The ancient Greeks were known for calling out to the muses for inspiration. “Sing in me, Muse, and through me tell the story,” read the opening lines of The Odyssey. A lot of writers like to believe that inspiration lives outside of ourselves; it comes to visit, sometimes in the least opportune of times. Some days, the words just flow. Other days, the words are stuck like a clogged glue cap, unable to trickle out even the smallest amounts. There’s really no way to know if it’s going to be a good writing day or a bad one. You hear about writers scribbling in notebooks uncontrollably, overridden by whatever story is inside them that has to come out at that exact moment. Even my mother, who has never pursued a career in writing, was overtaken by a muse 25 years ago when her mother was in the hospital dying from breast cancer. My brother says she was a woman possessed, spending every night at the kitchen table fiendishly writing words that seemed to flow out of her like water out of a faucet.
Of course, we say, that’s silly. There’s only one way to write anything, and that’s to sit down and write. Muses have nothing to do with it. They’re merely myth. And yet, when I sit down to write, I make a pot of tea, take a deep breath, and subconsciously make a plea to the muses to possess me today, to bring me inspiration, to spill my story out on the keyboard.
I think that is the appeal of one’s yearly participation in NaNoWriMo, an event where 200,000 writers toil to write 1,667 words per day for the 30 days of November. We heed the siren’s call to drop everything and glue ourselves to our keyboards to type whatever words come out of our dainty little tired fingers.
And every day when us writers and want-to-be writers sit down at our computers, we summon the muses for inspiration, we command our fingers to take on a mind of their own, we wish for the ability to craft a masterpiece (or at least a semblance of a masterpiece which we can later edit, shape, and mold into its proper glory). We pray that whatever story lies deep within will take this opportunity to rise to the surface.
In short, participating in NaNoWriMo is an act of hope. We ask ourselves, “What if this November is the November I write something really amazing?” The beginning of the month has all the promise of a brighter and better tomorrow. Come November 1, someone, anyone could find their voice and birth their story. Every year we are given the chance to change our writing fate. We wonder, will this be my year? Will the muses smile upon me this time?
It’s hope that brings me back every year. I can have doubt and I can be afraid every other month of the year, but not November. During November, my muse makes all the rules. And my muse doesn't know doubt and fear.
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