“An idyllic writers retreat smack-dab in the middle of your crazy life.”
That’s the motto of Camp NaNoWriMo. And boy could we all use an idyllic writers retreat right now. This is the craziest my life has been in a very long time (possibly ever).
The spread of COVID-19 wasn’t too bad in my area initially, but that didn’t mean it hadn’t upending a lot of the normal routines of my life. And now, we’re under mandatory shelter in place for both the county I live in and the county I work in.
I normally take the bus to work every weekday and go to a write-in at a local café on Sundays. While public transit is still running, my university system mandated that everyone work from home if possible in mid-March. I’m lucky that my job can be done from home, and thankfully the university is offering administrative leave (for now at least) to anyone who can’t do their work from home.
Dine-in service at restaurants, cafes, and coffee shops is prohibited by the state, and as I mentioned shelter-in-place is being enforced by the county, but at least my write-in can move to the online platforms my NaNoWriMo region has set up. Which brings me back to Camp NaNoWriMo. I made a project with a placeholder goal of 25,000 words, since I plan to participate in the April session. I still haven’t decided what I’m actually going to be working on. (Yes, I know I only have three days to make a decision. And no one in my region would be surprised that I’m making a plan this last-minute.)
My current project is book three of the Swords and Shields series. This is major revision number two, and it’s going pretty well so far. So part of me wants to just keep chipping away at that project and keep the momentum. Another part of me wants to chase after some new shiny idea and draft something from scratch. And yet anything part of me wants to return to some of my fanfiction and try to finish out that series. I recently started posting it online again after my original fan-run, fandom-specific site went down a couple years ago. Users from that original site have started to find me again and it’s been really encouraging.
Sometime in the next three days, I’ll have to make a decision on what to work on. At least in theory. There have been plenty of past Camp NaNo months were I’ve simply tracked my total word count increase across several projects. There’s nothing stopping me from working on all three potential projects.
Aside from the writing itself, what I’m looking forward to the most with Camp NaNoWriMo next month is the increased community engagement in my region. There’s a core group of folks who are active all year, but we get a few more people joining us in April and July and a ton more in November. And right now, that social interaction is something I’m really looking forward to.
I’m just slightly on the introvert side of the scale on the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. I definitely get my energy back by being alone, and being around other people can be very draining for me. However, I also go a little bit nuts if I don’t see any other people for an extended period of time. I discovered this when I did a study abroad semester in Scotland my junior year in college. I ended up in a flat full of other American exchange students (that’s a whole other story and not how it was supposed to work out) and they were all taking freshman level courses, so their breaks were scheduled a little different from my junior level courses. There was a period of ten days were I didn’t have any trips around the country planned, all my flatmates were off on trips (because they had two weeks off rather than just one) and I was alone in the flat.
I still went out a little, grocery shopping and the like, but for that ten-day period I think I interacted with maybe three people. By day seven I was a complete wreck, utterly homesick, and calling my mother crying. I’d originally had almost a month at the end of the term where I’d still have my housing, but would be done with classes. I begged to change my ticket home, and Mom let me. So I ended up flying home two weeks early and scheduled backpacker tours with a company called Haggis Tours for the two weeks between classes ending and my flight home. I’d already been on one and loved it.
In the end, things worked out in Scotland, and I’d probably have been fine if I stayed the extra two weeks as long as I had tours planned and was getting out of the house and interacting with people. So now that I’m as close to house-bound as I’ve ever been, I’m trying to make sure I get that social interaction I need.
Granted, I’m married now, so I’m not living completely alone, and we have two adorable kitties to keep me company, so it’s not as depression-inducing as being literally alone in my apartment, but I still crave contact with others, even as an introvert. So I’m turning to technology and the internet. My NaNoWriMo region has both a Slack and a Discord, and I’m active on both, so I have folks to talk to almost every day. My Sunday write-in is transitioning to Discord while we can’t go to our café, so I’ll still have that three hour block each weekend to hang out with my friends and write. There’s also a Wednesday evening write-in that was already online.
We’ll have to see if text and voice chat interactions meet the same need for me that hanging out in person does, but either way, I’m planning to write as much as possible in April to keep myself engaged with the things I love. It can be easy to slide into a pattern of TV show bingeing, reading, and goofing off when I’m at home, so it’s important to really focus on my priorities and not let myself ignore them.
I’d be curious to hear how others are using Camp NaNoWriMo to meet their goals this year, or how you’re going about being normal in light of how crazy life is in the middle of a global pandemic. What are you writing? What crafts are you picking back up again? How are you establishing a new routine (be it for writing or working from home)? I hope all my readers are safe and well, and I’d love to hear from you.