This NaNo thing is hard.
I write every day, so it’s not just the act of sitting and churning out 1600 words (give or take) a day that’s proving to be rough. It’s the doing it all on the same project, and retaining faith in that project as I go on, and doing so despite all the other things going on in life, that are turning out to be the month’s real challenges.
I never thought this would be the hard part. I write every day: blog posts, short stories, full-length plays — and in between those, dozens of ideas for new onws – and I’ve gone through long, arduous projects that made me want to scream or kick them or abandon them and run away. But there’s something about living with a nascent idea of a book, day in and day out, for a month (shut up, it’s only been ten days, I know, shut up) that’s a very different animal from what I’m used to. I have an outline to work from and I know that it’s just a matter of sitting down, every day, doing the words, and eventually I’ll come to the end of the month and the end of the book and then holy crap I’ll have a whole book and – well, all those lovely things that come after.
Unlike most participants, I’m not even in this alone. I have my trusted friend & project collaborator, Sare Liz Gordy working with me – well, parallel to me, on the second book in the series we’ve planned – so unlike plenty of other people who have taken on NaNo this month, I have someone to bounce ideas off of, talk things over with, and generally remind me that this pile of words I’m steadily piecing together is worth it and will work when it’s done and all those other things we writers like to know as we sew the firings of our neurons into the tapestry of a story. (Shut up, shut up, leave me alone, all my clever metaphors are going into the book.)
And then there’s the Brain Chemistry. Caps, because it’s my brain, you know? And at some point between Friday and today, my brain chemistry went wonky, and right now, I hate everything. Not just the clothes I yank out of my closet in pathetically mismatched combinations, not just the fact that the leak over my apartment radiator is still dripping and the intercom speaker still doesn’t work, but everything. A coworker and I sat at lunch together today, talking about this, and he suggested if I wasn’t getting joy from what I was doing then maybe I ought to pull the plug. And I realized that the problem with making an assessment – any assessment based on liking anything – when I’m having the Brain Chemistry is that until things right themselves it’s not going to be a rational decision. (Which is NOT to say that at any point the idea of quitting NaNo has been one that’s come to mind, just that my friend asked why I didn’t and I had to explain why not.) Picture a cat, soaking wet in a hurricane, clinging with all its claws to a telephone pole while the wind rattles and howls around it. Right now, le chat c’est moi.
And anyways, when I’m capable of liking something I like this story a lot. Right now, I think the code for my mental “like” button is going through some kind of DDOS attack, so I have to just keep working blind until tech support can come in and debug whatever’s going wrong. (Leave me alone, all my good metaphors are going into the NaNo.)
So I get home from work and sit on the edge of my bed for a minute just to catch my breath, and the next thing I know I’ve been napping for three hours and I have to figure out something to do for dinner because when I feel like this eating healthy is one of the best things I can do for myself, and I use my cast-iron skillet to fry a piece of bacon and a whole bunch of vegetables I picked up in Chinatown and I sit at my computer and I stare at the Drive document that holds the outline I’ve put together, and I fire up Open Office and I take a deep breath and I stare and then I jump in.
Even if I don’t make the full quotient of words for today, at least I know I’m still going. Having something to sit down and chip away at is exhausting – Sare aptly compared writing these books to running a marathon, and ten days out of thirty in, I’m at a pace that’s more or less comfortable and I like what the characters are doing and the turns the tale is taking – but keeping it up is hard work.
“I don’t mind working hard, I just mind working stupid,” a friend of mine says, and at least I know that I’m working smart: an outline, a plan, a support structure, a clear goal. So that’s okay. I’ll just keep going, a cat in a hurricane with my claws dug into a telephone pole, hanging on for dear life and wondering where the hell did I put my pen and can I swat at the keyboard without flying off into the wind.
I’ll get there. It’ll take about twenty more days, but I’ll get there, and I’ll look back and read this and wonder what made it seem so hard.
Until then, I’m off to write another bunch of words. I’ll forgive myself if I only hit five hundred today – that’s the whole point of working ahead of oneself, when one can – because anything is still progress, and progress of some kind is what counts.
For those who came expecting cats: when you search for “cat in a hurricane” on Google, this is the first cat picture that comes up. Today, I am this cat.