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Double Feature: Finishing NaNoWriMo and Starting Advent

I’ve got two things that I need to talk about TODAY, so if you’re here for just one, feel free to skip down to wherever you want to start reading. I’ve marked them with section headers. Or, just keep scrolling for both.

Finishing NaNoWriMo

National Novel Writing Month 2019 winner’s badge
Image by National Novel Writing Month

It’s always a little weird, finishing November. There’s a sort of bungee effect. You had a big thing to do. You had a goal. And then… it’s gone. I mean, there are always other goals and stuff, but you feel cut adrift. It’s like when you finish reading a good book and you’ve been completely immersed and then… nothing left.

But here’s what I have to say if you’ve been doing NaNoWriMo alongside me: You did it! Win or lose, look at your word count. How many words do you normally write in a month? Was it more this month because of NaNoWriMo? Then you win! You did what you set out to do!

I won again this year, with about an hour and a half to go. “Of course,” you might say, “you did say you win EVERY year, so that’s probably not a big deal.” And maybe it’s not, except this year it was really hard. This year I wasn’t sure I would. I wasn’t sure my sister would, and that scared me even more, because it’s really hard for me to care about myself sometimes. Failure’s an old friend of mine and I handle it all right, but I struggle when people I love are struggling.

And the thing about NaNoWriMo is it isn’t just about the novel. Sure, I am now sitting on a fresh first draft (and while 50k is short for a novel, I did finish a draft this year, which doesn’t always happen–the plot is finished, although it’s sort of looking like Swiss cheese). But the magic of November isn’t just the writing. It’s the community. It’s been a long time since I’ve been an active participant in the forums on the NaNoWriMo website, and this year was not any different in that regard. But NaNoWriMo does deepen my friendships and kinships.

For me, NaNoWriMo is family and friends time. Sure, just the family and friends who write, but for me that’s a LOT of us. The last half of November was spent with an active group chat between my sister and a dear old friend, regularly meeting up online to push each other onwards, sometimes cheering, sometimes cajoling, always supporting.

If you’re a NaNoWriMo veteran, maybe you’ve got that one special buddy who does it with you too. If not, I really do recommend making friends with other writers–the NaNoWriMo forums are a great place to do it. Writing is a social thing, actually, contrary to popular belief. Look at the greatest writers you can think of: they had a circle of other writers they hung out with and considered dear friends, I guarantee it. Why shouldn’t you?

As for me, I finished with tears in my eyes. Not only for what we had done, but because I broke my own narrative rule and, well, the cat in my story died, and that was the end of the plot. I’ve got a steely heart for humans, my friends, but don’t you dare hurt the cat.

National Novel Writing Month winner’s banner for 2019
Image by National Novel Writing Month

Starting Advent

Like many American families, my fiance and I decided to put up our Christmas decorations the day after Thanksgiving. I’ve never really liked the Christmas season that much–it often feels really hollow and forced to me–but I’m actually really pleased with our decorating, including some amazing stockings I made for our family last year.

I made some really amazing stockings last year.
This one was for my cat Legend.
Photo by the author.

As we were decorating and talking, my fiance asked me what we could do to mark Advent this year. He was raised in a more conservative evangelical type church, the ones that don’t really adhere to the liturgical calendar, so the concept of celebrating Advent is a little new to him, while I was raised Lutheran and now I’m Presbyterian, so the liturgical calendar is a familiar, comforting rhythm to me, and I often forget that many Christians aren’t familiar with it anymore. I explained Advent wreaths and suggested that many people do daily Advent devotionals during the season.

Legend investigates the newly decorated Xmas Tree
Photo by the author

But what struck me was that he said that celebrating Advent made Christmas seem more meaningful to him. I’ve felt this for a long time, but I’ve always felt sort of like a voice in the wilderness about the matter, so to hear him say so really struck me to the heart, in a good way. He said that it made Christmas feel less commercial, less about having to buy things for people and more spiritual. I have to agree entirely.

Most people don’t realize that the twelve days of Christmas are actually the twelve days following December 25th–the Christmas season until Epiphany. The month (more or less) preceding December 25th is rightly the Advent season, a time of preparation and expectation.

An advent wreath done in my Holiday Spirits art style
Art by the author, 2012

This year I’m still feeling really overwhelmed with secular responsibilities, so I won’t be doing much, but we agreed to make a quick Advent wreath to mark the season, and I’ll be posting old favorites from my Holiday Spirits art series daily on my Twitter feed. Because sometimes in the busiest times, we need to stop and prepare room in our hearts and lives for the things that really matter. And that, my friends, is the real reason for the season: the Advent season.

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