This month tapped me on the shoulder a bit ago. “Halloo,” it said. “Would you perhaps care to join me?”
I picture him looking a wee bit like the genie enumerating the rules of wishes in Aladdin — rather like the first picture here:
I decided to go with him. He seemed to know what he was doing in a stuffy sort of way, and he informed me in no uncertain terms that the month would require a certain amount of hard work. Little did he know, I had ulterior motives.
Is writing a fancy or a feeling? (Or a Ferrars…) I suspect for most of us, it begins as a little of both. Whether it’s a fit of inspiration as a young child or some burgeoning need as an adult, writers start out because of some nebulous drive to create.
My fancy began as a way to get the stories out. I felt them in my head, squirming around in there. Kind of squiggly things, stories. Like a worm behind your eye if you’re aware of them. If you’ve read my About Me page, you probably know that 9-year-old Emmie took a run at the world of science fiction. My idea was based on something I’d heard — that if you were to travel through space fast enough, you could go somewhere and return to Earth the same age, though everyone else would have aged and died. So I boarded a ship with my best friends from school (leaving all their names intact, but changing mine in a fit of narcissism to go with the inspiration) and we took off to explore foreign planets. I remember thinking quite clearly that they would return to Earth to find everyone they knew dead. Sadly, the work never got finished and though I kept hold of it in a miraculous feat of preservation through the 5-8 moves after we left Portland, I haven’t seen it since early high school. I stopped writing because of some unknown little feel for the admonition to write what you know — and I knew nothing about astrophysics or quantum mechanics.
Through middle school and high school, I wrote for class, and those were the most rewarding times I had with schoolwork. Somewhere around junior year, I began my first major attempt at a novel. This time it was fantasy, because I could write what I knew and share it with people who might know the same world even if they didn’t know they knew. That’s how I feel when I read my favorite fantasy — I knew that world was out there. It feels like home, familiar. The best authors connect with the subconscious worlds of us all.
Through all that fanciful feeling that spanned about a decade and a third, the thing I lacked was discipline. Even after I consciously admitted to myself that I wanted to write, it took a long time to admit to anyone else. I grew up poorer than poor, and I didn’t want to keep living like that. That meant college and a Real Job, and when I graduated from high school, Clinton had only been gone a couple years, and that was when university still worked that way. So I went to university and studied biology for a semester before switching to history. I often wonder what my life would have been like if I hadn’t had Dr. Bill Watson as my first college history professor. I had adored biology in high school and thought about being a research microbiologist, studying genes and DNA. My first bio professor at university was okay, but I already knew everything in the intro course, and I slept through it. Literally. That was my nap time. (Very, very rude in hindsight — but I couldn’t not go to class because I would fail, and I had learned all of the information two years earlier. Thanks, Mr. K.)
I began to write seriously, if tinged with a lot of naivete. Dunked in naivete, you might say. I kept my writing to myself and didn’t share it with anyone, afraid that someone would accuse me of a worthless fancy. Why I was afraid of that, I don’t know. And if you read what I wrote yesterday morning, you’ll know what came next.
The point of all this re-hashing of the past is this: all the fancy and feeling in the world won’t help achieve goals. Somewhere along that line of development and secretive writing between massive history papers, I created my very first Writing Goal. It was a simple one, and I didn’t think of how lofty or involved it was until much later.
I wanted to see my book in a cover on shelves. I wanted my name on the spine. I wanted to take the worlds and stories that squirm inside my head and get them out, in hopes that they existed in the minds of others as well. For all creative types, I think there comes a moment when we realize that all the creativity in the world is wasted if we lack one ten letter word.
That’s what NaNoWriMo is for me right now. It’s an exercise in cultivating discipline, to post here every day even if the time to hit my word count flits away on the breeze. It’s making a conscious effort to consistently devote my energies to that little goal of Book On Shelf. NaNo is the kick in the pants, but I know as the sun sets on each new day who is responsible for what comes next. It’s not you, gentle viewers. It’s me.
So this is how it’s going to work.
Step One: Ass in chair.
Step Two: Fingers on keys.
Step Three: Stories on paper.
Step Four: Make stories better.
Repeat until Book On Shelf.