Thoughts about NaNoWriMo

“I realised that with everything that was going on in my life in November, daily writing would be more of a stress than a stress-reliever. So I slowed down a bit.”

nanowrimo

November officially ended 3 days ago. With it, thousands of new stories have seen the light of day, millions of characters have been born and sheaths of paper and Word documents have darkened with writing. I am sure that over these 30 days, many a writer and individual has found themselves or undergone change that will stay with them for a lifetime.

But I am not one of those people.

My attempts at NaNoWriMo this time around have been just that, mostly : attempts. At first, when I realised around Day 7 that I would not make it, I felt a little bit like I’d failed. That I was giving up, going the easy way. But for all of the motivation that NaNoWriMo gives you, there’s also a pressure to keep writing everyday or continuously, at the very least. And it has to be good too, you know? If, like me, your version of NaNoWriMo consists of blogging everyday, there’s a bit of an added pressure of posting a daily entry. And then you just start sortof manufacturing at some point. You make up stories that are not rooted in anything or write things you think you’re supposed to write.

Don’t get me wrong, though—NaNoWriMo has taught me a lot about my limits.

It’s taught me that sometimes I say I’m too tired to type up a blog post or to write when I’m really not. It’s taught me to go beyond lack of inspiration and view even creative writing in a more practical way. I need to truly make time for writing, I have learned, and not just write when I feel like it or have been randomly inspired. If I wait for inspiration to hit me, then I feel I will never write the things that I really want to write. I will write about things I will happen upon, but never about the thoughts that are hidden so deep in my psyche I cannot even find them. I need to keep digging, to be less whimsical about the act of writing. Because there’s so much more out of me and it would be a shame if I did not squeeze myself a little to get these stories out.

I just wanted to write this as a reminder to myself and hopefully as reassurance to other writers that you don’t have to complete NaNoWriMo if the pace doesn’t suit you. If it makes you stray from your writing goals or makes you feel a sort of obligation that takes every and all pleasure out of writing. At the end of the day— and that’s just my 2 cents— you should feel some kind of positive feeling about your writing, and not dread the prospect of having to do it again tomorrow.

Thankfully, I never did reach that stage. I realised that with everything that was going on in my life in November, daily writing would be more of a stress-inducer than a stress-reliever. So I slowed down a bit. Now that I am a little less busy, I have an idea to make up for the number of posts ‘lacking’ from NaNoWriMo in December. I should be able to do this much, I think.

Thank you to everyone who stuck around for my attempts at NaNoWriMo though, however inconsistent and whimsical the posting was. I appreciate you and the time you spend on this blog 🙂


 

A weightless wonder.

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Photograph by : Unknown

My heart is trepidating right now, as I write this.

I am on the cusp between two worlds, hanging at the very tip of a crescent moon, waiting to dive in beauty and adventures unknown. Between reality and dreams is a leap I have to take, a distance I have bridged thus far with hard work and a whole lot of luck. And now, here I am. At the very last bit of it, the last cornerstone, the last touch that brings everything together, without which all is incomplete.

I’m sure a lot of people do it everyday, mindlessly. A sort of routine : they buy plane tickets the way I pay for the bus. But I’ve never done this before, never experienced the thrill of buying yourself such an experience, of feeding your soul something that will nourish it for years to come. But here I am, a paved road trailing behind me, a door waiting to be unlocked under my trembling hand. And you just, you just have to take a moment during those times, you know?

Look at where I’ve come from and look at where I am going.

From this point on, nothing will ever be the same again; I will be unlocking parts of myself I’d never known about before. You just need that one moment to appreciate all of life, and the way in which it happened to you, the way every moment has led to this, to now. And here I am, shaky and disbelieving, waiting to wake up like I have so many times before, to dreams that turn bitter on my tongue as soon as reality sinks in. But I’m pinching myself and pinching myself, right? And it hurts every single time. It’s not a fake, it’s not a dream. This is reality. The very reality that denies me so many beautiful visions every day is giving me this. 20 or so odd years, reality has been a keen sting. But now even as I am pinching away, there is no pain.

Just a weightless wonder.

Something that has no reality to root itself to because it still belongs to the world of dreams. It has not yet transitioned into being, is still some fuzzy concept floating around, changing shapes in my mind’s eye. I am still expecting to wake up anytime now to a dreary routine and the same scenery I see everyday. I am expecting for time to stop the day I plan to go away. Maybe the world will end before I get to the airport. I don’t know. Because for the first time, I can’t imagine what it will be like.

Not even how it makes me feel.

I just have to wait for it to happen. To discover worlds unknown, outside and within.

 

A girl in the city.

