Sunday, November 30, 2014

NaNoWriMo Winners, Congratulations on Self-Discipline

In my part of the country tonight, there's still time to finish the 50K-word novel and win the NaNoWriMo honor. National Novel Writing Month ends in about two hours on the East Coast, and certainly there are legions of chests bursting with appropriate pride for writing a novel in thirty days. Congratulations. I mean that sincerely though I didn't participate this year.

Despite it being a whipping boy for naysayers who call it a crap-fest, I believe the bones of the NaNoWriMo concept are good. It's an exercise in self-discipline, a necessary requirement for writers, one that usually is under-emphasized. Writers have to produce. In order to produce, they have to set goals and write on a regular basis. They should write every day. This is a stumbling point for many wannabe writers because it is so damn hard to do.

I am quite capable of explaining in agonizing detail the infinite (no exaggeration) ways in which things/life/distractions/people/natural disasters get in the way of my writing on a regular basis. Oh, hmm, how about, let's start with the easy stuff:

Housework (I cannot let my cat lick the dirty cereal bowls while I write, now can I?)
Mail (It may only come once a day and not on Sunday, but there's at least an hour of figuring out what to do with it.)
Repairs (My computer is flypaper to viruses; I must purge.)
Clutter (The very definition of my desk.)
Hairballs (See reference to cat in Housework.)
Blogging (I must write about why I'm not writing.)

Then there are the less obvious things that eat away at a writer's productivity. For me, something on the scale of small tragedy. Look away if you must, for these are not funny.

Death. (My husband died March 15.)
Loss of identity. (We were married for 20 years and together for 26. I spent more of my life with him than alone.)
Relocation. (By my choice, but nonetheless infused with hopes that didn't immediately materialize.)
Anxiety. (How do I become what I want to become, fashion a new life?)
Grace. (The state I am in, according to the grief counselor, therefore nothing else matters, including the writing.)

Please, do not feel sad for me. Feel encouraged tonight that scores of new stories were written this month by promising minds and that someday these books may find a way onto book shelves. I have hope my work will blossom again, too.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Writers Are Closet Narcissists

Give already. Write and you suffer your ego. Write and you long for attention. Write and you long to be on the New York Times bestsellers list. You ego-driven bastard, you.

The Mayo Clinic defines narcissism as a defined disorder: Narcissistic personality disorder is a mental disorder in which people have an inflated sense of their own importance and a deep need for admiration. Shall I raise my hand for all of us in the crowd? 

I've got to make a little room to accommodate my self-absorbed self (is that possible, two selves?). Without it, I am a lump of clay who wouldn't write a damn word. Because the flipside of the writerhood coin is the inferiority complex. Who is good enough here? Who, I demand to know? None of us. 

And all of us. 
Ego balm

Words are simple tools to deliver good, evil, and truth. Any person on the street can express an opinion or tell a story. It's a short trip to actually writing those verbalized ideas or thoughts down. Writers do -- in story form. We tell the tale, and by God, try to do it while entertaining the rest of you who never'll lift a pen.

Pens? Who uses those?

Sunday, November 2, 2014

How to Be a Writer, Part Two

Have I mentioned my love of words here before? Okay, since that's been established, let's get serious. How do you take that love and manifest it? Countless friends and acquaintances have shared with me that they, too, want to write a book. I may be one of the few writers who doesn't yawn, roll their eyes, or excuse themselves from the conversation when this unsolicited confession is proffered.

Of course, you want to write a book! Who wouldn't want to be an author? Authors are sexy, mystery, intellectual, filled with wanderlust. (Let me delude myself at least for a sentence.) How often do I hear the name Hemingway tossed about in literary conversations with non-writers? We all go through our Hemingway phase (if just in our heads, and I'm due), and then we realize, okay, that doesn't work.

Let me tell you, the grand idea for your book will take you a long, long way. It will cuddle you at night. It will occupy your thoughts through dinners, holidays, sex, walks, snowstorms. I say, let it. If you have an idea germinating, who am I to tell you with a large flourish of my hands and a dismissive toss of the head, you're delusional.

Follow your delusion for a while, because it might get your project started -- that big grand idea of a novel that sweeps readers from epic corners of the globe and back again with characters no less wonderful than a James Bond or Natty Bumppo or Holly Golightly. You won't know unless you try.

If you do start, the most important part is to reach the end. The hardest part of any writing project is, as you would suspect, the writing. If you can't write through to an ending, then you'll never have something to work with, throw in the drawer, stab with the butcher knife. Really, you won't have something to revise. You won't have a draft to obsess over for two, five, ten years and wonder if you've lost your sanity. (That's a major theme on my blog, if you're just now joining me.)

That book in your head? It's all in your head unless you write it. So why are you here reading what I've written when you have work to do? Good luck.