Earlier today Ryan wrote about what it’s like to lose a friend to the throes of Desert Bus for Hope and NaNoWriMo simultaneously. Let me tell you, the struggle between the desire to create and the desire to watch the stream is real. I managed to get a few writing sprints in early in the drive, but they were abandoned days ago in favour of dance parties and the Ken Steacy Hour of Power. I’ve departed into the world of wordcounts and strange memes, become inaccessible to my friends and family, and am constantly lamenting the lack of sprinting while reveling in the beatific joy that comes with Desert Bus chat.
For the uninitiated, Desert Bus for Hope is an annual fundraiser for Child’s Play, a charity that donates toys and videogames to children’s hospitals and now domestic violence shelters. It’s run by Loading Ready Run, a comedy troupe from Victoria, British Columbia, and has raised almost three million dollars since its inception nine years ago. It’s still going strong, and you can see it live at twitch.tv/desertbus.
National Novel Writing Month now signs up hundreds of thousands of would be authors and challenges them to write 50,000 words in the month of November, which amounts to just over 1500 words per day. There are no other rules, but it should be continuous fiction. Writers around the world gather in coffee shops, libraries, and makerspaces for all night write-ins, and join a community that supports the creation of original fake text stuff.
The thing that both events have in common is arting hard. NaNoWriMo encourages people to art harder than they ever have before, and to look for support from each other in doing so. Fifteen hundred words a day is no small feat if you don’t write normally, not to mention conjuring a story from whole cloth. There’s a lot of mistakes, a lot of learning, a bit of wine, and a lot of coming back to a scene or paragraph and wondering where the hell all of this is going.
Desert Bus is filled with people who art hard every day. Twitch streamers, comedians, actors, and photographers, they spend months of preparation to undergo grueling challenges to busk for charity. They attract people who art hard too, from musician Molly Lewis to prop-maker Harrison Krix, doing call-ins and visits with magicians, musicians, voice actors, writers, and a whole lot more. Their engineering team builds new hilarious features on the spot, and they have an incredible community that captures every moment of the six day stream in gifs and on Youtube, no matter how strange.
I am caught up in both of these things, and as Ryan mentioned, there’s a bit of suffering. For essentially a month I’m immersed in two communities that are full of people arting so hard that it scares me. I watch people creating fiction and music and comedy and I don’t just admire them, I fear them. I fear their power, their courage, and their abandon while feeling the sting of my own mediocrity. There’s a consistent reminder that every thought I’ve ever had about “I’d like to do that, but I could never do that” is complete bullshit because here are these people doing it and, while it helps that they are fortunate, they are undeniably working their asses off. On top of that, it’s not a one-time thing, most of them do Art Job all the time.
My relationship with making art is best described as timid. I played guitar for fifteen years before I ever had the gumption to do it in front of another person, let alone in front of an audience, and especially not in a recording. I have files full of untold or half-told stories that I could never share, and now that I do make things in public, even compliments on them are usually met with stuttering uncertainty (assuming that I admit to them at all. The tale of the time Ryan and I’s co-workers Googled us is one for another day).
But the fear is vastly outweighed by joy. In November, I become part of these things that I want to consume me, privy to the secrets of Zeta Shift and reading chapters of unwitnessed fiction. I watch people with the courage to art hard, and try my best to join them. In November we make each other braver, and I leave every November braver than I have ever been. I am still scared of arting hard, of Art Job, and am fearful of anyone who embraces those things.
But dammit, I’m nine thousand words farther than I’ve ever been before.
All I have to do is keep going.