This weekend I went to an event for people in my area who are doing NaNoWriMo. It was interesting to see the range of people who are also going through this crazy and wonderful process. It's incredibly inspiring to me, that 40,000+ people are signed on to attempt to write a novel this month. People of all ages, professions, locations; and novels of all genres. Creativity is an innate human capacity, one that our culture tends to dampen down and cordon off, telling us that it's best left up to the professionals. If you spend time making something that matters to you just because you want to, it's a really great thing. Whether or not you show it to anyone, or get recognition for it, or any of that.
My novel? I am way, way behind on my word count -- the goal is 50,000 by the end of November -- and I may not make that target. But even if I don't, I've already gotten so much out of the process. It's been incredibly freeing to just sit down and write something that doesn't have an argument, an audience, a rhetorical strategy, or evidence. Something that is just pure play. Especially since I've been struggling with some blocks in my professional writing, this experience has been a good way to loosen them/me, I think. I'm behind on my word count only for time reasons. I'll know better next year how to plan my month to enable the furious composition necessary for NaNo. And I've got some extra time next week with the holiday...who knows how many words I might be able to crank out?
The NaNo event was also kind of interesting, since I'm rarely in social situations where I don't know a single person, and where there isn't one shared interest drawing us together. Obviously, there was some kind of interest in writing shared among all of us, plus the willingness to attempt this. But beyond that, not much. I made an effort to talk to people, maybe 9 or 10 of them -- kind of a big deal for me, since I'm introverted and pretty picky in choosing my friends. But this was an event mostly attended by other nerdy introverts, so I assumed most of the social weirdness was due to a general lack of social skills.
But the gathering also forced me to recognize one of my own biases. Two of the women I chatted with were wearing crosses around their necks. And as soon as I was standing close enough to them to realize this, I started looking for ways out of the conversation. Now, I have several friends who are practising Christians, and two close friends who are active in their Unitarian churches. But I don't know anyone who wears a cross. And for me, it signals a kind of close-minded religiosity that really puts me off. I know that's an unfair judgement. If I were in a work situation, or some other kind of relation that would require us to spend time together, then I would make the extra effort to get to know these individuals and perhaps do a little educating (of them and me). But in a casual social setting, the cross seems like a voice saying "BACK AWAY, you lefty non-Christian lesbian." I just don't want to bother putting out any effort at all to find out if that's really what its wearer would say or not.
Obviously, I don't usually encounter crosses in my social circles. So this was interesting. I've had students with crosses before, of course, but in that case my feelings about it are completely irrelevant, since we don't have a peer relationship in which one would share personal information.