“And yet who is to say what kind of things churned behind your eyes ?”

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Art by : Pascal Campion

Who even looks up anymore?

Some days I do; most days I don’t. I’m busy trying not to lose time, to make the few hours outside of work count double, triple. Honestly, I am a bit too busy planning my first trip abroad to pay attention to airplanes in the sky. Or to stop in the middle of the unending human flow of the city to gaze at planes weaving soundlessly through clouds. I must have missed more than a couple of these flights, these vanishing doors to daydreams. If this sends a twinge of disappointment in me, I am learning to ignore it. I cannot rise to every occasion. There are just some trains you are going to miss in life, some planes you will never catch.

But then again, there are those that you do seize.

Like today, in the late evening. The sun dipped its toes in the ocean and let out a sigh that was all golden light. A soft caress of warmth at the back of trees, an aureate glint on satellite dishes, a light underlining the otherwise anonymous beauty of you in this loud city.

Did you have any idea what kind of image you made for? You, on the fourth and last floor of an apartment building, sitting by the open window on the windowsill, pale blue curtains fluttering around you; your head resting on one knee, your face upturned. You, one human in a jungle of a city, unstirring where everyone else always moves, moves, moves. And yet who is to say what kind of things churned behind your eyes ? What kind of plane your small hand must have caught.

How many years have you been here, dreaming? To jump on the first plane to pass by your window and to fly away into the night, to wake up to some view other than the one you’ve come to know?

More beautiful than a plane in the clear blue sky, a girl with big dreams in the city, looking out of her window.


Note : This is NaNoWriMo Day 6. You can find Day 5, “Another name for wonder” here ! 🙂

Another name for wonder

“My wonder was not quite so proactive; it was just leftovers from childhood, like stubborn dregs of idealism that remained stuck to my brain…”

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Art by : James Fenner

Wonder is such a rare, rare resource. Somehow, it is something I’ve only realised now that I am losing mine. Wonder is something you cultivate, which you train your eyes to see even when it is hidden deep under a pile of grime and waste. It is to believe that there is good in the world, even when the actions of its people say otherwise. My wonder was not quite so proactive; it was just leftovers from childhood, like stubborn dregs of idealism that remained stuck to my brain, even after it was upended and prepared for the real world.

In a way, my wonder grew like an insurgence, a rebellion; like something that rose stronger after someone tried to kill it. A weed growing back with a vengeance, truly, wishing to overcome everything, to layer it in green. Or pink, as it so happens with wonder. But rose-tinted glasses do shatter, I’ve learnt. And when they do, the contrast is striking. Nauseating. All around is oozing darkness and filth, even the most beautiful souls host some kind of festering illness, most things seem ugly, ugly, ugly.

So, is this what I’ve not been seeing all along ?

Hidden behind bullet-proof, rose-tinted glasses, is this what the world truly looks like ?

Is wonder not just a deception, then? A weed, truly, growing over more than just your sight, but your vision, your perception? A truth-obscurer. How can anyone find any beauty in a world like this? A world that kills and hates, discriminates—a world that hurts so, so deeply; somewhere deeper than any muscle tissue, deeper than the very marrow of your bones. An ache so profound it continually rings through your skeleton, there with you at your every step, at your every glance at this desolate, capsizing world. And through your ache, you feel others’ aches, too. Millions, billions hiding their own pain. The old Earth even aches, and its pain is something so profoundly sad, most of all because it is a wordless cry. It is the sound of trees being felled, of the surface of the Earth being clawed at, of oceans being poisoned.

Beauty?

Beauty, if it ever was, is withering now.

Nothing is beautiful, nothing is good anymore.

The world is all one hollow crater resonating with the cries of all who find themselves in it.

Idealism was a beautiful lie, while it lasted.

Losing wonder is very much like losing one of your 5 senses. The world is never quite the same afterwards. Or maybe it is more like gold that loses its shine with the years.

As I trail past the abandoned Earth, past the desertification of this world, I realise I am not sure what to do at all. Where to start? With the starving, with the injured, the children, the old people? With…myself? The Earth is bleeding, and I only have two hands to stop a haemorrhage larger than all the life I have led up until now.

Soon, night falls in this deserted Earth, like everything else. Everything falls, and decays and dies. Life is a downward spiral, a slope too steep to climb. I let go of myself, slumping into the dunes, the biting cold of the desert at night.

Above me is this huge void, an all-encompassing darkness ready to swallow us whole. The sky will one day fall on our heads and take us all.

Tears, salty and cold and prickly sting my eyes. All of this desolation has welled up into something terrifyingly large on the inside, something that will come out one way or the other. And I can feel it already, lodged in my throat, straining, struggling to be let out.

