So you believe you can fly. All you have to do is flap your arms, and if you flap and flail hard enough, oh yes, and jump up and down, and tell yourself you can fly, perhaps for a brief moment, you’ll leave the ground. Just don’t try that stepping off the roof, okay?
There are those who believe everyone’s got a story to tell and a great book to write, just waiting to break out like a fever. “Take the leap,” they say, “let your words fly where they crackle and connect, illuminate and surprise.”
“Trust the process,” they say.
To those who wildly, desperately believe there’s a book they could write, if only they would sit down and write it, my advice is this: write it if you must. Write like the wind. Write your heart out. Write by all means. But don’t expect outright results just for the effort.
Writing fiction doesn’t pay that way. At least not for me. Believe me, I could write a book about not writing a book.
I don’t know what I was thinking when I signed on with a friend to NaNoWriMo. For those who don’t know, (it’s a good thing, indeed, not to know) NaNoWriMo stands short and cute for National Novel Writing Month, “30 days and nights of literary abandon.” The goal is to write 50,000 words, presumably in novel form, from scratch to finish in November.
“Let’s write laughably lousy yet lengthy prose,” the say, goading you on.
NaNo in a nutshell: your words will not be judged, but every word is to be counted and verified by a “web-based team of robotic word counters.” Bots! They’re out there. Counting words. Sounds creepy.
There are no readers in this marathon. So let’s not obsess over quality or clarity. Let’s party in coffee shops, chat online, write ‘til dawn, “mocking real novelists” who carry on far longer than 30 days to finish their work. According to the NaNoWhacko people, if you believe it’s a novel, then it’s a novel. And if you don’t believe, then what? At least you have 170 pages of nothing you can call a novel-in-the-works to throw into a drawer and never look at again.
Out of self-preservation, my “writing buddy,” my friend, the real novel writer, had the presence of mind to abandon the effort a week ago. Good for her. With three finished novels under her belt, she has a voice in the matter, knows that writing in the long run is not a 30-day sprint.
So what’s my story? Still a mystery, where I haven’t a clue. But I’m still slinging words, like so much hash, slogging it out. Because I said so, that I would do so, and by-god, I’m going to see it through.
Mercifully, the end is near. My NaNoWriMo mania will soon be over.
To date, I’ve poured nearly 46,000 aimless words into the effort. Four thousand words to go, and no novel in sight. Getting to the 50K has taken approximately 50 visits and revisits to a story that’s likely never to take wing. My attention to its detail is beginning to wane. As Thanksgiving weighs in on the week ahead, my focus drifts kitchenward, to the assembly of cookbooks, and recipes for stuffing, cranberries and pumpkin. There’s delicious reading and real work to be done. Multitasking, writing and cooking, like simultaneously tapping your head and rubbing your stomach . . . is near impossible, and bound to failure. And so I hasten to finish this NaMo thing. Setting myself free as a bird . . . this Thurday, long before the turkey browns, the last line will be written. That's a promise.
Photo: Writer's Block I. Credit: Drew Coffman via Flickr.