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!”

20 Responses to NaNoCurseMo
  1. j
    November 29, 2010 | 2:22 AM

    I absolutely love that you’re writing the book out in long hand (at least until you have a more technical solution). You rock. I am inspired.

    • Mary
      November 29, 2010 | 2:07 PM

      Thank you J! I am happy to report that I am back up and writing again on a new computer. The technical break might have been good for me. Once I got over the shock of not having a computer, the quiet time away from the digital noise helped me focus more on the story. It has taken off in unexpected directions.

  2. Jordan Drew
    November 29, 2010 | 7:51 AM

    I think it’s awesome you’re writing in long hand! Go you!! 🙂

    • Mary
      November 29, 2010 | 2:12 PM

      Ha! Back in the day I did all of my writing in long hand. I felt like a techie when I got an electric typewriter! But that was in the 70’s. 🙂 thanks foir the comment Jordan!

  3. Marilyn
    November 29, 2010 | 8:44 AM

    Sometimes you just need a break. And to find pen and paper, think how many wonder novels have been written the “old fashioned” way. Good for you. Keep up your true dream.

    • Mary
      November 29, 2010 | 2:19 PM

      My first (unfinished) novel was written in 7 notebooks. I found the first two recently. It is amazing to read them years later. And I agree, a break was needed. The dream is not dead, long live the dream! Thank you for your commet Marilyn.

  4. Jennyablue
    November 29, 2010 | 12:34 PM

    Have a wonderful time writing your book. Know, access to writing while you work is a benefit to cherish.

    I never leave home without pen and paper. Words come when they do. I trust my mind to not stress over ‘writers block’ which I believe doesn’t exist. Tech issues are a bane, of course. I wish you access to smooth running technology by the time you’re ready to transfer your words. xo

    • Mary
      November 29, 2010 | 2:28 PM

      Thank you Jenny! I carry a notebook with me too. I also have one by my bed for when I wake up with an idea. I once woke up with a poem, fully formed. I only changed the order of the lines. Unusual for me as I do not often write poems. But, I love reading yours. 🙂

  5. Karen Bro
    November 29, 2010 | 8:04 PM

    *smacks forehead*

    It NEVER occurred to me to suggest writing in longhand!

    *smacks forehead again*

    I’m glad to know you’re continuing your novel and look forward to purchasing a copy and getting your signature.

    • Mary
      November 29, 2010 | 8:12 PM

      Sometimes it is the most simple and most obvious solutions that we miss. Thank you as well for your support. 🙂

  6. Adam G
    November 29, 2010 | 8:13 PM

    Carbonite, my friend. I decided to start using this when my computer fried the same day as yours. 50 bucks a year, right-click–>Carbonite–>Back this up! = stop worrying forever.

    • Mary
      November 30, 2010 | 1:31 AM

      That was actually kind of funny though. We had the same brand and model computer and they both went down the same day. What are the odds of that? I will check out Carbonite. Was also considering investing in an external harddrive. I am beginning to think I am cursed with all things electronic. 🙂

  7. Elizabeth P
    November 29, 2010 | 8:16 PM

    I’m so glad you’re off and running again with your writing! I have every faith in the world that you will beat that dang curse, Faith will prevail!

    • Mary
      November 30, 2010 | 1:34 AM

      Another strong member of my support system weighs in. Thank you Elizabeth. I am fortunate that I have so many supportive friends! You have seen me through a lot and never let me give up. I am blessed!

  8. other Mary
    November 30, 2010 | 12:34 PM

    engaging in creative activity takes a lot of emotional energy. As I get older I find I have less of it left over after getting all the daily stuff done. I intend to draw, paint but never seem to have the time or to put it first. Creativity falls to the bottom of the “to do” pile! Good luck, MM!

    • Mary
      November 30, 2010 | 8:06 PM

      You are right Mary, it does take a lot of energy, but for me, it is envigorating as well once I get going. I hope you do paint again. I love your work. Thank you for reading and commenting.

  9. Lois
    November 30, 2010 | 3:22 PM

    I’m glad you’re writing, in whatever form. Getting the story down is like breathing. It must be done. 🙂

    And how many awesome novels have been written with good old fashioned pen and paper? Some were even written with a dip pen. Imagine how time consuming that seemed when ball point pens came out! 😛

    • Mary
      November 30, 2010 | 8:13 PM

      Yes Lois, it is like breathing. I sometimes have trouble sleeping when I have something that I must write. I get up, half awake and just let the words come. Thinking just gets in the way. Some of my best writing has come this way.

      Thank you for stopping by to read and comment. 🙂

  10. Lois
    November 30, 2010 | 9:13 PM

    I do all my writing during the day, but it often runs into early evening. Those are the nights I keep waking up and have a hard time falling back to sleep! 😉

  11. Mary
    December 2, 2010 | 4:41 AM

    Lois, I Don’t really have a set time to write anymore because of my work schedule. But, my favorite time to write has always been at night. I like to turn the lights off so there are no distractions. When I worked afternoon shift I would write from midnight to 2 or 3am. Then I would sleep until 10 or 11am. Many times I would get up and edit what I had written the night before.

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