Finally, or I’m Not Such a Lame Writer After All

You all know I have a love/hate relationship with NaNo and anyone who asserts that “real writers” write every day. I abhor the idea that “real writers” have discipline and can crank out a novel a year. Those tenets are judgment calls and patently not true. Or at least that’s what I tell myself. But even though I don’t believe that putting 1667 words a day to the page makes you a writer, at least not a good writer, I internalize those concepts. The idea that I’m a failure if I don’t get on the writing treadmill haunts me.

Until today.

This morning, while laying in bed [read as: being lazy on a Sunday morning], I read Storytelling, Slowed Down: On Writing Vertically which in turn pointed me to Gestation of Ideas: On Vertical Writing and Living. And an emotional light came on. I’m not such a lame writer after all. I have a process that works. For me. And I’m not the only one. Someone famous, someone considered a “real writer” wrote like I do.

Both articles point to a writing style used by Andre Dubus who cleverly, and eloquently, summarized my method of writing, long before I ever stated writing.

Dubus writes an idea in a notebook, and then leaves it alone: “I try never to think about where a story will go.” Planning is an act of control, and “I will kill the story by controlling it; I work to surrender.” Ever the Roman Catholic, Dubus first sees “characters’ souls.” Faces appear next, and that “is all I need, for most of my ideas are situations, and many of them are questions.” Only when Dubus sees the first two scenes is a story “ready for me to receive it.” Then he writes.

I don’t necessarily write an idea down, although I do have a small notebook that follows me around and has become a place for ideas about the story I’m working on.  But many times those ideas are left behind, replaced by other ideas as the characters develop in my head.

During NaNo last year, 2013, I tried to make myself write, and I did, write that is. But instead of creating, instead of enjoying the process, I wrote, and I was miserable. What I wrote was miserable. One night I wrote the requisite 1600+ words, and you know what happened? My character, Sinclair, walked around. For 1600+ words, my character wandered around noticing things. It was crap. Because I didn’t know him, because he hadn’t formed yet. [I stopped after that, BTW, didn’t even try to finish NaNo.]

My characters tend to, like Athena leaping fully formed from Zeus’ head, only reach the paper when they are sure they want to exists. I don’t force them into situations. I create the idea of them in my head, and then I let them decide what they want to be, where they want to go, how they want to tell their story.

Good, bad, or indifferent, my writing style is like that. Now I know that I write vertically.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA And I suspect many writers do the same even though most of us are afraid to admit it because modern thought says if you write every day you are “good” or “real”. I don’t make those judgment calls. I don’t hold myself up as a shining example of the “good”. And it infuriates me that many do. I’m a real writer, and I don’t want to fit in a box. I don’t want to be like everyone else. I don’t want my writing to be another clone.

If writing every day works for you, that’s great, but it doesn’t make you a better writer or more real of a writer than someone who doesn’t. Just sayin’.

I’ll leave you with a long passage from Nick Ripatrazone’s post, Gestation of Ideas: On Vertical Writing and Living:

The folly of horizontal writing is that it convinces writers that fiction writing operates on a production model. If they simply sit at the desk and pound out page after page, the story will come. That might be true, but Dubus argues that such forced work creates a lot of “false” fiction. Curiously enough, by seeking to undermine the stereotype that writing is the result of inspiration, writers have fallen for the other, no less romantic opposite: that writing is factory work, and daily devotion is rewarded with final drafts. Both approaches are magical thinking. Vertical writing is no less work, but it is better work, work at the right time. It requires patience in the willingness to wait for a story to feel ready to be written, as well as the attention and focus necessary to inhabit the story once gestated.

Dear NaNoWriMo – It’s not You. It’s Me.

So far, I’ve written almost 6K words this month.

In NaNo terms, I suck.  I should have at least 30K words written by now, but life has gotten in the way.

Not only did my laptop develop a nasty virus, but my beloved Miata, now my second car, thank goodness, died, literally. It emits not a single sound when I turn the key.

