By Mary Moellenhoff
Sometime late September, I got the urge to write again. This was a surprise because I had been struggling, unable to write anything and had essentially given up. The dream had died. I am not sure exactly why, maybe it was just mental exhaustion as I had been through a stressful year. It actually scared me a little when I could no longer put words to what I felt. I had also stopped writing on my blog. I stepped back from participating on Twitter, but could not stay away completely. Instead I lurked around the edges, reading, wanting to participate, but not finding the words.
The story idea came from an article that I had seen posted on Twitter while lurking. I mulled it over in my head, but did nothing about it. The idea was persistent, though, and came to me again in a dream. On three successive nights, the dream recurred and the idea became clearer. I did a little research and started to get excited. Then the thought popped into my head, this would be good for NaNoWriMo.
I had entered NaNoWriMo for the first time in 2009 and had gotten off to a fast start on day one only to be knocked out in day two by a computer virus. Everything on my hard drive was lost. Although I had taken steps to save what I had written on a flash drive, I had not been as careful with other files and lost homework and research for two classes. There was no way I would have time to keep up with the pace of NaNoWriMo and redo the homework and research for school. I had no choice, but to drop out of NaNoWriMo.
This year, it seemed more doable. I wasn’t in school anymore and had an overnight job with lots of free time to write. Better yet, I had what I thought to be a great story idea. When I shared the idea with a friend, she was supportive and urged me to do it. Still I was not convinced, but continued to do research. Although it nagged at me, I didn’t make the decision until mid-October, only sharing my plans with a few close friends. I wasn’t ready to announce it to all as I had the year before in case something happened again.
November 1st came and I started out strong, writing more than I had planned. I got a little distracted with the election on November 2nd and only wrote about 800 words. But I wasn’t worried as I thought I could easily catch up on my overnight shifts. And I might have been able to do just that, but once again, technology failed me. The screen on my laptop went black and then I made it worse trying to fix it myself. There are just some things you should never do when sleep deprived. I turned to my ancient desktop computer, which I only used to run my wireless network only to have that crash as well. The evil blue screen of death appeared and then the doomsday message, operating system cannot be found.
By then, I was beginning to believe in a personal NaNoWriMo curse. I was already behind in my word count when the laptop screen failed. Buying a new computer was out of the question as my extra money was needed to get my car ready for winter. I love my job, but it is times like this that I regret that I work for a low paying non-profit. Although a friend offered me an old laptop that she was no longer using, I knew that any dreams of writing the 50,000 words were finished for this year. It would take at least a week for the computer to get to me.
After the initial disappointment of not being able to complete NaNoWriMo yet again, I became even more unsettled. The lack of a computer had totally disrupted my daily routine. It is amazing how much we take technology for granted, until it is taken away. I didn’t realize how much I depended on my computer. The first thing I do every morning is turn on my computer to get the news, weather and connect with my friends. It is as automatic as a daily shower. I felt adrift and isolated.
But, there is always a work-around if you are creative. I added internet access to my phone and unlimited texting so I could keep in touch with online friends. However, I am not used to texting and ended up with sore thumbs after only a day. I also discovered that I did not need my computer to write. There is always paper and pen. Which is how I wrote the first draft of this post.
I am still writing my story. It was and is a good idea and I am going forward at a slower pace than I would have if I were still involved in NaNoWriMo. I am determined to finish it. And maybe next year I can break my personal “NaNoCurseMo.”
* I would like to thank Caroline Smith for her support and texting me when I was offline and feeling adrift and Ali Davis for coming up with the title. And a special thanks to Judy Clement Wall for giving me this opportunity to guest post here.
Mary Moellenhoff is a writer from Minnesota who in real life works for a non-profit with developmentally disabled adults. Her blog is Azsky13: Whatever…. From Mary, “In my heart I have always been a writer. I just don’t get paid for it, yet!”