I am happy to report that I am off to a good start on my first foray into NaNoWriMo-land. I met my daily word count goal the first two days and was relieved to find my story flowed fairly easily.
I was bummed I couldn’t make it to my local kick-off party, though, and hope there will be more events I can attend over the next few weeks.
Before you click away for less self-congratulatory realms, I must tell you that this was the culmination of a lot of intense preparatory work. My outline didn’t become workable until the last day of October. I had to do a lot of internal work to make space for this project, like talking to monsters and blocks and monsters who threw blocks. I wrote a love letter to my novel and asked what it would cook for me if it could give me a night off. This may all sound strange but assuming we’re all creative, artsy types around here, I trust that I am preaching to the choir.
I decided that to be on the safe side, I should aim for only writing on weekdays, not counting Thanksgiving. That left me with a daily goal of 2500 words. It took me nearly two and a half hours the first day, but I did it! The second day I’d trimmed my time to two hours. My goal is to be writing 2500 words or more in one hour by the end of this month.
The only reason 2500 words wasn’t a completely daunting prospect is because I write at least 750 words in my journal almost every day, so I could guess that it would only take me around two hours to write three times as many words for my novel. But what about the content?
Despite growing up half-believing all the people who praised my writing, from my mother to college professors, I was not at all sure I had what it took to write fiction. I haven’t consistently attempted fiction since I was in grade school, content to think I would be great if I ever applied myself. Now that I am actually applying myself all sorts of insecurities are arising. Not a huge shock, but who has time to talk to monsters when a novel needs to be written?
Turns out that time is non-negotiable. Otherwise one winds up writing with a 50-pound boulder tied to the pen. Progress is slow, to say the least. Being able to calmly sit down to write, relaxed and open to the muse, is the result of first opening a dialogue with whatever monsters show up.
In my internal work, I very clearly got the message that when I was tense and anxious, creativity couldn’t get in. It’s like asking Santa to descend a stovepipe chimney. He’s either going to skip your house or take his sweet time getting to your tree. “But isn’t Santa, like creativity, magic?” you ask. “Can’t he just shrink himself to whatever size is necessary?” Perhaps, but do you want your creativity (or Santa, for that matter) in a shrunken form? I thought not.
My monsters wanted reassurance that I wasn’t wasting my time on another non-billable activity. After I explained that I was researching self-publishing for my business and this was a big part of it, they left me (mostly) alone.
My novel wanted to feel welcome, so we came up with some rituals around writing time, like invoking the qualities of play, flow, and love. In return, my novel offered to cook me Monte Cristo sandwiches from Disneyland and reminded me to be like Alice and believe in three impossible things a day, preferably before breakfast.
And so I was pleased to find that the difficult task of taking that first step (or writing that first word) wasn’t so hard after all. That is not to say that I’ll keep much of what I wrote when I hit my editing phase. I know a lot of it is amateurish and clunky. But at least I am confident that by the end of November, I will have something to mold. Besides the mush that will be my brain, of course.