Category: inspiration

“I wanted to be remembered as someone who gives joy and hope to everyone around me.”

“I wanted to be remembered as someone who gives joy and hope to everyone around me.” -…

“We we kissed I felt everything and he felt nothing. who felt more? -Demetra Demi”

“We we kissed I felt everything and he felt nothing.

who felt more?

-Demetra Demi” -…

“I never unpack my bags, I leave before I get left. —thetypewriterdaily”

“I never unpack my bags, I leave before I get left.

“What I would tell my teen self about mental health 1. Mental health will become a “trend” in a few…”

“What I would tell my teen self about mental health

1. Mental health will become a “trend”…

“Your heartbeat is my favourite lullaby!”

“Your heartbeat is my favourite lullaby!” – poeticfashion6 

In Case of Inspiration Emergency: Revisit Your Childhood Favorites

Whether you’re a planner or not, there’s one thing every writer will need as they prepare for NaNoWriMo: inspiration. We’ve challenged some of the NaNo staff to inspire you by sharing what’s inspired them… and challenging you to prepare a specific jumpstart for that inevitable idea drought:

The Inspirer: Katharine Gripp, NaNoWriMo Communications Manager

The Inspiration Sources:

The Jumpstart: Revisit the things that fired your imagination and made you excited to delve into wild creativity when you were younger! You may find that you effortlessly capture the same sense of heady possibility that you had when you first read, heard, or watched it. You may find that it doesn’t live up to your memories of it, or that you resonate with different characters or themes now that you’re in a different place in your life. If the former, unashamedly ride that wave of excitement to write about the things you find glamorous and glorious! If the latter, explore the differences between your new and old experiences of the same material, and write about what you would like to see in that story now.

Why This Will Inspire You: This prompt came to me because I recently saw the touring Broadway stage version of Phantom of the Opera for the very first time. The movie version came out when I was about 14 and I LOVED it. The period costumes! The overly dramatic gothic decor! Ballet and swordfights! It was all very much the aesthetic I wanted to have.

When it came to my attention that my partner had never seen any version of Phantom, and that the musical was touring in our city, I decided we had to go. As soon as the lights dimmed in that decadent theater with the cobweb-covered chandelier above, and the melody of the prologue started to play, my heart started to race and my eyes began to sparkle. Even though it had been years since I’d listened to the soundtrack, I still knew just about every single word of every song. I was excited to share all of my favorite parts with my partner, who was seeing it through fresh eyes. A little girl of about 8 sat next to us and gasped every time the Phantom disappeared in a flash of fire and smoke.

Watching one of my favorite stories in a different medium after years of not engaging with it also made me look at it with a different perspective. While I always knew that none of the relationships between the characters were particularly healthy (no matter how much I daydreamed about a dashing musical genius giving me the full run of his baroque playground in the catacombs beneath Paris), it made me realize that the play could easily be titled Christine Daae Is Just Trying to Live Her Best Life But She’s Surrounded by Men Who Make Terrible Decisions For Her (although it’s not quite as catchy, I know). I found myself wondering how the story would be different if the women in this play had more agency. What if Madame Giry got to run the Opera House? What if Christine decided she wanted to run off to America or Australia instead?

Sometimes, it’s a feeling rather than a story that captures you. One of the reasons I loved Phantom so much when I was younger was the feeling that there could be another world, with a different set of rules, just beneath the surface of the everyday world that we see. The theater itself is a different world, and the world of backstage has its own rules and mysteries that the audience never sees. Shortly after my obsession with Phantom began to wane, I discovered a book that gave me that same feeling of different worlds just beneath the skin of everyday normalcy: Fire and Hemlock, by Diana Wynne Jones.

The first time I read it, I felt a tension between the story on the page and the rest of the untold story that I wanted to know. That tension has only grown stronger with each rereading. This book is a modern fairy tale loosely based on two old Scottish ballads: Tam Lin, in which a young woman must rescue her shape-changing lover from the clutches of the Faery Queen, and Thomas the Rhymer, in which a bard gets taken away (again by the Faery Queen) and is cursed to tell the truth.

There are lots of things that keep me coming back to this book: some good, some not so good, and some confusing. Jones has been a long-time favorite author for me, in part because of her ability to put stingingly exact metaphors to universal experiences (my favorite in Fire and Hemlock is when the main character feels “bleached with shame”—I’ve definitely been there, and I can feel the echoes of that exact feeling in my own body when reading that passage). But I always put this book down feeling like I missed some important detail, wanting to know more.

