On failing NaNoWriMo

I’d be lying if I thought I’d have to make this post. In fact, just about a month ago, I made a post saying I was feeling pretty confident about this year’s National Novel Writing Month.

That turned out to be hubris. I had a run of 10 years of finishing NaNoWriMo, sometimes by the skin of my teeth, but for the past few years, quite comfortably. So for all that KRH is very busy and distracting, I didn’t think there was anything that could stop me from winning.

I was wrong. The whole family got the flu, one that kept me off my feet for almost 10 days. Then KRH got conjunctivitis, three times. His latest ailment, that we’re just now getting over, was a lung infection. One of the things that’s caught me off guard is just how much the sickness of a child made me fearful and worried, even when the illnesses were minor.

We’re still working through all this, but it actually didn’t take me long into November to decide that this year simply wasn’t going to happen. I made that decision based on a cool calculus, because the draft I was writing was just a fun project that had no deadline, sandwiched between two important projects, one in October (which I hadn’t quite completed) and returning to my next project in December.  It was relatively easy, then, to decide not to worry overly about NaNoWriMo because I’d proven to myself I could do it, and move on.

It was actually more difficult than I thought to give up the month. NaNoWriMo isn’t exactly central to my identity as a writer because really November is just another month in my writing schedule, but NaNo taught me a lot about how to get butt in chair and finger to keyboard in the pursuit of completion. It’s also often the one month of the year I allow myself to write a fun first draft, and I spent the month seeing my writing friends and doing events (or I used to. With KRH this proved to be different). The long and short of it is, while giving up on NaNo made a lot of sense, it was hard in that it’s always something that I look forward to and this year I basically didn’t get to participate. If anything, it left me feeling a bit discouraged.

That doesn’t mean that I made the wrong choice. No one month can make or break my writing career, especially not my 10th NaNoWriMo. So in the end, I just have to  do exactly what I learned from NaNo in the first place, which is to get my butt in my chair and put my fingers to my keyboard.

The lost boys

I return to blog after the flu has knocked our whole family for a loop. It kept me off my feet for over a week. Get your flu shot, everyone.

I’ve been thinking a lot about Angela Nagle’s Atlantic article The Lost Boys, referring to the wave of alt-right (read, fascist) young men who’ve emerged in the last few years. As a man in that age group, who could very well have ended up a part of that, I think it’s important to think about this sort of thing, both in introspection for myself and about how I’m going to raise KRH to not join it himself.

I say that I could have ended up a part of the alt-right for a fairly simple reason; I spent time on 4chan. Both at the time and now, I’d have described the toxic hate that oozes out of the alt-right as gross, but as a man in his early 20s, I can think about how spending time on that site changed me. At the time, the lack of reverence, where everything could be a joke, was something that I found appealing. It seemed like it could do good, which was why I got moderately involved in Project Chanology, attending a protest and doing some advocacy. But many of the techniques that were first pointed at the Church of Scientology, later ended up in the toolbox of Gamergaters and now are used by the alt-right, especially against women and people of colour.

Whew. I ended up drifting away from 4chan on my own. And yet the off-colour humor of the site, that’s often racial or hateful in nature, certainly infused my language, and it took some time for me to realize that was a problem. I did, and eventually I examined a lot of the things I’d picked up there. But it’s easy to see a different path, in which that time on 4chan leads instead to the alt-right, simply because of the attractive nature of the message. It appeals to people who don’t fit in and to those whose lives haven’t turned out great, both messages that have some power.

So how do I make sure that, if KRH ever finds himself tempted with this dark side, that he takes the route that I did? That’s a difficult question, because there’s no way to every make certain of that. KRH will become his own person who’ll make his own decisions. There’s nothing I can do to him that will force him to follow my political beliefs.

But. I was loved, I was surrounded by good and loving people, and I was educated both directly by those people and just by exposure to them. I also had experiences that educated me. And that was just in the 1990s and 2000s. I like to think that, decades later when KRH is going through this same journey, we can educate him in better ways  than I ever was, and that we can give him the experiences and understanding of people who are different than him, and that in the same way those experiences ultimately prevented me from taking a more odious path, they’ll do the same for him. Because ultimately, that’s all I can do.

How do I do these things? Well, I have a few ideas, though I’m sure I’ll need more. I’ll have to pay attention to the media he consumes, and work to discuss it with him. I’ll have to listen to his language and discuss why some things are hateful or hurtful. I’ll need to make sure he’s surrounded by people who are different than himself, in race, gender, sexuality, belief and more. And I’ll have to stay vigilant in the ways that the alt-right (or whatever this sleazy ooze calls itself in 10+ years) recruits people, and make sure it doesn’t happen to KRH. It’s a tall order, but it might be one of the most important things I can do as a parent.