Well I did it.
I think National Novel Writing Month is such a wonderful creative exercise for people who don’t know if they are writers or not. I have always struggled with considering myself a writer. In theory I feel like I have always been a writer because my whole life I’ve written.
It all started back in the fifth grade. I fell in love with writing, and it was my first realization that I might have been somewhat good at something. I’ve never been an athlete, and while my grades have always been enough to earn me honors, I’ve never been a scholar. I don’t excel in math or science. I’m not a history buff or an artist. I never learned to play a musical instrument even though I eat, sleep and breathe the music that I listen to. I never really found a niche for myself until I started writing.
In fifth grade I entered an essay contest just because so that I could try and win a pair of tickets to a Golden State Warriors game to take my Dad to. It was a school wide contest and I didn’t think anything would happen when I entered it. I went home that night and scribbled my little heart out onto a piece of lined paper. The subject of the essay was simple – why did you deserve the tickets and what would they mean to you? When we had an assembly a week or so later it was time to announce the winner of the contest. I was sitting next to my friends and the principal called out the winner. I heard my name. And before I knew what was happening I was reading my essay in front of my entire elementary school. I won my first award ever. And it was for writing.
After that moment I always had pipe dreams of being a writer. When high school rolled around I shifted my dreams from creative writing to journalistic writing. I thought myself incapable of producing an idea novel enough to write an entire book from, so I thought I could still get my writing fix through the idea of daily deadlines. I was part of the first staff of the Granada High School newspaper. I was in the room when the name was created. It laid the groundwork for what would later become my biggest passion to date.
I was further fueled to be a writer when I met the Las Positas College’s newsroom during my first semester. By the end of the semester I was an assistant editor and I had gained two incredible mentors that believed in my writing ability. It was the second round of realization that I might actually be good at something. I moved up the ranks quickly and that paper was my everything. I became the Editor in Chief on The Express and ran my own staff, and when I was done with that I became the Editor in Chief of the campus magazine Naked. I couldn’t get enough. I loved seeing my name printed each week.
A few internships, a lot of journalism conferences and awards and transferring to Sacramento State later I found myself in another newsroom. My fourth newsroom home and I was only 21. Before the semester even started I knew that I needed to be an editor. I knew no one the day that I came in for editor training, but I left with my Sac State family. I knew I had found the place I would call home at my new school.
Writing has always been my home, and for the first time in my life I don’t have a group that I belong to. Post-graduation life isn’t glamorous, and six months in I realize how much I miss my writing families and the homes that I made on three campuses over the past seven or so years.
I think all of this brought me to NaNoWriMo this month. I don’t work in journalism, and I feel like I can’t classify myself as a writer if I am not writing. So this novel I have embarked on is my first real attempt at finding out who I am as a writer, not a journalist. Journalists ask questions and report on facts, while creative writing requires me to make up facts and write something in the most beautiful way possible.
I guess that after NaNoWriMo there’s no denying that I am a writer. I wrote 50,000 words in the month of November, and I am not even quite finished with my novel yet. Over the process there were some days where I just closed my eyes and I felt like I was witnessing my mind taking over and I barely had to think about what I was doing, while other days I struggled word-by-word to make my daily word count.
Creativity is such a fickle thing, and I learned that what has been holding me back in my previous novel writing attempts is lack of perseverance. If I only write when I am inspired, those days will be few and far between. I need to write every day.
When I said I struggled with classifying myself as a writer, I guess I was really referring to classifying myself as a “successful” writer. I always wonder if my writing is actually worth people reading it. And the only way I’ll ever know is to try. If I write something and people don’t like it, then at least I wrote it. But my god I would love to write something that mattered to someone. But then I would be writing for someone else rather than myself. And by default if I write something that matters to me then I guess that counts. That’s my real goal. I want to show myself that my writing matters.
Now on to finish my novel. 😉