I remember well the first year I participated in National Novel Writing Month. I even remember the fellow English major who introduced me to it. I signed up on October 24th, 2003; that gave me one week to prepare for the start of Nanowrimo. The goal for that November (and every November following) was to write 50,000 words  on one story. Theoretically, all you have to do is write 1667 words per day. It sounds easy enough when you think about it, but putting it into practice is where the challenge comes in.

That first Nano, I wrote about 15,000 words. Nowhere near the goal amount, but it was an accomplishment for me. I’d never written that many words on one original story (I’d written that many for a Star Wars fanfic, but I didn’t count that then, and if you ask me about it now, I’ll deny its entire existence). It was a terrible story but I’ve always liked the idea of it – a sci-fi piece about a matriarchal/matrilineal society that was slowly falling apart. The next year, I worked on an urban fantasy and made it to 26,000 words. Since then I’ve written a historical novel, a couple straight-up fantasy stories, a light comedic fantasy, and a historical steampunk mystery. And there are two years that I really don’t remember what I wrote at all. Success did not come quickly; it was 2007 when I finally reached that 50,000 word goal before the end of November. I had a three-year winning streak that ended last year because by the 15th, I hated everything about the story I was writing. It happens.

This year, I am a Nano Rebel. The whole point of Nanowrimo is to write a novel – it’s right there in the name. This year, though, I’m taking the creative nonfiction route and writing a memoir of my experience of carrying, losing, and mourning Lauren. It would be impossible for me to write about anything else right now. Lauren is my focus; she eventually nudges out all other thoughts in my head, just as she did all during the pregnancy. Since February, nothing else has been foremost on my mind. I can’t simply forget her or let her pass away into nothingness. Neither can I sit and dwell on what we’ve lost, reliving memories and going over “should haves” and mourning “should bes.” I must be productive, and since I have always been better with written words, I shall write.

I meant to be writing all this year. It was a simple task that I gave to myself, and I failed miserably at it. On one hand, I wish I devoted more time and attention to the pregnancy, appreciated it for all the special moments it gave me. On the other, I’m glad I didn’t, because perhaps the pain would be even greater for having embraced every moment. And had I written everything down, one manner of catharsis might have been lost to me. So, now I’ll write down everything that should have been written down before, and it will be all the more cherished for what it is now: a memorial to Lauren, her story and our story entertwined, just as she herself enveloped us and took over every aspect of our lives.

And perhaps, as I write, others will be comforted, whether they knew Lauren or not. I know I shall find some comfort, just as I know that the experience will be a painful one. I’ve already shed tears while writing on this blog; I can only imagine the flood that will come as I write Lauren’s birth story and the memories of my pregnancy. But it’s something I must do.

So, this year, Nanowrimo is more than just a writing exercise, more than just a kick-start to get me going. In years past, I participated in Nanowrimo because I wanted to – this year, I must. It’s not just myself I’m writing for, it’s for Lauren and Geordie and family and friends who wanted to share in the story of our lives. I cannot share my daughter in a physical sense, but I can do it in spirit.

This year, Nanowrimo is for Lauren.