Then, the first tear falls.

And another and another, and another.

As I rub furiously at my eyes, irritating them even further, something…stands out in the distance, in the corner of my eye.

There, scintillating in the void of night, the first star to appear in the night sky. Something you have to train your eyes to see amidst all the darkness.

Wonder. Wonder blooms in the night like a desert flower.

Quietly, another star alights.

And another and another, and another.

All of the night is alight with stars, blinking from light years away.

And it strikes me then, lightning-hot. Do you know what another name for wonder is? Hope.

Slowly, the blank spaces around me fill up with humans who are stargazers like me, too. The starlight reflects in their eyes, and they, we, can see clearer now.

You know what Hope and stars have in common? They help humans find their way in the dark.


Note : This is NaNoWriMo Day 5. You can find Day 4 here. Also, if you thought this was going to have a bleak ending, well, surprise ! It does happen though, that our idealism dulls. Sometimes you realise again how messed up the world is. Like everything else, wonder has an ebb and flow. But it is so important to not be stuck at one stage or the other and to keep moving forward. Also, side-note, this is the most complete blog post I’ve ever written lol. One very relevant cover photo, a quote of the day AND a song to boot? #Productivity.

Quote of the day :

“There is some good in this world, Mr Frodo, and it’s worth fighting for.”

— J.R.R. Tolkien

Listening to :

Under the shade of centenerian trees

“In nature though, it is the opposite that happens : you breathe out the smell of the city, expunge its taste from your tongue; you cough out the second-hand cigarette smoke and carbon monoxide and gorge your lungs with crisp air from down by the stream.”

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Art by : Heikala

I am rather short in stature, and most days I stare with murderous intent at anyone who dares notice the fact out loud.

Even so, there are days when I dream to be much smaller than I already am. So that I may slip through the bars of reality and expectations, through the blinds barring the windows at work, straight into a refreshing stream sparkling with sunlight. I would lie on my back like I’ve done innumerable times at sea, let myself get carried away and just stare up at the skies until my eyes water and I have to blink away the tears, to look away from the blinding light of the sun. How wonderful would it be to gaze up from the passing stream to find masses of leaves rustling with the wind — helping to hide you from the eyes of the world— instead of the vast openness of the sky at sea and sunlight piercing streaks through gaps in the foliage.

Then, a large, waxy leaf would gently detach from a branch, fluttering quietly, anonymously to the ground, down into the stream. And quite naturally, I would reach for it, climb on its veined surface and rest, whilst tracing over the sinewy marks branching away from its centre. Limbs splayed out, drying under the sun, what would worries be but some faraway memory, like a muffled cry under the water?

The most beautiful part would be that no one would know. They might look for me at work, but I do think I’ve earned a day off. It would be a stolen moment then, deliciously anonymous. Lazy and slow, entirely too deliberate to be called a waste of time. Moments like these are called “Nurturing your soul”, filling it with peace; not having to remind it to take deep breaths and not suffocate on the city air. These moments are pockets of bagged oxygen floating in the smog of everyday life. Sometimes, you don’t realise you are being poisoned until you run into one of them, and it strikes you suddenly what you’ve been missing out on this whole time. In nature though, it is the opposite that happens : you breathe out the smell of the city, expunge its taste from your tongue; you cough out the second-hand cigarette smoke and carbon monoxide and gorge your lungs with crisp air from down by the stream.

You breathe it all out in clear bags and send it flying to a black hole ways beyond, at the ends of Time.

I could bring a book, too. Or my sketch book and some watercolour. And cool peach iced tea sloshing in a mason jar mug, droplets of condensation rushing to the bottom. Maybe there could be a few music notes too, floating over my head.

I could hang onto them and fly away for a little while under the shade of centenarian trees.


Note : This is NaNoWriMo Day 4. I couldn’t publish it on time because of some setbacks. Day 5 is coming soon ! 🙂 Meanwhile, you can read my entry for Day 3.

Some advice to myself

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Gif by : Unknown

Reflecting on my failures in writing, there is one thing that I understand I have been doing wrong. And that is to cry out for ideas, attempting to pull complex stories out of thin air. That’s the whole problem : stories like these are not rooted in anything. They are just streams of words preceding each other, rushing to make a point, to pool into the ocean. They have little authentic meaning and instead look like a patchwork of ideas, not all yours.

Instead, what I should have been doing is to be quiet, and let the ideas rouse from where they are buried. There is plenty to go around on the inside : 20 or so odd years of submerged reflections, of things learned consciously and unconsciously, of lessons tangible or not, of people met and loved and left.

