable.
We may get trampled on or devoured by insects. We may be clipped short and put in a vase to be put on a brief display for others and then shrivel before our time. We may be watered and nurtured so that we thrive and mature to our fullest potential, blooming season after season, becoming an attraction for bees and butterflies and hummingbirds.
On the other hand, we may never be noticed or acknowledged by a single soul. We might throw all our energies, passions, and resources into becoming the most spectacular blossom, only to crumple back into the ground without attracting the slightest notice.
The point is this. Don’t write to be seen. Write to become yourself.
No matter what, we must break from the soil, unfurl with determination, and reach for the sun. As flowers bloom, so we must write. We must write. We must write!
So go write!
What are your goals as a writer?
Would you still write if you knew no one would ever read it?
What are you working on right now?
I’m still studying Of Human Bondage by William Somerset Maugham. As I said in my first article about the book, great writers are those who write stories that are relevant throughout time. They expose universal truths that apply to our lives no matter what century we live in. Of Human Bondage is full of such enduring revelations.
In the first part of the book, we witness the main character, Phillip, and his crisis of faith in God. At the next crossroad in the story, we see Phillip battling self-doubt when he pursues his wildest dream.
After being fed up with a dreary accounting job, Phillip goes to Paris to become a painter. He does well, but never creates anything extraordinary. After the suicide of a classmate, who for all her passion for art was a lousy painter, Phillip reevaluates his reasons for becoming an artist. He wonders what his future will look like if he continues to pursue his dream.
Phillip finally works up the nerve to end the subject once and for all by asking one of his painting masters to give an honest opinion of his work. The teacher is perplexed by his request.
Monsieur Foinet: “I don’t understand.”
Phillip: “I’m very poor. If I have no talent I would sooner do something else.”
Monsieur Foinet: “Don’t you know if you have talent?”
Phillip: “All my friends know they have talent, but I am aware some of them are mistaken.”
In this world of indie publishing, anyone and everyone is writing a book, but should they be? I might be a jerk for bringing this up, but I’ll say it.
I see a lot of crappy books out there.