Why can’t we have both?
For the last several years I felt the impending disappointment in myself as each autumn rolled around and knowing that November meant National Novel Writing Month, or as some affectionately know it as, NANO. The basic idea behind NANO is to write a novel in a month. When I first heard of this concept back in 2006, I though surely someone got into the wrong bag of mushrooms. How can a person actually write a well thought out, well plotted, well written and publish ready novel in 30 days? Back then I was working full-time, going to college full-time and devoting time to my very needy pet geese. Writing was still a hobby. My mind couldn’t wrap around the concept of NANO. It wasn’t until my friend, (and published author) Lisa, told me that for her it wasn’t so much about writing a publish ready novel, it was about getting yourself into the habit of writing and having a community of writers encourage you to keep writing. Yes, the material you produce will have problems: your plot may not flow well, your characters might be shallow, your dialogue lacking, your arc and climax weak. It’s okay. The point is you wrote it and after November 30th you can go back and fix all those issues.
I finally understood. And I heard the angels sing on high.
And then it drizzled into a flailing French horn under the tire of an eighteen wheeler. I had a bigger problem than just sitting down and attempting to write a novel in the month of November. I had commitments that in no way I could back out of, mainly the Texas Renaissance Festival. If you’re there at any point during November, you’ll see me in all of my corseted up, thigh high pirate boots, boobies sticking out, two swords and dagger wielding, camping, drinking, turkey leg toting, roasting weenies on a stick and motor boating my friends glory. Yes, I am busy. Yes, too busy to write.
After lamenting this predicament for a couple of years, the answer finally came to me. If I couldn’t commit time to writing in November, that didn’t make me less of a writer. It made me somebody who needed an alternative. I needed to write in a month I knew I could commit, that was adjacent to NANO and still feel in the spirit of the other writers out there and I needed a gimmick to go along with it. So, what do I love as much as writing? That would be wine. Thus, in 2011 I stopped whining about it and launched the October Wine & Write. The concept was very basic. Write every day in October, whether it’s a sentence, a thousand words or an entire chapter. The point was to write and get further along than you were on Sept. 30th. And the gimmick? Simple. Drink while you’re doing it. Have a glass of wine. Have two. Have a beer, have a Cuba Libre. If there was anything that I learned from Papa Hemingway is that you could never drink enough and write. His legend spawned drink recipes, hunting adventures, love and war, writing and more writing. Hell, his favorite seat while writing was a bar stool. If you don’t drink for personal reasons, have a cuppa tea or coffee. The point is, WRITE and have a sip of something that you enjoy.
This idea became popular with my friends and Facebook peeps and a few also joined my writing adventure. Another friend, Lysa, started making graphics to go along with the Wine & Write. It brought us together for the sheer adventure of writing and gave us a little accountability. It made me sit down each night after work, take out my notebook and pen and write without the worry that I needed to edit, sculpt my plot just so or worry if my dialogue was flowing smoothly. I just wrote and usually had several chapters written by the end of it. At the end of the day, I reported my progress or congratulated friends on their progress as well. Suffice it to say, the concept was a success.
The reason I decided to blog about this today is because I just realized we’re only 5 weeks away from October 1st. And although my friends and FB friends are aware of this new tradition, I’ve acquired a few followers over the last few weeks who are also writers. I’d like to share this madness of writing. Whether you’re a NANO-ite or not, or just someone who needs another excuse to write and feel community support, please join us on October 1st with your notebook, pen, laptop or whatever you write on, your favorite beverage and write. You won’t regret it.
In closing, I’ll share one of Hemingway’s famous cocktails. I’ve personally never tried it. Absinthe is $45 a bottle in Texas and I’m on the verge of only affording Boone’s Farm these days. But like all of Hemingway’s other endeavors, it has an awesome title and will probably kick you in the balls.
Cheers and Sláinte!
Death in The Afternoon
- 1 1/2 ounces absinthe
- 4 ounces Brut champagne
Mix together in a Champaign flute. Drink. Write a masterpiece or spear a swordfish. Repeat.