Another challenge begins. The month of October went by in a flurry of planning for #NaNoWriMo. Some random thoughts:
I expected to be a “Planner” (one who outlines, creates characters, maps out settings, etc). I did some of that. Every day when I turn on my desktop I see a wallpaper of characters. My iPad screensaver is the setting, a map of a gentrified neighborhood. The loose outline in my Scrivener file suggests I may be more of a “Panster” (one who writes by the seat of their pants) this time around… again. Accountability has landed in my November bullet journal/calendar. My wall is plastered with “what if” post it notes. I’ll be taunted into complying.
Tomorrow I turn the page. The To Do list becomes a Must Do list, limited to only what is absolutely necessary during the next 30 days. The calendar side of things is scant. Somehow I’ll fit in 1,667 words each day (including Thanksgiving) and voila! The novel will be done. Make that, the DRAFT will be done. Or perhaps I should state the reality… the sh*tty draft will be done.
There’s a lot of talk in the NaNoWriMo forums about preparation and, much of it about survival. It’s as if we will be stranded in one of those freaky would-you-spend-30-days-here-for-a-million dollars houses posted on social media lately. Or maybe locked in a room like writer Paul Sheldon in Misery. Reminder: purchase forty-two flavors of Oreo cookies, six giant bags of dark chocolate M&Ms, a case of Doritos, and a sixty day supply of extra strong coffee.
Then there’s the “what ifs.” What if my computer dies? What if my online cloud erases my files? What if the cat won’t get off my keyboard? What if the cat hits the delete key? What if the power goes out? What if the internet goes out? (Actually that could be a good thing to keep away distractions). What if we haven’t prepared any “What Ifs” for our main character if she/he decides to stray from the plot? What if I put a back up plan in motion: save to the cloud, email a copy to myself each day, save another copy on my desktop,
print out another copy (never mind – wouldn’t want anyone to discover just how sh*tty my writing is) and keep pen and paper on hand for when the power goes out.
Bottom line: My imperfect self will not judge, criticize, or punish if my “what ifs” turn into “what nots.”
Good luck to all the incredible writers joining me in this adventure. See you in December… or sooner depending on the what ifs.
You have made a lot of progress in the last few years. Remember that stack of journals when things first started to happen? But it goes back farther than that. What about that 5 year journal with scattered entries, the one with the tiny lock you kept in your nightstand during your early teens? Last time you looked at it you wondered what all the abbreviations meant. M.A.M. for one. It might have meant “mad at mom,” or perhaps “mad at Marilyn.” You did remember the first M stood for mad. Most of the entries were short sentences, “I finished my book report,” “We had a pajama party at Vickie’s,” “I babysat for the neighbors last night.” More a calendar of life with little emotion.
There was a break from journaling for a few years, the need to write fixed in letters to Carol. You have the ones she sent to you. Does she still have yours? Probably not but you have a dozen years of response to your letters to her, each one dropping a small clue as to what was going on. They begin with happy memories but evolve into “come and visit me so we can talk about it” messages.
The journal writing began again in the mid-seventies, after the boys were born. Reflections of being a mother, trying to make things work, a few essays mixed in from that advanced English class at DVC. Another break and then the Tarot phase journal, followed by an AA step journal. You scanned them all a couple of years ago and threw away the actual papers not wanting anyone to find them. At least you had the sense to keep them in digital format. Safely tucked away in case you ever wanted to write a memoir.
The time has arrived. It’s been a tedious process to put those missives in chronological order and make some sense of it. Reading through the work brings mostly tears but a few healthy bouts of laughter. How minor the problems were in the beginning. Remember how many times you packed your bags thinking you would head back to Michigan and life would be easier? Learning about Jason’s addiction? Dealing with your own drinking, trying to decide – am I an alcoholic? “Fake it until you make it,” they said in AA. They meant for you to fake your sobriety but you turned it around, deciding if you faked your drinking experience, the program would work, a twisted attempt at denial of the real problem.
But when you sat down to write the book, it seemed to be all about Jason. Then the focus shifted to Chris. And then there was Eric. And now JJ. You told their secrets. That’s okay, it was a shitty first draft. You’re supposed to write it all out and no one needs to read it. But this is a memoir. It’s about you. You are the narrator. You told their story and now it’s time to make it yours.
Remember when you said, there is no resolution? And then someone in your tribe suggested resolution may come with the writing. Or, it’s possible that there may be no resolution. How disappointing that felt. You wanted that lightning bolt to zap straight into the manuscript, erase the past and manifest into a miraculous new life, what you thought would be a normal life.
Sifting through those first 90,000 words the patterns began to emerge. When you began this re-write, you were at a turning point of sorts. You began to feel like the hub of a shredded wheel, picking up the pieces in the freeway of life, trying to glue it back together. Were you the common denominator, and therefore the source of everyone’s misery? Did you lay out those spikes of disaster? Or were you drawn to the center of all adversities, never having to look at yourself? You think: It’s not you. It’s them. Why write that?
Dig a little deeper. Keep digging. The answer will come. You are getting closer. So close the theme is right there, within your reach. Just a little more energy, one chapter at a time, you can do it. Listen to the sages in your life. Follow their path. Forget about the results for now. It’s not a marathon that will end at the finish line. Growth continues, published or not. Write for yourself. Give yourself permission to self-publish that first shitty draft – just for yourself. Hold it in your hand knowing how far you have travelled. Accept what was and turn it into something powerful. Put it out there to make a difference for someone who still struggles.
You’ve got this. Push that inner critic aside (that would be me, you know).