It’s That Time!

It’s that time!  By that time, I mean NaNoWriMo time, of course.  After all, I announced my intention to take part when I started my blog last November.

I should be writing by now, as it’s 20 minutes past midnight here.  I was supposed to have my dishes done, eaten something, and taken a shower by now.  I was also supposed to be dressed in my writing costume, candle lit, and tea by my side (I recently developed a writing ritual to cue my mind into the fact that it’s time to write).  Instead I am writing a blog post for the first time in months.  Procrastination is a wonderful thing isn’t it?

The good news is I signed up a few days ago and I have some steadfast, wonderful writing buddies.  There’s Mr. Wonderful, who has been outlining his novel for well over a year, but who hasn’t written a word, so I’ve roped him in with me so he can get a start.  I might be procrastinating because a part of me doesn’t want to start until he gets home from work.  There are some wonderful people I’ve been introduced to by the threads, and a couple of my lovely fellow bloggers.  If any of the rest of you are playing and want another writing buddy, feel free to find me by looking me up by the same name I use here.

Now, a completely meaningful tangent (I promise):

Pre-kindergarten, I used to envy my siblings.  You see, my siblings got to go to school, and one of the best things about school, besides the fact that theirs’ made them a birthday cookie every year, was that it was the mystical far away place that taught children to read and write.  I had somehow, even at this young age, and probably due to my mother’s influence, picked up on the idea that words were some of the most important, beautiful things ever, and that knowing them would lead to big, special things.  Many children draw, but I used an incredible amount of scrap paper scribbling straight lines of cursive e’s and pretending that I was writing stories.

When I was six, my teacher told us all to write an essay on what we were going to be when we grew up.  I sat, petrified by the concept of the monumental task of deciding what I was going to be when I grew up.  Something about how the task was presented led me to believe that whatever I decided now, I would be stuck with forever.  What if I chose the wrong thing?  I watched all of my other classmates blissfully announcing that they were going to be firemen, or police officers, or ballerinas, and got more and more anxious.  Finally my teacher stopped in front of me and asked what I wanted to be, and suddenly it hit me, “I’m going to be a writer!” I blurted out.

A few short hours later, in the grocery store, my mother asked me how the day went, and I told her that I’d decided what I wanted to be when I was big.  I repeated my earlier declaration.

“…but you can’t be a writer,” my sister interjected, “I’m going to be a writer, and I decided first.”

“You can both be writers,” my mother told us when I became visibly crestfallen, probably thinking that one of us would probably change our minds at some point and it would be a non-issue anyway.

I think she underestimated our tenacity and passion, but she was right about one thing: this year my sister and I are Nanowrimo buddies.  I wish her the best of luck and wonderful discoveries and fortitude.  Most of all, I wish her joy in her story, because being lucky enough to read some of her earlier works, I know she has what it takes.

Best of luck to the rest of you, too!

Action

My last four posts can be summarized as follows:

  1. I love writing, and what do you know?  I have this idea for a novel that demands to be written.
  2. I’m a perfectionist; rather than using this drive to work on improvement, I use my perfectionism as an excuse to put things off, because whatever I do, my efforts will never live up to my ridiculous expectations.
  3. As a result of point number 2, I rarely do the things I really want or need to do.
  4. End result: life is messy.  The novel is neglected for long periods of time, my apartment is in shambles, etc.
  5. After surveying said mess, I manufacture lists of excuses and justifications for why it is perfectly acceptable that I haven’t done any of the things I know I ought to be doing.
  6. I am tired of all of the above foolishness.   I have no one to blame but myself.  Therefore, I shall take action!

Actions I’m taking to improve my writing, as well as improving the quantity and frequency are:

  • Starting this blog and promising that I’ll write three posts a week.  As far as this week is concerned, I’ve done it!
  • A couple of months ago I entered a short story contest with the first short story I’d written since high school.  I didn’t win, but I did meet a lot of other inspiring writers who are brimming with advice and encouragement.  Valuable connections, great insights, and wonderful critiques.  I am thoroughly in love.
  • Through my charming short story group, I learned about National Novel Writing Month.  I didn’t bother looking up what NaNoWriMo was all about until almost the end of the month, however.  One opportunity missed for the year, at least as far as formal participation goes.  The great news is that missing out doesn’t matter!  I can apply the concept on any month any time that I want.  Yes, it would be nice if I had a bunch of fellows racing alongside me with all the support, advice, and encouragement that implies.  I just don’t see why I can’t make a goal to write 50,000 words on any month I choose.  One of these months, very soon, I will.  NaNoWriMo sounds like a fantastic idea for someone like me in the sense that the only reasonable way to reach 50,000 words is to put quantity on a higher pedestal than quality.  I’m convinced that the best way to surmount my perfectionistic tendencies is to allow myself to write garbage.  Unlike most garbage, though, shall I throw it away?  Of course not!  I’m going to go over my writing, find what is worth recycling, and rework my garbage into art.  Honestly, if writing a novel often requires multiple drafts, what is wrong with the first draft being outright terrible?  Logical answer: absolutely nothing.  At least something has been written, at least there will be progress.  Next year I will participate in NaNoWriMo, but if I have my way, I’ll already have done something similar of my own volition more than once.
  • Goal: I will finish chapter 12 by Sunday, pull Safran (main character of novel demanding to be written) out of her rut, and stop using her as an excuse for why I cannot write.  I will also stop fostering the belief that I cannot write without her.  Promise: I will provide an update.
  • I am also writing poetry and short stories, experimenting with writing styles and genres other than the ones I typically dabble in, and making an effort to read large amounts of amateur and professional writing in those usually unexplored areas.  Exactly why I am doing this and why I believe such efforts are helpful is being reserved for another blog post.  So long as I don’t have any plans for submitting the pieces I write, I will post them on the blog.  Any helpful commentary* is appreciated.
  • I’m NOT editing this post.

