So okay — there you are in your room with the shade down and the door shut and the plug pulled out of the base of the telephone. You’ve blown up your TV and committed yourself to a thousand words a day, come hell or high water. Now comes the big question: What are you going to write about? And the equally big answer: Anything you damn well want.
~ Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft
Wow! Is it only day three of NaNoWriMo? It feels like I just started (which is true), and like I’ve been doing it forever (which could also be true depending on how you think about time and space, past and present).
I learned a lot over the course of the first two days, and it’s hard to know where to start. The beginning might be a good place. You might think that the first day was the beginning, but it was not. The beginning consisted of the days after I committed to writing a book, but before I started writing. The beginning was all enthusiasm and excitement, hopes and dreams, and endless possibilities. The beginning was easy.
The first day, Sunday, was brutal reality. Instead of getting up early as I’d planned, I slept in. Usually I sleep well when we “fall back,” but that was not the case and when it came time to get up, I rolled over and went back to sleep. When I did get up, I decided it was too late to do my Morning Routine (exercise, yoga, meditation, a walk outside), but I didn’t use what was left of the morning time writing. I delayed until after lunch.
First lesson learned: I am a morning person when it comes to writing and other creative endeavors. Hell, I’m a morning person when it comes to most things. I knew this, of course, and ignored it when I procrastinated.
When I finally did sit down to write, I went as blank as the page I was staring at. Since I did have an inkling of what I wanted to do and that inkling involved building on blog posts I’d written a few years ago, I dug around in my old blogs to find what I had in mind, and started there. With words copied on to the page, I tried to build a foundation. Unfortunately, the foundation kept collapsing. In frustration and despair (because I have a flair for the melodramatic at times, oh woe is me!), I forced words from my typing fingertips and tried not to scream in horror at what I was producing.
(You can laugh. I am.)
I resentfully and grudgingly labored until I produced 1,692 words of hogwash. I went to bed early with a sense of shame and overwhelm. I considered quitting.
Second lesson learned: If it doesn’t work, abandon it, or at least put it aside and move on to something else. I can always revisit it if I feel I need it later.
On day 2 of the great NaNoWriMo experiment, I woke early after a good night’s sleep. I exercised, did my yoga practice, meditated, went out for a walk, started and finished a load of laundry, put away the clean dishes that were in the dishwasher, had a nutritious and delicious breakfast, and started writing before 7:30 AM. I was charged and ready to go. I opened up the document from the previous day, stared at it for about three seconds, and opened a new document. I typed and typed and typed. What did I type? Well, I’ll tell you.
Questions. I typed question after question after question. The big question: Is there a story in this? You see, I set out thinking I’d write a series of essays, something similar to how I blog. That might have worked except I had no idea where to start or where I wanted to go with it. Would it be a random series of essays? Or would there be a theme? What would tie everything together?
And as I questioned, I didn’t spend a lot of time searching for answers. I just allowed myself to write free-style. Within a short period of time, something amazing happened.
A character was born, and she wanted to tell her story. This may not seem amazing to you, but I never expected to be writing fiction. In fact, I have been telling people for decades that I do not have the talent or the imagination to write fiction. But there she was, this woman with a story. She was familiar, but not familiar. I found her in the first paragraph I had written (not copied from one of my blogs) on the first day. I hadn’t intended to use that paragraph for anything other than an introduction, but it kept coming back to me that there was a story in it and if there was a story, who was the main character?
Third lesson learned: Put aside all expectations, and be open to all possibilities. As a friend once told me, anticipate rather than expect. When I sit down expecting a certain outcome, it is likely I will end up disappointed and/or frustrated because my mind is closed to everything else. When I sit down anticipating possibilities, I am wide open to whatever comes, ready to appreciate and enjoy it.
The words flowed. They poured. I had to start over, but even so, I ended up with close to 5,000 words by the end of the day. I went to bed tired, but excited. I was ever so glad I’d done my Morning Routine because it worked better than caffeine to get my mind and body engines running in top condition. The exercise and meditation also help me sleep better at night.
Fourth lesson learned: Don’t neglect the Morning Routine. Just don’t.
Day three has not been as productive as day two, or as forced as day one. I have had other things I had to take care of today, and I knew that when I went in so I am not giving myself a hard time about the fact that I’ve only produced 250 words so far today. Plus the 1,000 or so in this post. Heh. A blogging friend is coming to the ranch for a first-time visit (and our first time meeting) tomorrow, and I’ve been focused on getting ready for that.
I needed today to step away from the story itself and learn more about this character who has entered my life. I’ve been jotting down notes wherever I happen to be in the house or outside, and when I sit down to write early tomorrow morning, I’ll be open to the possibilities whether those possibilities are in my notes or not.
I need to get back to the project I was working on before I sat down here to take a break. Thank you for stopping by today, and thank you so much for all of your support and encouragement. I really appreciate it.
Fifth lesson learned (but it really was the first, it’s just that it best fit this portion of the post): I have an amazing support group, and when I do get discouraged, all I need to do is remember that. I might not always have faith in myself, but others do. I can rely on that when my confidence is slipping and sliding away.
Be good, be kind, be loving. Just Be. 🙂
Today’s joys: A bright, sunny day; beautiful colors still hanging around in the trees; a productive day in terms of chores and painting projects and thoughts on my novel (did I just write “my novel”?!! How weird is that?); a pot of rooibus tea; encouragement from friends and family.