Reading books that draw me into their world and yet still leave me with a niggling doubt, discomfort, or curiosity help me figure out what I value in my own writing. Is it most important to you that the readers know the rules of your world, or that they’re figuring things out right along with the main character? Do you intentionally want to make your reader feel uncomfortable or questioning? Do you want to resolve their questions, or leave them open-ended… perhaps to inspire someone else down the road?

Katharine loves being the Communications Manager for NaNoWriMo, where she gets to indulge in her life-long addiction to Young Adult fantasy novels. When not writing, Katharine spends her time dancing, working on cosplays that she never finishes, playing folk-punk music with her band, and spending as much time in the sunshine as she can.

Top photo of lightbulb by Júnior Ferreira on Unsplash. Other media cover images belong to the owners.

What does NaNoWriMo mean to you?This year, as we’re looking back…

What does NaNoWriMo mean to you?

This year, as we’re looking back at NaNoWriMo’s past and forward to our future, we’ve asked writers to tell us what our writing programs and community mean to you! We’ll be sharing some of our favorite answers throughout the fall.

“NaNoWriMo is… where ‘I’ve always wanted to write’ becomes ‘I am a writer.”
–NaNoWriMo participant Willow Sanders

Road Trip to NaNo: Writing in a Place of Wonder

NaNoWriMo is an international event, and we’re taking a Road Trip to NaNo to hear about the stories being written every year in our hundreds of participating regions. Today, Devona Jackson, Municipal Liaison for the Asia :: Cambodia region, shares how her region has shaped her writing:

Cambodia: the Kingdom of Wonder. The nickname has always stuck out in my mind during the last four years I’ve lived in this country. A place of mystery, rich culture, and heritage, but also of heartbreak and despair.

This is a place of pure beauty that’s been torn apart by war, and now is slowly starting to pick up the pieces. It has taken many years of repair in order to restore the natural beauty that I see today among the rice fields, beautiful architecture, and historical monuments. Even though most of the writers in my region are stationed in Phnom Penh, we all have the ability to work together to achieve a great purpose, to write dangerously in a place that we call home.  

After spending nearly four years in this country, I have learned many things, about life and about writing. First of all, a picture is worth not a thousand words, but millions… it really does tell a story. For instance, this past week, my brother was in Cambodia for the first time since my relocation here for work, and I had the chance to take him around where I used to live and where I live now. I started out with Angkor Wat and other temples within the Angkor complex, and he was able to snap pictures, and I was able to transform those into stories that we delved right into. We saw the majestic, and the poverty-stricken. He has been able to truly see what I see every day. He heard stories that were meant to be recorded and documented for others to read.  

One of the things I’ve learned through living here is that in order to be successful in writing, start small. Don’t overdo it. I started learning about Cambodia over the course of a few years before actually living here. I learned about the culture, the history, and everything else, and even though my quest for learning is not completely over, I am still seeing things with new eyes. With writing, I start small.  As I am planning things, I break things down into small pieces and start thinking about how I want to approach this task, and what it takes to get there. There are so many things to consider—character development, climatic events, discovering problems—but these are things you can tackle if you start one piece at a time.  

With the good, there will always come the bad, and this applies to writing as well as life. We are all going to have bad writing days, and encounter writer’s block. Something that I always tell myself is, “Better days are ahead, just keep pushing.” With this photo of a sign at the Toul Sleng Genocide Museum here in Phnom Penh, that commemorates the death of nearly 20,000 innocent Cambodian people during the Khmer Rouge era, it’s true that better days are ahead for the Cambodian people as well. 

As writers, we may have a day where we can’t write anything, and that is okay. All we can do is keep on fighting and have courage to complete the task of writing 50,000 words. The Kingdom of Cambodia fought for their lives, all we have to do is fight to complete that dream of writing a book. Cambodia’s NaNo team is learning to write dangerously in the Kingdom of Wonder.

Dr. Devona Jackson leads NaNo in the Asia :: Cambodia region. She identifies as a creative-writing genius, but a noob as a ML, and has participated in NaNo since last year. Originally from Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA, Devona moved to Cambodia in 2014 to continue her career as a education consultant for Cambodia Job Foundation after spending ten years in the ESL Education sector. Devona graduated in 2016 with her Ph.D in Education Policy and Leadership from the University of Minnesota.

“If you can’t accept yourself for who you truly are, you’ll never acquire what you deserve. This…”

““If you can’t accept yourself for who you truly are, you’ll never acquire what you deserve….

“The more I spoke of it, the faster it slipped away from me.”

“The more I spoke of it, the faster it slipped away from me.” – N.M.Sanchez