Saturday, October 17, 2009

Stretching the Writing Muscle

It's the middle of October. The weather is crummy, soccer is canceled, the house is (relatively) clean, and the kids are watching Saturday morning TV. Faced with a morning of no pressing matters or excuses to procrastinate further, I am at my laptop, surrounded by my writer's journal, my special pen, and my copies of No Plot? No Problem!, Creativity Rules, The Penguin Dictionary of American English Usage and Style and When Good People Write Bad Sentences. I just made a fresh pot of coffee.

And here I sit.

According to the countdown clock on the website, NaNoWriMo begins in 14 days, 16 hours, 21 minutes and 7 seconds. This time, I'm determined to win.

For those of you who have never heard of NaNoWriMo, it is essentially a writing marathon, with over 100,000 participants from all over the world sharing the goal of writing a 50,000 word novel (roughly the length of Brave New World) in 30 days. Quantity is encouraged over quality, which is why this is great for someone like me, whose crippling perfectionism keeps me writing the same chapter over and over, unable to move forward until every bit of suckiness has been fixed - which, of course, is never.

According to the NaNoWriMo webpage and the companion book No Plot? No Problem! it is okay to write a lot of crap. A first draft is supposed to be crappy - the idea is to get it written and worry about the editing and polishing later. With the November 30th deadline, there is no time to tinker; you just write as much as you can, as fast as you can, with your obnoxious internal editor stuffed in a box, padlocked into a second box, and jammed under the basement stairs behind all the Christmas decorations, not to be let out until January.

This will be the hardest part for me. Stephen King says to write your first draft "with the door closed" - meaning without concern for who is going to read it and what the response will be. Plagued with insecurity as I am with regard to my writing, my door has never been completely closed. I would rather write nothing than write something people might consider sucky - which is why my blog has morphed into a picture album over the last few years. Blogging is the epitome of writing with the door open - wide open - which is why I have so much respect for the people who have the courage to do it, and who do it well, while I flounder at it and finally give up.

But I'm blogging now, right? And you're reading it, and maybe it sucks, but that's okay. I'm just stretching. Finding all those kinks and tight spots I'd forgotten about, waking them up and stimulating the blood flow to them. In my previous attempts at NaNoWriMo, I didn't bother stretching first. I jumped right into the event, unprepared, and proceeded to fall flat on my face.

This year is different. Starting now with the warm-up stretches. I also have 4 amazing characters I care deeply about and am eager to let loose, and a rudimentary plot for them to follow. With one child in school and two homeschoolers who like to sleep late in winter, I have the potential for 2 uninterrupted hours of writing time after the morning school send-off. My hubby has promised to be supportive and helpful to help me find some evening writing time.

I also have a writing buddy in the house for the first time. Ethan, who is turning 11 next month, has decided to join me by participating in the NaNoWriMo Young Writers' Program. He has a lower word count goal and a cool workbook to help him plan and organize his book, but otherwise it is much the same for kids. Like the adult website, the kids' page has a variety of forums where you can meet and share ideas and encouragement with other writers, a place to upload your work to be counted, and a graph to track your progress. Remembering my own passion for writing that began at around his age will no doubt spur me on, and hopefully loosen my inhibitions enough to make it to the finish line this time.

Okay. That felt good. It reminded me of running or taking martial arts class - the first few minutes are the hardest, but if I push myself past the painful stretching and the first few minutes of the workout, it gets much easier from there. I'll try to spend the next two weeks limbering up for the big event which now starts in 14 days, 14 hours, 31 minutes, and 24 seconds.

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