The Road goes ever on and on,
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say.
– Sung by Bilbo Baggins in The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien
I actually haven’t finished the Lord of the Rings yet, as I’ve been distracted from The Two Towers by these things called school and NaNoWriMo. I’ve only been a Tolkien fan for a few weeks but as the nerd I am, I’ve already found some great quotes from the books, including the one above. I was thinking about that song the other day and realized that it describes my NaNoWriMo experiences.
I heard of NaNo several years ago, but never remembered to participate until last year. I began the month nervously, wondering if I were insane to even try this. I knew that tons of people have won NaNo, but they were probably superhuman or something, right? Wrong. I had so much fun writing my novel and won the YWP with just over 25,000 words. Even more astonishingly, NaNoWriMo has continued to affect me even after November. I found a lot of other teen bloggers/writers through the websites. For example, Liam, Head Phil found my blog through the YWP and while looking at his blog, I found Teens Can Write, Too! which led me to even more teen blogs. The Road goes ever on and on, leading me to write more stories and post more often on my blog because I discovered how much I loved writing.
My blog writing from a year ago makes me alternately laugh and cringe. I look at my blog now, down from the door where it began, and feel so proud of it. My blog wouldn’t be where it is now if I hadn’t further explored writing. I feel like my future began with that first NaNo, because it has led me on to so many writerly things and made me even more sure that I want a writing career. I was a bit vague about what I wanted for my future and NaNo sharpened my focus.
For me NaNoWriMo has become far more than a crazy month of noveling – I wouldn’t be the same person writerly-speaking if it weren’t for NaNo. I’ve appreciated NaNo for a while, but it wasn’t until recently that I realized all it has done for me. Now far ahead the Road has gone. NaNo has led me to so many things and a year ago I couldn’t have predicted where I’d be today. There were about fifty careers that interested me and although there are still about six now, I have a better idea of my future. I’ve wanted to be an author ever since I was about five but until almost exactly a year ago I never realized just how much I wanted that. A year ago I would have probably laughed if you told me that my writing would improve, become more complex, and grow into a friend. (Writing never judges you, always listens, and offers advice.) I never suspected that the end of November 2011 was only the beginning of knowing, really knowing what I wanted to do with my life.
And I must follow, if I can, this road leading from NaNo. I have some idea of what it will be like. I learned a year ago that I love writing and along with reading, I think it is one of the interests that will stick with me throughout my whole life. I don’t think I can ignore my love for writing. If I abandoned it, I would feel terrible because writing is how I sort out my life and my thoughts. However, there may be times when I don’t feel like really working on a piece. I might settle for a shoddy story because it’s easy. But I won’t grow as a writer that way so I’ll push on, always hoping that this road will lead to becoming a published and hopefully much-appreciated author.
So now I’m pursuing it with eager feet, trying to write at least a little bit each day. I can’t get to where I want to be without some work – that’s true of all careers. When I don’t feel like writing I form a picture in my head. It’s me, twenty or thirty years in the future, reading a letter from a fan and grinning like a lunatic because I’m so happy. I imagine that I will feel much as I have when I receive letters from authors, but now I’ll be on the opposite side. That scene in my imagination makes me go, “OK, nevillegirl. Let’s write.”
I keep at this writing thing until it joins some larger way. But it’s not a struggle. Alright, as I mentioned, some days go by without any progress at all. But that’s life – sometimes you need a break. After a short time I go back to writing, and without asking, “Do I have to?” I don’t feel like anyone is making me write because I have a deep love of writing. I am sixteen and four at heart; only a few things (like reading or excellent music) surpass the childish glee I feel while writing something that I’ve been thinking about for a while. I don’t force myself to write. In fact, I often have to pull myself away from writing to pay attention to the rest of my life.
A huge part of NaNoWriMo is the people. I may never have met any of these people but I feel a fellowship with them. (Pardon the excessive Tolkien references. I shall now go punish myself Dobby-style by shutting my hands in the oven, in order to balance out the YA fantasy references.) We may be very different in other ways, but we’re all trying to write a novel in a month. We all love writing; here many paths and errands meet. Some people are writing mysteries; others, fantasy. Some people are writing to convince people that vampires are awesome; their friends might be writing to educate readers about the perils of outer space colonization. But we’re all writers. I’m very happy to have found so many other teen writers. We support each other; our praise and constructive criticism gives us something to work towards; most importantly it helps to know that we’re not the only ones working towards this dream of being published. My family members love to read but I’m the only one who’s really into writing, so it helps to know that other young people aspire to be authors.
NaNoWriMo has led me to Script Frenzy, Camp NaNoWriMo, more blogging, Teens Can Write Too!, and other teen writers who inspire me and make me realize I’m not crazy. And whither then? I cannot say. Although I’ve changed a lot in the past year, one thing that hasn’t changed is that I still can’t predict the future. A year ago I couldn’t have guessed where NaNoWriMo would lead me and I don’t really know where I’ll be a year from now, let alone many years from now. It doesn’t really matter, does it? Worrying about tomorrow will only take away time that I could have used to work towards my future, so I’m content to write and occasionally allow myself to daydream about my name on the cover of a book.
If Gandalf the White were Gandalf the Writer, I’m sure he would reverse his earlier statement and say that it doesn’t matter if you’re a little writer in a wide world, because you are a very fine person and he is very fond of your determination. We all have to start somewhere. For me, NaNoWriMo was the long and winding road leading to my future. What was yours?