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During the 11 Other Months

Just remember that Dumbo didn’t need the feather; the magic was in him. – Stephen King.

For those of you who don’t know (and who are you if you don’t?!) Dumbo is a Disney movie about a baby elephant with very large ears. Dumbo is teased by the other elephants and befriends a mouse called Timothy. Timothy tells Dumbo he would be able to fly with his ears but Dumbo doesn’t believe him until Timothy produces a “magical” feather which will give him flying abilities. Dumbo flaps his large ears, and is able to fly. At the climax of the movie, Dumbo loses the “magical” feather, but instead of falling, he learns that the ability to fly was always within him and the feather was just the guide to get him to where he was always capable of being.

Think of NaNoWriMo as the feather. You have the ability to write a novel, it’s built within you. But it’s not always easy to start if you don’t know how. Sometimes it’s nice to have a guide, to have something taking you by the hand and showing you the way. That is what NaNoWriMo is. NaNoWriMo isn’t the novel, it’s the power that makes you believe you can do it.

Back in 2003, when I started NaNoing, I wrote all the time. I wrote (bad) poetry, and short stories. I had whole notebooks full of snippets of ideas, random paragraphs, and stanzas for poems. I had doodles as I worked things out and ideas mapped out for somethings. I loved that. I loved carrying around a notebook full of random creative thoughts. So what if most of them didn’t pan out to be anything – it was fun. (I still have those notebooks in a box somewhere. They’re great to read.)

But as I got older, and NaNo became an ingrained part of my life, I stopped writing so much. I no longer write short stories because I struggle to come up with short and sweet ideas that can be wrapped up in a few thousands words. (I definitely don’t write teen angst poetry but I feel that’s more my age than my writing ability.) My writing ability seems to be entirely focused on full novels. Considering I don’t plan that much in advance, it’s strange that that’s how my mind works. But not only do I find I’m more leaning towards novel writing now, I find if I try and write in any sort of depth or for length of time at any other time of year other than November, I fail. I find I don’t have the drive, the desire to write during any other month.

In many ways, NaNoWriMo is my magical feather

Of course NaNoWriMo is a nice little bundle of novelling. It gives you everything you need. You get a timeframe to write, a deadline to meet, supporting people from all over the world, pep talks from real authors, and lots of metaphorical cookies and poking (and real, if you go to write-ins and that’s how your region is inclined). It’s perfect! NaNo wraps you in this neat little writing world, and it’s amazingly awesome.

After 11 years, I find the rest of the year is a little less coloured when it comes to writing.

But sometimes I find myself saying “I can’t write outside of November”. Well, why not? Apart from the community, what’s really stopping me? I can obviously write, and I can obviously write a novel in a month. So I’m using the wrong phrasing. I “can” write outside of November, but part of is me choosing not to. I think part of me is scared of trying without the feather.

But you know what? Right now, it’s totally okay to cling to the feather. Cuddle it, name it. Embrace the feather. It is teaching you what you weren’t ready to believe. But in December, when it goes missing, you can still fly.

Just spread those wings.

A Day of Happiness

Happy International Happiness Day!

(sorry, what?)

That was the response in our office as well earlier on when we heard the announcement on the radio. International Happiness Day? Apparently, (according to The New York Times blog) “the initiative for Happiness Day came from the Kingdom of Bhutan, the small landlocked Himalayan state, which adopted a Gross National Happiness Index as a better measure of its people’s prosperity than its income.” And today is the first official Happiness Day as decided by the United Nations. There’s your random fact for the day. More importantly, today is the Spring Equinox! So, Happy Equinox and Happy Ostara for those celebrating! It may not feel anything like spring outside (unless you’re in the southern hemisphere, in which case would you like to share some warmth with us poor souls in the north?) but from today the days are officially longer than the nights. What does that mean? Writing in the park, yay!

Last year I did actually take my netbook to work and go and sit in Hyde Park afterwards and write. It was warm, there were happy people everywhere, and it was much better than sitting in a stuffy coffee shop or my bedroom. Of course there’s the problem of sun glare on the screen, but at the end of the day there’s nothing wrong with good ol’ pen and paper. Sunbathing, some people watching, writing inspired by the people feeding the ducks and awkwardly learning to roller blade down the path, avoiding the people keenly out on the Boris Bikes… bring on summer! (Although, I would definitely settle for spring right now. On March 27th last year, I got quite nicely sunburnt after working outside for a morning. Can’t see that happening this year somehow.)

So International Happiness Day is all about well, being happy. So what makes you happy? Right now I’m sat with my newly aligned desk to my left, sitting sideways on my chair so my back is resting against the wall, my feet up on the bed in front of me, Top Gear’s new Africa Special playing on my laptop, and a cup of tea. This is happiness right here. I’ve done a bit of writing, I’m blogging, I’m chilling out, and tomorrow night I’m going home to Manchester for three days which is very much happiness in a little northern bubble.

Of course writing again makes me happy. I wrote on Monday but was feeling in a slum, and writing felt forced and I didn’t enjoy it too much. I was determined to push through, though, and managed 1,000 words for my new story. I didn’t write last night and I’ve done a couple of hundred words tonight already and that feeling of slipping back into the story is akin to slipping on a pair of warm fuzzy socks in the depth of winter after getting in from the cold and the dark. It’s soothing, and relaxing, and just plain nice. I have no idea where this story is going but it’s nothing serious, just something to get me back into the swing, and I like that I can just move back into the flow of it.

Randomly, the other thing making me happy is finally pushing somewhere towards the end of Stephen King’s ‘IT’. I read half of it in 6th form when I was 18, but had borrowed it from the library and I left the school before I finished it. I’ve recently started reading it again on my Kindle and am currently at 88% finished. It has taken me weeks! Reading a book doesn’t usually take me weeks but the thing is HUGE! And parts of it are a bit tough going, I feel. But, I very much like the book. As an avid old school King fan, it excites me to be able to really dig my teeth into his work. His newer stuff doesn’t really do much for me, so I like that there’s older books of his that I’ve yet to read. (Although, I will be reading the sequel to The Shining – ‘Doctor Sleep’ – when it’s released. No self-respecting King fan could resist, no matter what they thing of his recent writings.)

There’s a few little things in there, but altogether, a very enjoyable evening. Work was good, but the evening has definitely been the good part of International Happiness Day. I hope your days and evenings are being enjoyed as well.

Keep writing and be happy!

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