This week I have spent numerous hours with my new friend Norton in Safe Mode and have since conquered the nasty Powelik Trojan, but the Miata is still quiet. My car savvy friends–my engineering degree involved fluid dynamics, so I can tell you why it drives fast, but not why it won’t start–anyway, my car savvy friends think it could be a freaky battery problem or something as simple as a burnt fuse. I don’t know. I haven’t had time to figure it out because on top of car and laptop problems, work has been an absolute pain in the hiney.

The fact that I wrote nearly 200 words today, besides this blog post, is an accomplishment, at least in my world.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASo NaNo, as much as you remind me of my ex-husband or maybe because you remind me of my ex-husband, I’m breaking up with you. I love you, and I absolutely hate you. I always thought you would be able to lift me up, but I know now that I was putting too much responsibility on you. I thought that every minute away from you would be an unbearable misery, but you know what? It’s not. Real life, for me, has to take precedence.

I’m okay being alone. Really.

And I know you’ll be better off without me. Without me bringing your numbers, your statistics down.

What can I say? It’s not you. It’s me.

(Actually, you can think whatever you like to feel better about yourself. I don’t care. What I’ve said isn’t a hundred percent true, but I’m okay with you making me the bad guy.)

And to be kind’ov honest, I never really loved you that much anyway.

NaNoWriMo: A Love/Hate Story

IMG_20140608_111859Today, I wrote almost 500 words.

But for NaNoWriMo, what with it’s snarky, guilt inducing charts readily displaying my stats, I’ve fallen behind. I’m a slacker. I suck. In eight days I’ve yet to write five thousand words, while I should have 13k+ words written by now.

And– and if I keep going at this rate, it’ll be January 23rd before I reach the 50k word goal.

You know what I say? I say, fuck that.

The words I wrote today are good words, words that I’d be willing to show anyone–in fact I just might post them here. I didn’t just sit and write a bunch of crap so that I could fill in a little box that says “Today you wrote 1667 words. You’re a superstar.” I wrote a decent piece of prose.

So why even participate? you ask. I participate because it helps motivate me to write everyday, to not let other get in the way. I use NaNo. Yes, I do. I use it and abuse it, and I absolutely won’t respect it in the morning.

I only wish other writers went into it with this spirit. Because what I hate most about NaNo is that it gives writers the hope that they can write a novel in a month. They can’t. If they are very, very–very–lucky, on November 30th they will have a shitty first draft. And even then, if the person just sat and wrote 1667 words each day, with no real though on style/structure/voice/quality, the 50k words they end up with might not even be good enough to re-work. It might be better to just start over and write the story again. From scratch.

So I love NaNo for motivating me, for nagging me even if it does get very condescending about my worth as a writer if I can’t produce 50k words in a month. Yes, I do tend to let others, including a snarky graph, define my self-worth, but then I suspect others besides me do as well.

And I hate NaNo for implying that quantity is more important than quality.

~ o ~

I’ll leave you with an alleged conversation held with James Joyce:

“I’ve been working hard on [Ulysses] all day,” said Joyce.

“Does that mean that you have written a great deal?” I said.

“Two sentences,” said Joyce.

I looked sideways but Joyce was not smiling. I thought of [French novelist Gustave] Flaubert. “You’ve been seeking the mot juste?” I said.

“No,” said Joyce. “I have the words already. What I am seeking is the perfect order of words in the sentence.”

 

 

NOLA vs. NaNo

Yes, I’m sitting in my room in the Vieux Carré [that’s the French Quarter of New Orleans, for those of you who are uninitiated]. And I’m writing. Yes, I am. I got up a bit earlier than usual, which wasn’t an easy feat considering I spend last night amongst the partiers on Bourbon Street.

IMG_1134So far I have written 1100+ words, pretty good words, not just words where my character wanders around for several pages doing nothing of interest. Personally, I consider this writing to be exceptional considering I have a headache of Herculean proportions — after a Mango frozen something and several Hurricanes, my last drink was a Hand Grenade, and right now, it feels a bit like one went off in my cranium.

Of course my opinion of the quality of what I wrote for NaNo and for this post is subject to change tomorrow or next week. But for now, I think I’ll go watch the Georgia/Florida game and have a Hurricane, or three, with lunch. Go Dawgs!!