As an English major, I get asked two main questions when I reveal my major: "Do you teach?" and "Do you write?"
Up until last year, I would have blushed and awkwardly skirted the question with a stammering no and an, "I'm not sure what I'm going to do with my degree yet."
When it comes to creative writing, I've limited myself to short poetry, nothing too taxing or time consuming, nothing that I've really labored over the way you are supposed to on a piece of writing.
Last semester, however, I took a creative nonfiction class and wrote an essay of around 5,000 words – the most creative writing I had ever done for a single project. The process involved workshops in my class and several revisions, a process that ended with a finished piece that made me proud.
I've always been afraid to call myself a writer. The term seems sacred to me, something that you should only call yourself when you've written something good, when you've put your heart into a body of work for an extended time. Maybe it's because of this fear that I've never considered novel writing. The idea of writing a novel is terrifying. It involves a commitment over time to the same characters, a creativity strong enough to last for 300-plus pages, a dedication to see a work through until the end.
It is this fear that has led me to embark on what will be one of the most challenging things I have ever done: National Novel Writing Month. This is a community with one challenge – to write 50,000 words during the month of November.
Where I'm standing on Nov. 1, it feels like an impossible feat.
So why am I doing it? I'm not sure I even know. Part of me is curious as to whether I actually can, whether I can discipline myself into writing 1,667 words a day for thirty days. Another part of me just wants to commit to something larger than myself.
Not only do I want to write 50,000 words, but also I want to be a part of a community of writers that are so filled with the love of writing that they do this ridiculous challenge every year. I want to be reminded that nothing is insurmountable if you have the passion to go after it.
And maybe I won't become a famous writer. Maybe I won't turn out the next great American novel by the end of the month. But at least I'll know that my fears of inadequacy and failure don't own me.
Check in on me. Shoot me an email to make sure I'm not having a mental breakdown in front of the computer. If you're one of my teachers, have a little mercy on my attention span during the next thirty days.
And come Dec. 1, get ready for my victory column.
Claire Dodson is a junior in English and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.