That is how you call upon your inner self, you stay silent and instead of planting other seeds—let the ones that are already buried deep in your ribs sprout up. In so doing, you let yourself speak and understand why you are the way you are. And when these stories emerge, you need to prune them, water them, de-weed, make sure they don’t grow sideways. You need to take care of the stories that spring from such depths; you never know how great they will grow. As unruly as they are though, as much as they leave you exposed, these stories have roots, so they have meaning.

They are irrigated by the blood flowing in your veins—these stories are yours. Not a tale could be told that resembles it, even if they both speak of the same themes, because what is yours is yours. They are your stories, straight from your gut.


Note : This is Day 3 of my NaNoWriMo writing challenge. Here are the entries for Day 1 and Day 2.

My thoughts have thoughts | NaNoWriMo Day 2

“At first, overthinking feels almost intelligent, like : “Oh, look at me, my thoughts have thoughts.””

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Art by : Unknown Artist

In a number of ways, I’ve found myself already.

The constant flow of “Who am I”s  that clashed with my bloodstream has quietened, softened to a dull roar. Like the sound of the ocean in your ear when you place a shell there — it is an echo of something it used to be, something from the past.

I could honestly not fill out a form about what I want to be, though. I couldn’t say where I want the next 5 years to take me. But I could write my name proudly on top of the paper. I don’t know where I’m going or how, but on this solo quest, I at least know who I’m travelling with.

So, I’ve finally discovered who I am, although how much of it is discovery and how much of it is memory is really hard to tell. I think, in a way, it is more of a rediscovery than anything else. Either way, I’m still not able to provide short-cut answers (“I want to be a writer.” or “I want to write a novel.”) or very clear answers at all. My…truths are not easy for me to casually explain. They are still a little muddled, like water that is only now settling after its surface has been disturbed by multiple ricochets. So these…truths come in unusual ways : in musical scores and vocal tremors in songs, very precise bits of writing, insignificant words, wispy feelings, moods and other such nameless things. It is nothing quite concrete, but is still so overwhelmingly potent just for existing. The few moments I can catch are such delights to have, so crisp they are, so startlingly clear.

At this point, if someone asks me who I am, I will just point to a song that speaks to my soul and say : “That is what I am.”.  I’m not ashamed of it : I have caught with quite slippery hands the bits and pieces that I am now holding onto. But really, it was easy. Once I let go of the overthinking, the truth rose from the silence and I followed it to the things that matter most.

But who am I kidding, overthinking is the hardest thing at first. Overthinking is a storm in your mind that leaves debris in its wake. It is a man-made disaster, the number one mind-polluter : it turns the place inside out, enshrouds any markers that could guide you back to the places you’ve been before. But not overthinking is also hard in a world that always leaves you guessing whether you are doing things right. Simplicity is not easy. When sophistication is dangled like a bait in front of you, you start asking yourself what is wrong with you for not wanting it. If everyone else is fighting for it, why am I not ?

I used to think simplicity was boring, like it was just the beginning stages of a painting. A bare canvas waiting to be doused in colour. Simplicity is monochrome in a world of splashing colours. It is empty, lacking substance. I only thought that because I never imagined simplicity could come from sophistication. I thought simplicity was plain, unadorned, that blank spaces didn’t belong on a canvas. But that’s not true. Simplicity is focused, calm where overthinking is excessive or scattered. If simplicity is monochrome, then overthinking is like mixing colours : you keep adding touches and dashes of this and that shade, and in the end all you’re left with is a pool of muddled black. Simplicity knows what it is and what is out there and still chooses to be itself.

I’ve learned to do the same. I’m still learning, still struggling to keep it simple and keep it real. At first, overthinking feels almost intelligent, like : “Oh, look at me, my thoughts have thoughts.”.

It feels right because you are weighing in all your options, learning as much as you can about them, double, triple-checking…At one point though, you just turn into a hoarder. You stockpile thoughts and hide behind them like a dragon sleeping under a mountain of gold coins.

Your thoughts have thoughts. Cool, but is any one of them doing anything for you? Or do they all just look pretty in your head ? Simplicity in thought is having a thousand choices and going through the effort of keeping only the right one. Or, at the very least, the one or two that feel the most right of them all.

With some of the debris cleaned up, my journey inward can now be resumed, its paths unclogged, unobstructed. I can begin again to uncover all the wonderful things that give meaning to life, for me.

And again, it’s the simple, not always quiet things. It’s music by people whose artistry I adore. Loud laughter. Fearing nothing but fear itself.


Note : This is an entry for NaNoWriMo Day 2. Also, I realise some parts of this may sound harsh, but I’m mostly talking to myself when I write down things like these, so…