Frustration + Inspiration
From Michael Ian Black's blog yesterday (I love him):
"If all the birds died tomorrow, I probably wouldn’t even notice. At some point somebody would mention that there was no more birdsong. I would say, 'I didn’t notice because I’ve been inside.' Then I would go back to not doing whatever I was not doing."
I get this.
And there's nothing I can add to that, that won't turn this into a depressing post. But yeah. I get this.
For the last several months, I've had trouble writing. There's been this strange . . . disconnect. I can't get new words down on the page. There are all of these beautiful sentences and ideas and scenes floating through my mind, but it's as if a switch were flipped. I can't grab a hold of them. I can't turn them into tangible words. I can't write down what's in my head.
It's frustrating and maddening and embarrassing. And it makes me feel like everything is over before it began. Which I know is untrue. But still.
The thought persists.
I'd hoped that NaNoWriMo would be a good kick, that it would FORCE me out of this hole. But let's take a look at my current graph, shall we?
That's me, not winning. My mustard-colored line is parked at 2,373 words. That's only 706 words more than the DAY ONE goal.
Right now, it would be easy for me to give up. To quit. To convince myself that there are better, more important things for me to do (or not do) this month. But you know what?
I'm not quitting.
I am going to win.
It will just take . . . a few adjustments.
In a recent blog-comment conversation, Corinne Bowen recommended Heather Seller's Chapter After Chapter. I'd never heard of it before, so I popped over to Amazon. I was expecting to find another basic how-to-write manual, but instead I discovered it's about a how to have a writing life.
A subtle difference, but an important one. It's also something I haven't encountered before — in book form, nor in my own life.
Staying motivated is tough.
Staying in your chair and writing every day is tough.
Staying in love with your idea is tough.
Heather's book is the first I've seen that hasn't just said, "It's tough for all of us." (A good thing to know, but something you'll read often. Like here on my blog.) She explains why it's hard, and how we can make it easier. No magic wands. No crazy diets. Just a solid understanding and consideration of the problems attached with living the LIFE of a writer, and how we can help ourselves overcome them.
The wretchedness of the Second Novel. The disbanding of critique groups. The feeling of failure after success.
This book would be good for beginners, but I think it's even better for writers like myself. Perhaps we're a little (a very little) further down the path, but now that it's actually our career . . . how do we keep this up? Now that something is expected of us — and, more importantly, now that we expect something of ourselves — how do we stay in love with the process? How can we keep it FUN?
This book has turned on light bulbs and flashlights and chandeliers. I have hope again.
[I wish I could take you out for coffee and vegan treats as a thank you, Corinne!]
So . . . it's an uncomfortable realization, but I'm growing out of NaNoWriMo. I don't need it for what I used to need it for (finishing a first draft), and it's difficult to give it the full attention it deserves with several other projects already underway. This might be my last year.
But I'm not quitting.
Remember how I mentioned adjustments would be required to finish? I've decided to use NaNo for what I DO need it for — to help me fall in love with writing again.
I've decided to stop writing this year's novel as a beginning/middle/end draft. I'm not happy with writing mind-blowingly terrible stories anymore. But I AM happy when I have the courage to squeeze out a new scene, or even a moment in a scene, that feels real.
So I'll write scenes. And when I can't write a scene, I'll write a paragraph. And when I can't write a paragraph, I'll interview my characters. Find out what they're thinking. And if they don't want to talk to me? I'll brainstorm.
Hopefully, when this is over, I will have found my confidence again. And when it's time to tackle Third Novel in a serious way next year, I will have a solid (50,000 word!) base to stand on.
Am I dreaming? Of course.
Do I think this is impossible? Of course not.
And because I'm feeling inspiration-happy, here are two more things that sparked my creative excitement this week:
Number One = Thom Yorke's recent Echoplex show
What I wouldn't give to have been there! I want to crawl into Thom's brain and watch it buzz and pop. He is SO talented.
Thom Yorke makes me glad I'm not a professional musician, because if I were, I wouldn't be able to listen to him without experiencing excruciating bouts of jealousy. Instead, I get to enjoy.
Number Two = Glee
I'm a Glee newbie, and I'm happy — and surprised! — to report that it lives up to the hype. Here are a few reasons to consider tuning in, if you already don't:
(1) Fabulous ensemble cast. I love shows with a lot of characters — so many opportunities for great storytelling. And I appreciate how the teachers and students are equally interesting. Television is often guilty of having cool teens but flat adults, or vice versa. Definitely not the case here.
(2) Jayma Mays' wardrobe. Not quite as fab as Anna Friel's on Pushing Daisies (NO ONE has a better wardrobe than Chuck), but cute in similar monochromatic sort of way.
(3) The music, of course. I'm generally not a fan of musicals (there are a few exceptions like Sweeney Todd, Moulin Rouge!, Dr. Horrible), but the exuberance and talent of the cast — ohmystars, how amazing is Amber Riley as Mercedes? — makes it impossible for me not to grin and hum along.
FUN. It's just FUN. (Even when it's making me cry.) Definitely the best show I've seen on television this year.
Oh! And . . .
(4) Joss Whedon is directing an episode!
Phew! What's inspiring you right now?
And if you're doing NaNoWriMo, how's it going?