It has been quiet on this little corner of the blogosphere (if its a sphere, can this be a corner of it?) lately, and I apologize. The real reason for the silence is that I was expending much of my writing energies on writing the first draft of a novel. I realize now that when I “finished” that first draft on August 31, it came as a big surprise to many people. The conversation usually went like this:
Other person:You finished it already?
Me:Yup (display of excited muppet-arms overhead)
Other person: look of skeptic disbelief
Me: continue to display muppet-arms
Other person: Put your arms down
Me: Sorry. I was doing the National Novel Writer’s Month Camp (it’s a program run by the Office of Letters and Light). I kinda finished it. My goal was to write 50,000 words in a month. I got the basic plot line down and fleshed out the characters.
Other Person: Wow. How long is 50,000 words?
Me: Mine came out to be 84 pages single spaced (12 pt Times font), so it would be roughly a 188 page novel. Think Brave New World or The Sun Also Rises or The Great Gatsby.
Other Person beginning to look bored: I don’t think I’ve ever written 50,000 words in my whole life.
Me: Sure you have! Think of all the text messages you write, and all of the emails you send.
This is where I generally disengage the conversation or try to steer it back to my writing, because I am a self-centered fool. Also, I am a little tired of having the writing pep-talk with adults that I used to have with my students. (This refers to the final two lines of the conversation above. Writing is important. Grammar is important. Learn it and use it. You write ALL THE TIME, you just don’t consider it writing because it’s not a novel or a blog or an essay for school, but you should consider it writing because other people have to suffer through your horrid grammar and spelling.)
Back to my novel and why I brought it up. First of all, that’s really fun: “My novel.” It just rolls off the tongue and off the tips of my fingers as I type it. I may never publish this thing but I will definitely be talking about it forever. I give my friends and family exactly one year before they can begin beating me about the head when I bring it up.
No honestly, the real reason I wanted to write about it is because I feel like I cheated, somehow. I sat down and got a basic sketch in a month. Don’t get me wrong, no one would want to publish this story in its current state. (Think of the nerdy teen before the cool girls get her to the mall. She needs her hair straightened, serious make-up, and perhaps some caps on her teeth as well before we can even get to the cool clothes.) At the same time, looking back, it all felt so easy. Yeah, I sat down hour after hour and really charged through some painful writing. There were times that I found myself crying in the coffee shop where I chose to do my work, although this probably comes as no surprise to some of you– Teary McGee, that’s me!
But there were other times when I felt myself slip into The Zone– not the creepy fad diet, but the place that yogis and runners and artists talk about where work just comes to you and through you. This is the place in the run when you don’t realize you’re running, you’re just smiling and looking at stuff and your feet have taken over for you. This book wrote itself in many ways. I know that’s cliche to say, but its the truth– that’s the reason it is a cliche. I could feel years of training, formal and informal, coming through as I was writing. My creative writing classes in high school and college as well as the last 30 years of reading or having been read to was all turning into a creative experience, and boy, did it feel good.
And now the fun part begins. I have put together this ugly dress, and now I get to make it into the ball gown or tuxedo or superhero costume or whatever it is that it really is supposed to be. I am going to rip open the seams and re-align the fabric and stick a button on here and weave in a new pleat there. Eventually, there will be something I can take down off the mannequin and wear out in the world. And if not, then maybe I’ll just give it up to Goodwill.
Here is my official badge, proving that I am a “winner” of the NaNoWriMo Camp this year. You can’t get one of these unless you win by writing 50,000 words or more. It’s kinda like a gold star– for big kids. Behold!