NaNoWriMo 2018 Wrap-Up

So I ended my “novel” at 50,144 words on November 29… and it wasn’t a novel. It never moved out of the realm of “diary,” and I suppose that’s fine because it kept me writing for a month, and I have been slacking in keeping a journal anyway. This is also my first NaNo win since losing in 2016 and 2017, so that means something.

This was also the first NaNo in which I had a midnight writing session. The entire time, I was trying to keep my word count a couple days ahead in case something came up and I fell behind. So one night, I couldn’t sleep due to a variety of pregnancy-related issues, and I wrote an extra day’s worth of words at midnight (Or was it 2 a.m.? Can’t remember.) and didn’t really feel all that tired the next day. I was able to think a little more clearly when writing at night because there wasn’t any noise or anything to distract me, but I wouldn’t make a habit of it. I’m still much more a morning person.

My hope was that I could get incentive to write some fiction again, whether that be a new story or picking up one of the old ones. Writing whatever happened to come into my head didn’t give me any inspiration, which is surprising because it has done so in the past. Well, that’s kind of a lie because I did get a bunch of blog post ideas.

In the end, I think the only thing that really gives me incentive to write fiction is to reread what I have written in the past and think that I can improve on it or get the desire to continue it. Even 100 words a day in a story is better than nothing.

How did your NaNo go?

Writing: What Your Subconscious Needs

I lied. I’m actually doing NaNoWriMo this year, mostly because I figure that because this is going to be my last “child-free” (I normally hate that term) NaNoWriMo, so I might as well get something out of it.

And what have I got out of it? Nothing… except the realization that I have no fiction ideas whatsoever. I started writing in hopes that the very act of writing would trigger some kind of idea, but nothing has come to me yet. So I’ve been doing what is more or less a brain dump.

Maybe I shouldn’t say I haven’t gotten anything out of NaNoWriMo so far, because the brain dump has been useful in organizing my thoughts or at least getting them out of my head.

Perhaps my subconscious has no need to entertain itself with a fictional story this time. I realized that every time I have written something in the past, it is something that I needed to write because the underlying theme was something lurking in the back of my brain that I couldn’t articulate in normal words like a normal person.

Instead of saying outright, “I’m struggling with <insert problem here>,” I subconsciously changed it into a story and characters and dealt with it that way. Now, I don’t know if transforming everything into fiction helped to solve the problem, but it did put another spin on it and helped me process it.

So I’m thinking that not only does my subconscious not need to entertain itself, the “problems” it has are not the kind that can be solved or processed with fiction. So my new theory is that writing is a product of the author’s subconscious mind and the theme of said writing is whatever puzzle the author happens to be struggling with at the moment, kind of like when you’re having a problem and you wake up from a deep sleep with the sudden realization of what you need to do.

The subconscious mind is a powerful thing. Don’t underestimate it.

Vines, Twitter, and Over-the-Top Amusement

I finally got to read Amusing Ourselves to Death (Neil Postman), which I have heard a lot about. The book was published in 1985 but still astonishingly relevant. Since then, society has only continued to go down the track that Postman warned us about. He begins by discussing the various kinds of discourse in American history. Apparently, when Charles Dickens came to America, people gave him the same adulation that in 1985 they would have given to Michael Jackson or in 2018 they would give to someone like Beyoncé.

People also used to listen to famous historical figures speak for five hours or more at a time without losing interest. A debate between two learned people was as entertaining to them as watching the latest Star Wars movie is to us. And listening to those two people wasn’t like a presidential debate of today—instead, they spoke in long, rhetorically beautiful sentences that the average American today couldn’t follow with his tiny attention span.

Much has changed, and with every new medium of communication, it has continued to change. In 1985, television was the biggest threat to America’s intelligence and attention span.

Now it’s even smaller, more bite-sized methods of communication, like Twitter, YouTube, and Vines. Remember Vines, those 6-second clips that make no sense and have no context? Even though Vine shut down a while back, you can still find compilations of the most popular Vines on YouTube, like this:

There is literally no purpose to Vines except amusement, but most of the Vines leave me unsatisfied. I’m always wondering what the backstory was behind each seemingly random incident—what gave the creator the idea for that particular piece of idiocy? Are they really that much of a buffoon away from the camera? Some of the Vines are actually sad when they’re supposed to be funny, like the one where an old woman playing ping-pong falls into a china cabinet, knocking it over.

Vines aren’t effective methods of communication because they’re meant mainly for entertainment, but they are the video equivalent of Twitter, where many people get their news. Even though the character count on Twitter has increased, it is still obviously much more brief than a news program or even a longer online news article. Our president uses Twitter, and the way he uses it is completely typical of what Postman talks about in his book: the president came from a culture of showmanship, and he is less intelligent than he is entertaining.

The author also mentioned that the news has become less a serious discussion of current events and more a frenetic flash of constant warnings and Breaking News That You Must Listen To. Most of the breaking news has little to do with us directly, and we can’t do anything about it. Yes, it was good to be informed about Hurricane Florence, but it was almost counterintuitive to keep flashing “Breaking News” across the screen at every tiny occurrence related to the storm. The 24/7 news leads to a cycle of paranoia, and people don’t get smarter, just more paranoid, hence the running to the store for bread and milk, the actual fights breaking out over bottled water, and the looting of stores. Seeing that red “Breaking News” banner flash across the screen is like constantly being thrust into a state of alarm, whether it’s warranted or not.

Postman touches on religion, too, mostly referring to the televangelists who were a big deal in 1985 and who offered little in the way of genuine learning about religion. Now, the closest thing to televangelists would be those big mega-churches that come equipped with giant television screens, flashing lights, modern music, coffeehouses, and little gift shops. I read somewhere that the Millennial generation is getting fed up with this method of luring people into churches. Instead, they are yearning for the more traditional services of the past, where a pastor spoke the truth using just words, unadorned by anything else. Maybe it’s not too late to hope for a comeback of tradition.