I am weak. I hide it, I swallow it and ignore it. I cry shamefully, embarrassed even in my loneliness, spurred by irrational signals from my brain and surroundings. They don’t make sense, these bouts of uncontrollability.
So I learned a few lessons this week:
1. If you stay away from your story for a whole day it is so much harder to ignore the voice in your head, that tells you it is OK to take a break from writing. That watching an episode of Vampire Diaries is absolutely fine instead of plonking your ass into the chair and strapping your fingers to the keyboard.
2. If you stay away from your story for a whole day it is so much harder to get back into the heads of your characters. They get all upset and insulted and then they turn their backs and sulk in the corner instead of whispering in your ear all the fricking time.
3. If you do throw away a whole day you just have to GET THE FUCK BACK UP ON THAT HORSE, or it will ride off without you.
We celebrated my daughters birthday this friday and saturday. I took friday off, telling myself that I could manage organising the whole party thing, shop, cook and clean and still have hours left over to write. And I was right.
But the thing about having lots of time is that I tend to squander it. Friday rolled around. I gave myself 1½ extra hours of sleep, got up, drove husband and daughter to work and school. Came home. And instead of doing the right thing and write my ass off for an hour or so before going shopping, I told myself I deserved a little time off to watch a little VD. Highschool Vampire Drama. It’s a slippery slope I tell you. Later I shamed myself into writing a measly 5-600 words, before allowing myself another episode.
When the last of a gaggle of 11-year-old girls had gone at 9.45 pm I was beat. Went to bed. And got up late. Ignored the voice in the back of my head telling me I had to get up and write something. Tucked myself under the covers with the Ipad and watched another episode before a new round of cooking and guests began. When I went to bed saturday I still hadn’t put a single word on paper.
So when I got up this morning my nice little 2500 word lead was gone.
Let me tell you, that is really bad for morale. My little spreadsheet of daily written words, is now full of red squares and more :-(‘s than I like. Positive reinforcement has left the building baby. So I named today Get-Back-On-The-MF-Horse day. And my backside hurts and it feels like I have dragged words out of my brain by force. And though I am ahead in the word count again I still feel a little guilty and wasteful to have thrown away my nice little lead just to watch television.
2756/18086 (31914 to go)
I should post the stats for the other days. But I won’t. I’ll just pretend it’s never happened.
November madness is starting. And by this I don’t mean NaNoWriMo. I mean the insanity of November in general. I normally don’t plan things for my weekends. I probably only have set-in-concrete plans for 10 of years 52 weekends. Apparently those ten weekends all occur in November. My stress levels are off the charts.
Last year around this time I took a course in stress management, and learned some of the physical symptoms of stress and what stress does to your body. One thing is your memory centers shrinking when confronted with stress. And I am suffering badly. Normally I can juggle a large number of requests from co-workers and bosses, commitments and appointments. But now I have to write note after note to myself to remember even the smallest thing.
Not for the first time I wish NaNoWriMo was NaMaWriMo or NaFeWriMo.
But to be fair on myself, it is going pretty well. I write 2-3 times a day, I am over target and if I keep up this pace I hit 50000 with a week to spare. GO ME!
Stats for the day
Words written: 2334/12838 (37162 to go)
To hell with the other stats. This is what matters.
I don’t know if I can call it a pattern three days into NaNoWriMo, but I can definitely say I am trying to make saner writing habits this year. I figure if I force myself to do this I might as well try and do it so I actually still want to write once December roll around.
To this end I have made two rules/survival strategies for myself and my story, oh well to be honest I have made more, but two that so far, three days in, seem to work. (I am currently successful in my No-going-back rule as well. But.. been-there-done-that. I am not holding my breath for that to keep being successful throughout November)
First rule/strategy was inspired by a post by Justine Larbalestier (here) (found via the Scrivener Facebook page) where she explains her small word count approach. Many of her reasons ring true, so I have made a deal with myself only to expect 700 words every time I sit down to write. I write in the mornings and evenings, and sometimes I manage to cram in a slot in the afternoons as well. If I aim for and manage 700 words twice a day I will not be catastrophically behind on words, and if I manage 3 rounds a 700 words a pop, I am automatically ahead. So far it works. I aim for 700 and usually run cold around the 950 word mark. Perfect. I do better than expected, I meet the daily target and cut the risk of self recriminations in half. Yay!
Rule number two. Each session starts a new scene. It might read disjointed and hectic, unfinished, but so far it has kept me from getting stuck on small details. A rule still in early developmental stage, but for now it is fun and easy.
