Friday, October 2, 2009


No, I'm not participating. Well do I remember my last attempt at writing fiction. It was the eighth grade, and it was horrific. Really, you have no idea. Imagine if the function of every character was to state the opinions of the author. Imagine what would happen to the basics of fiction -- plot, for example. That was my eighth-grade stab at fiction, enough to cure me of ever believing I could write it again.

But after today's Soapbox (voluntary student Friday afternoon presentation) on National Novel Writing Month, NaNoWriMo veteran Sarah asked the assembled 25 students or so how many would be trying the exercise. More than half raised their hands. "I love you so much right now," Sarah declared, and I can only second the emotion.

It's hard for some people to wrap their minds around the concept of doing something not because the end product is expected to be intrinsically valuable, but because the process of doing it will make you a better person. That's NaNoWriMo. The novels written because of the exercise will never see the light of day, in almost every case. But writing them has taught the authors something. It's shown them that they have far more resources than they imagined -- that they are capable of doing something they never thought they could do. At the end they believe themselves to be more capable than they did when they started. It's an accomplishment than can never be bought; it must be earned. Yet moving from here to there takes only a month, and can be done along with thousands of like-minded people.

It was Sarah's commitment to NaNoWriMo that led me to knit my first sweater, as part of NaKniSweMo. And like the writers, my sweater knitting was a quantum leap. It took me from "I don't know how people ever do that" to "I did that," in one fell swoop.

I'll be starting another sweater for NaKniSweMo, there's no doubt; I have dozens planned, so it's just a matter of picking the right one. Sounds like a good project for October, while my novel-writing students begin planning their plots and characters.

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