I first did NaNoWriMo in 2009. My mother had just passed away (like, less than two months before), and it completely fucked me up. I'd never written a novel before and I hadn't finished anything longer than a thousand words in many many years... It was definitely a case of throw myself headlong into something that would consume me completely so I didn't have to deal with the fact that I'd lost the only person I'd ever been able to rely on completely.
I still can't believe I won that year, and went on to complete the novel through December (because fuck Christmas when I'd just lost my Mum), finally coming out with a tally of 110,000 words and a complete novel. I still maintain that it's my best NaNo ever, though it's a typical first novel, meandering and tangented, cheesy and cliché. It was a learning experience, and one of the things I'm most proud of (even though there's very few people in the world that I'd ever let read it).
It was also my first slash fic. It wasn't meant to be. I wasn't even a slash writer back then, and the story began with a het pairing, but by the first quarter it was plainly obvious that it wasn't going to end that way. It was an epiphany, you might say, and once it was done I found it very difficult to write het afterward.
So NaNo kind of means a lot to me, and after doing it (and winning) every year since, it's become a habit, an institution. I almost didn't do it in 2012 because I hadn't written anything in about six months, but an acquaintance pushed me to do it again and I said fuck it, and just did it, and it got me writing again.
Every year I'd come out with something plainly unpublishable. Some years were more shit than others, but every time it was kind of a reset button for my writing habit, and I'd come out the other end of November with an inability to not write.
So, this year, like every other year, I expected I would NaNo again. The fact that NaNo was designed to fall in the deep dark of winter but actually fell in the summer for me never really bothered me before. We'd just bought a house when Mum died, and before we bought it I had lots of ideas for the garden, and because Mum was a gardener and I had two black thumbs, she was supposed to help me with it. Well, that, of course, never happened. Summer was no different to winter, in fact, I was even more inclined to hide inside because everything about summer reminded me of her.
It took me 5 years and the death of my grandfather (the other gardener in the family) to even get to the point where I could bear to think about having a proper garden. Then instead of bringing up painful memories, growing stuff was suddenly a way of connecting to them both. So last year I both gardened and NaNo'd.
It wasn't hard or anything, it's not like either suffered greatly. But because my mind was consumed with tomatoes as well as words, I just didn't care as much about the words.
About a month ago, when I was thinking I should start planning for NaNo, while I was already planning the garden, the truth really kind of hit me. Another epiphany, perhaps. I realised that I'd rather put all my energy into growing shit than I would into a book that I know from experience I'll never publish.
And all the 'thou shalt write every day and not let real life intrude if you want to be a real writer' stuff that people spout can kiss my arse, frankly. I'll still write every day, there's nothing going to stop me from doing that, but I'll put my intense effort into it at a time of year when there's very little to be done in the garden. Thank god for Camp NaNo, July is a much better time of year to be doing that shit around here.
And next month, I'll grow some stuff :D I'm as proud of my erratic, overgrown garden as I am of my first laughable novel.