Stats for the day
Words written: 2209/6514 (43486 to go) (Edit: realized the structure of this stat thing made it seem like I have been writing an increasing amount of word each day. Edited to reflect the daily/overall word count. )
Cups of coffee consumed: 2
Hours spent staring at the screen and/or procrastinating and/or “researching”: 2.
Naps taken: 0
Tired! Bags under my eyes. Wanna sleep.
Stats for the day
Words written: 4305 (45695 to go)
Cups of coffee consumed: 2
Hours spent staring at the screen and/or procrastinating and/or “researching”: Too many to count.
Naps taken: 0
Warning: If you tire easily of inane, irrelevant nonsense turn away now. Go take a nap, hug your significant other, go out have fun, enjoy what there is to be seen of the sun. I’ll just sit here, cooped up in my little overcrowded mess of an office, surrounded by weird things like trash, headphones, teddy bears, forgotten coffee cups and stacks of notebooks with abandoned stories. I’ll be doing NaNoWriMo.
What I need to learn every damn November, over and over again, is that on the strike of midnight, when October transitions into November, the world shifts, from regular run-of-the-mill days with lazy-ass weekends in between, to middle-of-the-night alarms, to workdays spent juggling the boss’s expectations of work effort with my droopy eyed tiredness, to hours squinting at the screen hoping some miracle will happen and this story will actually write itself.
Not unlike how a new mother forgets the pain of delivery once the baby is placed upon her chest, I have spent the past year forgetting the force of hateful self-recriminations and the whirlpoon of weird characters and plots in my head.
I have whinged and complained, I have pulled my hair out by the handfuls in frustrated preparation yes, but really, I forgot the total lunacy of getting up at 4 in the morning to wrestle an hour of writing time out of my day before going to work. I forgot how disjointed my writing gets when I try to actually write more than a couple thousand words of ONE story. I forgot it all.
So now its time to relearn.
Stats for the day
Words written: 1800 (48200 to go)
Cups of coffee consumed: 3
Hours spent staring at the screen and/or procrastinating and/or “researching”: 1½
Naps taken: 1
I’ve been pretty certain about one thing all year. That I wouldn’t be doing NaNoWriMo come November.
There are lots of reasons why:
1. My November is always full of social events. My daughter’s birthday for one, which means at least two parties, one for her class mates and one for family, to cook and clean for. Then there’s my brother’s birthday, the annual christmas party at work bla bla bla. This suck up most of my weekends, which I need to play catch-up with my word count.
2. My husband’s acting hobby takes over the first weekend of November as well, making me all stressed and frustrated because I want to support him and go to see his play, but I really, really need to shut myself into a tiny dark space and plonk away at rattling keyboard keys. His acting thing also means that I am pretty much solo parenting the week leading up to the premiere, which makes me guilty and semi-angry because I am sleep deprived and cranky and not at all an awesome, fantastic mother.
3. The third reason is probably the most compelling. I suck at tossing words haphazardly on the page. I always start out great, I’ve got a great premise, I’ve got an inkling about where I want my story to lead, I’ve got characters inhabiting every little corner of my obsessed brain. I get the first 15.000-25.000 words down with relative ease and then my inner editor, the devil incarnate, starts throwing temper tantrums. My plot stinks, my characters suck, I don’t know shit about the things I am trying to write about. my story is boring, I explain too much, I don’t explain enough. I know this is normal, and I know all those wonderful amazing authors out there who do this full-time, part-time or whatever, struggles with this too, and I know they all tell you to expect the first draft to be utter shite, and that it doesn’t matter, JUST FINISH THE THING. I know they are right. But instead I limp across the finishing line, exhausted and fed up, only to dump the 50.000 words of unfinished shite, down the canyon of Lost Stories.
Then I don’t write for a month.
Every year I vary my approach to NaNoWriMo’ing hoping that it’ll change things. I start with a detailed story plan, I start cold, I try making my NaNo novel up of 30 intertwining flash fictions or I switch my writing to Danish instead of my prefered English. Nothing really changes the experience. So earlier this year I decided to spare myself the headache, the frustrations, anger, self-doubt and sleep-deprived suck-fest, and just ignore the event all together.
And now, with exactly 3 weeks to spare, I am plotting my NaNo Novel.
I blame you, Chuck Wendig! You are lovely and all, but, right now, you are one massive pain in the ass.