*I notice that I have some views, followers, and comments now.  Welcome, and thanks for stopping by!  Some of the commenters may have noticed that my comments are being moderated.  Although it might take me a day or two to approve comments, I will only delete or refuse to approve commentary that is spam or that directs hate at another commentator or group.  Hate or disapproval directed at me or my writing, however, is, with rare exception, permitted; I do reserve the right to remove comments should I have reasonable suspicion that said commenter is trolling.  Otherwise, I welcome critiques of both the negative and positive variety.

Blogs, Perfectionism, and You Know What, Screw it Already…

I’m having difficulty with the concept that I have a blog.

It seems as if everyone has a blog these days, and by everyone I mean every person who has semi-regular access to the internet.  Some of those people have more than one blog, and apparently even goldfish can reserve a little space of their own.  After viewing various webpages, I might be a wee bit convinced that the other side has access to the world-wide web.  There’s some questions I’d like to ask those posthumous bloggers, so if you’re out there…

With so many others for company, I shouldn’t feel weird at all about this blogging thing, right?  I do feel odd, though, all looped up and knotted inside, though I’m about as anonymous as anyone can reasonably be, and I’m not nursing any high expectations of becoming famous overnight (or at all).  Am I worried that some stranger on the internet is going to laugh at me?  Be bored silly by my dull, self-serving diatribes?

I don’t think that’s the problem…although maybe it is part of it in the sense that I am a straight up, frozen in fear lest I do something that isn’t perfect kind of person.  I don’t know about other perfectionists, but my obsession with everything being done just right means that I very rarely get anything done at all.  If I don’t try, I don’t have to worry about failing.

Occasionally there is something I care so much about that, after a long serious pep-talk and a bracing cup of coffee, I manage to actually dip my toes in.  A little.  Naturally, the end product of my efforts always seems less than satisfactory.  I was once the sort of person for whom failure meant “Try again.  Try harder.  You’ll show them…eventually,” but somehow I can no longer seem to muster the gumption.  Even if every single other being in the universe, or all the universes (hypothetically, aren’t there multiple universes as far as “we” know now?) agreed that I was the most brilliant thing since the Big Bang, I’d still feel like I didn’t quite measure up, and somehow that means I ought to just give up.

Thoughts such as these are the opposite of constructive.  I know that.  But.  Oh, yes, but.  Knowing is easier than doing or overcoming the shadowy beastie lurking in the back of my mind.  It doesn’t matter that not trying at all means that I’ll never get better and that, at the end of my pitiful existence, I’ll have no one to blame but myself for delaying doing the things I enjoyed because I wasn’t fantastic at them–yet.  Of course I was going to be fantastic at some point, because being fantastic would somehow, magically happen without me ever risking failure, or even worse, actually failing.  Then everything would be great, except that life doesn’t work that way, and I would look back and know that, much the same way I know it now, and I would wonder why I never did anything to change the disturbing contradiction between my knowledge and my actions.

Fortunately, there is something I care about enough to want to kick the perfectionist beast out of my head once and for all, and that something is a glorious novel that I could never, even in delirious daydreams, do justice to.  I’d still like to do better than I am doing, though.  Maybe part of that improvement is tossing myself haphazardly into the judgmental world and writing without wasting so much time thinking…and stalling.  Part of the perfection vice is procrastination, where I wait endlessly for the perfect phrase, plot, character, or idea to burst out of me–all of this somehow effortlessly, without practice, work, or even brainstorming.

Every November thousands of would-be or already novelists participate in an event called NaNoWriMo, where they attempt to churn out 50,000 words apiece in thirty days towards a novel.  I wish I had heard about this lovely program sooner; writing just to write, without being held siege by the naysayers of my mind, sounds glorious.  It is too late to play this year, at least, unless I plan on writing 50,000 words within the next four days.  I am going to take part next November, but until then let there be this blog and the goal of posting at least three times a week.

Blogging isn’t exactly the same, but it does get me writing.  About something.  Anything.  Regularly.  I *gulp* don’t really want to promise this, but at some point in the near future, this blog will be speckled with my first attempts at writing poetry and short stories in over a decade (or since school forced me to).  They will probably be awful, but I don’t care because I am going to get better.  Practice doesn’t actually make perfect, of course, but I’ll certainly have to improve this way faster than if I spend all my time lolling about on my duff.

I will not worry about sounding stupid or offending anyone, nor will I obsess about the misplacement of commas and the lack of apt metaphors.  I will not stop for any of these tiresome things, for though they are important, they are not the most important.  What is vital is simply getting started.