"Amme, I don't want to finish my breakfast. I have stomach pain."
"I should go to play now. If I go out and play, my stomach will bounce - like this," demonstrating how it will bounce, "and the pain will go away."
"No, no, no. I know very well about stomach pain. I used to have a lot of nasty stomach pains when I was little. If you go out to play, your tummy will bounce and you will throw up. So you should lie down and take rest. Now go, take rest. Go, go."
"I think my stomach pain is gone now."
"Very good. Go finish your breakfast."
At the very outset, this post would not have seen the light of day if my NaNoWriMo track record were poor. Today, as the fifteenth day of NaNoWriMo comes to a close, my word count graph has kissed the day's target of 25,000 words.
I thought NaNoWriMo (or NaNo, as it is fondly called) was only about writing a novel in one month. I couldn't have been more wrong. It's a whole bunch of things altogether, and not all of them related to writing.
It's about getting obsessed with your story. It's about finding reasons not to do other things so that we can write. It's about connecting with other writers, hearing about their efforts and speaking about our own. It is about watching our story develop at a pace we would never achieve otherwise. It is about twitchy fingers and pounding hearts. It is about ignoring everyone and everything else. It is about thinking about your plot or fine-tuning dialogs, even when you are talking to others. It is about numbers - number of words per day, number of words to go, number of days to go.
Different people have different ways of NaNo-ing. Whether they are working on an already-begun novel, or writing a new one, or finishing a couple of novellas or short stories, it all boils down to one goal - 50K words in a month.
All the people who start NaNo do not necessarily complete it. The initial enthusiasm fades, or life intervenes in more ways than one, or ideas refuse to flow, or priorities change. If a day or two of writing is lost, especially when you are exactly on schedule as prescribed by NaNo, it becomes very difficult to catch up. But as NaNo-ers constantly comfort each other, whatever you achieve in this month is better than not writing at all !
Unless you do a complete and detailed planning (and in some cases even if you do it), the characters and the plot have a way of getting ahead of you, and totally surprising you. You follow right behind them, sometimes getting lost and sometimes finding your way.
The build-up to NaNoWriMo is exhausting. You suffer from trepidation, anxiety, and a very complicated sickness called struggling-to-contain-the-words. You are allowed to start writing only on Nov 1, so whatever comes to mind before that has to be safely stored in mind or jotted in vague terms, ready to be documented at the stroke of midnight.
Since so much is stored before it starts, the first week of 1667 words per day seems like a piece of cake. But by the second week, you begin to look up the word count every half-second and groan - "What?! Another 800 words before I can sleep??"
Having a group to share the joys and sorrows with is absolutely essential. No, it is not that we all are going to collaborate and write one novel together or anything. Most often we don't even know what the others are writing. But at some point we would need motivation, inspiration and encouragement from those who really understand our plight.
Fatigue sets in about ten days into dedicated NaNo. Wrists begin to complain, head begins to grumble and sometimes thoughts flow faster than we can type, vanishing before we grab them. The result? - a quickly-framed sentence with words missing in it. Unless we are ahead by a few thousand words, luxuries like films, friends, outing, parties et al are better avoided as they would eat into our precious writing time.
In a typical NaNo-er attitude, I look up at this blog and tell myself, "Wow, 500-odd words. I wish I could add this to my novel. Today's effort would have been partially done."
But no, I need to go and tackle the 1700 words for today...
We were watching a Malayalam movie.
A baby was abandoned following a fight. For about half an hour the story focussed on the rowdy who tried to take care of the baby along with the girl who found him.
My six-year-old son was sitting with his cousin, watching the movie with his mouth open. I was nearby, often walking to the kitchen and back. Suddenly my son crawled into my lap and put his head on my shoulder.
"Are you sleepy?" I said.
He whispered, "Let's go to the other room."
When we went there, he told me that he felt like crying when he saw the baby's plight. I hugged him and said "it's okay, I felt the same. Just as everyone laughs aloud when they see a joke, they feel sad when they see emotional scenes but it is just that people try to hide their tears."
"I don't know," I said.
We didn't go back to watch the film, it was time to sleep.
As usual my thoughts went back... to an old Boss of mine who once asked me, "Do you cry when you watch films?"
Of course there is only one correct answer. "No Sir," I said. And of course it was a lie.
"I do," he said. "Emotional scenes always make me cry."
I was shocked. How can anyone in their right minds admit that they cry while watching a film!
But then I was younger, and I have learnt a lot of things since. I have also, in the intervening years, noticed that when people walk to the next room in the middle of a movie, or take a drink, or talk about irrelevant things, or shake their knees as if they are bored, it just means that they hate the tears that are pricking their eyes and want to escape rather than let anyone see it.