Many hours later, I am still riding the high of an epic karaoke evening with Writers’ Bloc. The month I moved here I saw them perform for the first time and thought to myself, “I would love to be in Writers’ Bloc someday.” A year … Continue reading Day 16 of Project 365: Panda says relax.
On the way to the Writers’ Bloc meeting tonight, Gav pointed out this pair of boots stranded on Princes Street. I’d like to make up a story about how they came to be stranded on Princes Street, but I know the truth. The person last … Continue reading Day 14 of Project 365: Be ready.
You’ll have noticed that I failed utterly at Holidailies this year. It was the worst timing ever this year, what with the NaNoWriMo hangover and the lurgy and FunkyPlaid being away and trying to cram so much into my last-ever Edinburgh holiday season. But I … Continue reading Day 1 of Project 365: Morning Pages
Today I thought I might talk to you about making messes. And just before sitting down to write, I peeked at Twitter, and saw this tweet:
I have never been terribly good at making messes. I cringe at my own floundering, especially when it comes to writing, because my taste is better than my current skill level. NaNoWriMo was a special kind of hell for me, which made it all the more important that I finish: I love surprises, but hate being surprised by myself. This is why I spend time every morning writing the mess out of my brain, what Julia Cameron termed “morning pages”. I grab my notebook and a fountain pen and I make a mess. I am okay with this mess.
But then NaNoWriMo happened, one 50,000-word mess. I’m glad I did it, and glad I finished, but it shook my confidence in my ability to tell a coherent story. My meticulous planning was abandoned within the first week because every time I sat down to write I had no interest in telling the story found in my outline. Knowing that it was more important to get words onto the page than to be strict about an outline, I opted for messy writing. New characters were invented, stuck around for a scene or two, and then disappeared. The protagonists went off on tangents that did not further the plot in any way. I barely adhered to basic rules of grammar.
I would love to tell you that it felt great to make this mess, but most days were slogs punctuated by brief moments of mediocrity. And I realise that all first drafts are crap, but a short story draft has the one shining benefit of being short. By the end of November I had the distinct feeling of being trapped at a party with people who kept cornering me in the kitchen with random anecdotes. “And another thing,” one would tell me as I looked longingly toward the door, stirring the ice in my empty drink. “Have I mentioned my long-lost cousin? Because I really think she would show up right about now and explain about the time I almost drowned as a kid.” What? Okay, no. Stop.
But now that I have a week of distance from NaNoWriMo, I see two bright spots to all this mess-making. One, by wildly bashing away at a keyboard for a month I refined an okay idea to a good one. Only a fraction of that good idea is in the first draft, so it will require a significant rewrite, but now I know the story I really want to tell. And the second bright spot was the camaraderie I felt by sharing this huge, ridiculous undertaking with other people. My mom and I texted our word-counts and encouragement to each other every day, which helped me stay focused despite being demoralised. And my friend sharks and I conducted several terrific writing-sprint sessions together, including our very last so we crossed the finish line at the same time.
I know my writing, and my life, would be better if I could learn to be okay with making a mess. How many things do I prevent myself from trying because I’m afraid to mess them up?
It’s almost here! National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo for short, begins on Sunday. I will endeavour to write 50,000 words in the month of November. This undertaking is about quantity, not quality, so I cannot vouch for the words themselves, only the ridiculous number … Continue reading NaNoWriMo 2015
Life “If I waited for perfection, I’d never write a word.” —Margaret Atwood Often I want to say something important in the perfect way, so I keep putting it off until I figure out the perfect way. If the perfect way never occurs to me, I never say the … Continue reading Waiting for perfection.
Life I’m writing to a prompt today, just for the hell of it: “I can do strange things, believe me.” The strangest thing I do these days is ponder Mendelian genetics in order to better breed virtual cats in a dying world. (It’s not really … Continue reading This Week and Last Month
Life I have tried to write this several times now. It never goes well. I find unsettling analogies, or take refuge in bluntness, or just pretend the thing that happened didn’t happen at all so I can get through the first paragraph. But it happened. … Continue reading This Week and Other Weeks
This is the seventh day in a series of posts for Desk’s digital book-club pick, “Turning Pro: Tap Your Inner Power and Create Your Life’s Work” by Steven Pressfield (Open Library). The series begins here. Today I read from “My Own Moment of Turning Pro” to “The Professional Lives in … Continue reading Turning Pro – Day 7
This is the sixth day in a series of posts for Desk’s digital book-club pick, “Turning Pro: Tap Your Inner Power and Create Your Life’s Work” by Steven Pressfield (Open Library). The series begins here. Today I read from “The Amateur will be Ready Tomorrow” to “Rosanne Cash’s Dream” on … Continue reading Turning Pro – Day 6