I am the kind of person who really loves a challenge. I am also the kind of person that likes to inform people what kind of person I am. I have to fight that impulse. I’ve found that those sort of declarations pigeonhole me. And I’m not overly fond of pigeons.
I am the kind of person who really loves a challenge. I am also the kind of person that likes to inform people what kind of person I am. I have to fight that impulse. I’ve found that those sort of declarations pigeon hole me. And I’m not overly fond of pigeons.
The point is this: in November, I wrote 50 THOUSAND words. Every day, I wrote words. Sometimes a couple hundred, if that was all I could muster. Sometimes a couple thousand (there were word counts to be met, after all). And most of them are utter garbage.
It’s a shitty first draft. But that’s okay!
My ability to press on in the face of the fact that much of what I wrote was utterly terrible was a direct result of what Justina Ireland said to me at an Epic Reads author talk (which was fortuitous because I don’t usually attend author talks–which is a little odd for a bookseller, but there it is). And, okay, sure she didn’t say it directly to me. But she said it and I was there, so it still counts. When the moderator asked Justina Ireland who reads her first draft, she said (and I’m paraphrasing here): Nobody reads my first draft. It’s shit. It goes straight in the trash, and I start again.
In the middle of my 50K words, when a discernible plot was nowhere to be found, I wanted to quit. I wanted to quit getting up at 5:15 every morning. I wanted to quit pouring memories and made-up stories onto the page. I wanted to quit trying to create characters with depth and tenderness and flaws. And I only pressed on because I thought, So what if I have to throw it all away? I’m working at making something here.
Making something seemed important to me. Because if you ask me how I define myself, I will say writer every time (although sometimes it’s just quietly in my head instead of outloud). I identify as a writer even more than as a bookseller, even though I have a brick and mortar bookstore that I adore and am utterly grateful to be able to own and run. Being a writer is in the fiber of who I am.
Before NaNoWriMo started in November (I read very little in November, for obvious reasons), I’d been reading Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert. I’m charmed by the way she just insists, over and over again, in ways both folksy and straightforward that either make me laugh or make my heart ache (sometimes both), that we are all creative people. That creativity–and living a creative life–is our birthright. She’s so convincing that I believed her, in that surreptitious way that belief can actually change a person’s life and their behaviors.
So, basically, I showed up and wrote every day in November because of two women, both published authors–which some people call real writers, although I’m pretty sure I’m real even if I am still unpublished–put thoughts and words out into the world that made me believe I owed it to myself to keep showing up, no matter how messy things got in the middle.
And something is working, because I definitely went to sleep last night thinking (joyously) that I didn’t have to write today. And I felt free and glad. And then I spent some time with Big Magic this morning, and I had my coffee. Then I felt an undeniable itch: I actually wanted to write something. It felt necessary. Because that’s what writers do. They put words on a page. They practice. They write again. and again. and again.
So, I’m writing again.