If you follow me on social media, you might be aware that I've been posting a lot lately on all of my outlets (facebook, twitter and instagram) about a word count and something called na-no wri-mo.
It's not as weird as it sounds! November is national novel writing month (thus the abridged Nanowrimo) and I'm participating for my 2nd time ever. When I first heard about this, I was in college, and in the middle of writing papers constantly for nearly every class. (I wrote papers like it was going out of style. My major had a heavy writing component, and I churned out work on what seemed like an every other day basis. I was always shocked when my roommates who had more math and science based majors agonized over writing ONE paper for their midterm or final. Just one. The entire semester. I still don't have any sympathy.)
Anyway, I heard about writing 50,000 words in a month for the sake of writing a novel in college, and I about fell out of my chair. Who in their right mind would do something like that?
Well, turns out, a few years later, me.
Last year, I felt like I was finally comfortable enough to really put the work in and write what I have been talking about writing for the past 2 years, only to sit down and agonizingly creep out word after word, only to hate it and start rewriting (and rewriting, and rewriting). I have a really strong voice that spans across all of my writing, and I just couldn't find myself in this text. It was like having a foreign non creative version of me write something that is at its core, intensely creative. It felt wrong.
Even though I had thought about this for months, and I had let it keep me up late at night imagining what could happen and how it could happen, everything seemed so fuzzy. I had a grasp on what I felt like could happen, but the who it was happening to, felt like a mystery. I couldn't write it. I was bitterly disappointed, and I shut up about writing because I felt like a failure.
Later either that year, or very early on in this year, I read "The Happiness Project" by Gretchen Rubin. Have you read this book? I really like it. Its like reading one person's science experiment, only much less dry, about deliberately trying to make their life more enjoyable, and therefore increasing their happiness. In it, she talks about her love of children's literature and quotes an essay that C.S. Lewis wrote on Children's Literature, titled, "On Three Ways of Writing for Children."
Feeling like this was up my alley, I looked it up hoping maybe to find it in a library nearby or an old copy on in a collection of essays on Amazon, and to my surprise, it was available on Google Books.
In it he describes how an editor asked him to elaborate on how he wrote, The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. And he confesses, that he's not entirely sure. That it just happened. What I found really interesting is that he says:
"One thing I am sure of. All my seven Narnian books, and my three science fictions books, began with seeing pictures in my head. At first they were not a story, just pictures. The Lion all began with a picture of a Faun carrying an umbrella and parcels in a snowy wood. This picture had been in my mind since I was about sixteen. Then one day, when I was about forty, I said to myself: 'Let's try and make a story about it.' " -- C.S. Lewis, Of Other Worlds: Essays and Stories, p. 42.
I felt relieved in a way I can't quite describe. First of all, because I shared something in common with C.S. Lewis (which was absolutely thrilling)-- the image of my main character literally popped into my head one day and wouldn't leave me (or the subsequent images that followed) alone. I didn't know who she was, or why it had come. It just did. Second, the bit about the amount of time between when he saw the image first, and when he decided to craft a story around it, was 24 years. I was not the only one who had ideas that just didn't settle immediately and declare themselves. I decided that I could wait a little longer to write what I wanted to write.
The only difference between this year and last year, is that I have a lot less pressure in my life, and that for the first time, I can hear my characters, some of them more clearly than others, in addition to seeing them. It's making the writing come along nicely, for which I am grateful.
And so, I am pushing forward. I am going to write 50,000 words, which now that I've gotten into it, I'm not sure that my whole story will be a nice neat 50,000. It could easily be longer. But then, it's only day three. (See my little widgets off to the side? They automatically update my word count and the calendar turns green when I've met my word goal for the day.)