Sometimes, I tell people I am a writer.
This is true in a really literal way, sure. I am a writer in the same
way I am a breather, or a blinker, or a walker. I have written things.
Countless things. Diaries, emails, grocery lists, to-do's, and yes-
sometimes poems and short stories. I have long held this teensy little
dream of being a novelist, but have never been able to get farther than
120 pages into a story, and have certainly never come to any conclusion
with any of them. Either plot-wise, nor public-wise.
I always described my dad as a poet by heart and a
housepainter/firefighter by trade. I suppose his daughter is a
storyteller by heart and a residency coordinator by trade. I have a
small library of books intended to motivate someone to finish a book.
They have all succeeded... in reminding me how hard I fail at finishing
this seemingly simple task.
Even right now, I am 20,000 words behind a writing challenge. That's a
literary fuck-ton of words, right there. Am I working to rectify this?
Um, unless you have inabilities to put concepts together (and my
apologies to those with that disorder...), you have figured out that I
am writing a blog, instead of catching up on my 20,000 words. Halfway
through the challenge, I believe this is what one calls, "giving up." Or
rather, "giving up again." Because I've been here before. Three times,
In 2005, I checked out Chris Baty's book, "No Plot, No Problem." I was
intrigued by it's claim that I could write a stress-free 50,000 word
novel in 30 days. It seemed insane, yet doable. After reading it, I
decided to take the the next 30 days, and try it. It wasn't November,
but April, 2005, and I got about 11,000 words into it before a work
change, a kindergartener, and a crushing bout of writer's block brought
on by forgetting where I was in the story and growing tired of my main
character forced my hand into committing literary infanticide.
For the next few years, I was busy writing my own story by way of living
it, but by 2009, I had heard that Baty had started an online crew of
writers, who were doing this whole, "One novel, one month" thing
together, under the name NaNoWriMo. which is a completely silly break
down of National Novel Writing Month. Which occurs in November. You
know, when we all spend all of our time Christmas shopping. Or
personally, when my work kicks into overdrive. Also of note in November,
it gets dark and cold. These things make it hard for me to write a
Recognizing a "begging-off" excuse when I hear one (even from myself!), I
jumped into the fray in 2009. And tanked about halfway through. I had a
killer novel that I actually loved. I got 27,000 words into it, and
then I missed a week due to random busy-ness. Realizing that I could
never catch up from there, I gave up. I started turning on my story,
deciding that zombies were passe (of course they're passe- they were
only new in the 60's when first introduced.)
In 2010, newly single, I decided to give it another shot. I logged on to
the NaNo site and registered. I loved the little progress meter and the ability to see where my friends were with their projects. I also started with a plan this time. To avoid the
forgetting characters, and to fool myself into writing many short
stories, I decided to have a main story that unfolded via several
smaller, seemingly unrelated vignettes. I got about 12,000 words into
it, before my dating life shot into gear and I gave up writing for
socializing. Fail number 3.
This year, I started with no idea what I would write. I had a strategy
that I would keep track of characters with an ingenious system using
Flickr's ability to tag and cross-reference. I assigned each character a
picture, and tagged them with words that I could call upon if I needed a
refresher. It was a brilliant system. I revived the "Several short
story in a bigger novel" structure, in the hopes that that would keep me
able to bite up chunks of wordage. The new boyfriend was fully
recruited as a cheerleader and even found me awesome spots to write, and
drove me to the midnight write-in on November 1st. I started carrying
my laptop with me, in case I found myself somewhere I could chill for a
few hours and bang out a story. I typed and typed, not giving a second
thought to what I was even typing. Plot? Who needs a plot?! Characters?
Does it matter that they are poorly fleshed out and have no discernible
reason to exist? Psh!
And then week two happened to me. Sudden, total brain lock. A dark cloud
the likes that I hadn't seem in years rolled over and prevented me from
even desiring to work on anything- not brushing my teeth, or feeding
myself, or even opening my eyes more than a slit. I had just enough
energy to go to work, come home, climb under my blanket on my couch and
console myself with Rachel Maddow and uber-liberal political discourse. I
am currently at 5,000 words, halfway through the month. And I think,
waving my white flag.
There's always 2012....