Life, Writing

Writing Through It.

I’m by no means an expert when it comes to writing. I’m an avid devourer of books and the written word has been my religion for as long as I can remember. When I was growing up, friendless and shy, there were always books. My family wasn’t exactly affluent but books opened up a whole world of adventure and I went through books in only a few days.

My sixth grade teacher once told my mother he’d be surprised if I didn’t grow up to be a writer. I appreciate the compliment, but writing is a hard game to get into, especially when you have no real contacts in the industry. I’ve gotten by just fine running this blog, even sticking to something resembling a schedule at one point and time. Although my posts have been sporadic for the last couple months, I find myself drawn back to scribbling down my thoughts and then barfing them onto the internet. The only way you can call yourself a writer is to write, so that’s what I’m doing.

It’s no secret that I’m currently dissatisfied with my life. I’m tired of being a barista, a job I’ve been doing for about eight years. Without any formal education, it’s impossible to get jobs writing. Not that I can’t rectify that, I’m just not currently in a financial position to be considering the pursuit of higher education. That’s OK, I’ve made my peace with that for the time being. I find I’m happiest when I’m sitting at my computer, trying to find a way to translate the abstract thoughts and feelings that ricochet in my head into plain English. It’s a challenge. It’s an even bigger challenge to try to write a novel.

I’ve failed at NaNoWriMo two years in a row. The first year I did so spectacularly. I don’t think I wrote even one word, even though I had an idea and a bare bones outline. My writing buddy and I even avoided each other because neither of us had written and each had assumed the other had ground out a novel in the time we’d wasted. We both failed and celebrated our mutual failure. The second year, I managed to crank out just over 7000 words of the 50 000 needed to win the challenge. That’s OK too, because at the very least I had written more than the year before. I always afford myself a little breathing room considering the fact I have to work a full time job. I let the beginning of my novel stew in its own literary juices for about three months before deciding it was time to get back at it.

I’ve been marinating this story in my mind for the past few years, always feeling like it was bigger than anything I could create. But it was born from my own insomnia and my love for adventurous, dystopian novels, so who better to write it? So last week I fired up my computer and picked up where I left off.

I left off in the perfect spot for writer’s block to get its hooks in me. I didn’t know where to go next with the story. Having my main character wander helplessly in the woods, aided only by a map her dead father had left behind, was boring. No one wants to read about someone building campfires, fending off cold, and making their way through the forest. So I took a break, checked my Facebook, and generally fucked around on the internet before deciding to look up some tips on working through writer’s block. This article by the fabulous Chuck Wendig ended up being the kick in the ass I needed to get my story moving again.

The only way to get through writer’s block is to just keep writing through it. Editing and revising are what will end up shaping what my novel becomes but without the words, there’s nothing to be shaped in the first place. So I wrote through it. 

I hit just over 10 000 words, the most I’ve ever written for one thing. The short story I published on this blog is only about 5000 words, so this is double that and then some. I was terrified I would run out of story before making it to novel length, but I still have so much to tell. So many roads to travel to get my protagonist to her destination. And it’s exciting. Truthfully, it’s what’s getting me through my shifts at work, thinking about my characters and their motivations and ways to move the story along. When doing something mundane to pay the bills, it always helps to have something to look forward to. The point isn’t to get it published, necessarily, although once it’s done and edited and if the few people I’ve managed to talk into reading it deem it good enough, maybe I’ll pursue that. The point is to DO SOMETHING. I’ve been in such a goddamn funk since November and there’s still a lot of winter time left, so I need to distract myself.

I’ve found the best way to keep myself somewhat sane and motivated is to write through whatever’s happening.

Maybe my sixth grade teacher wasn’t wrong.

Confessions, Life

Game Of Numbers.

Fifteen. The number of years my father’s been languishing in an ornate box in the ground. That’s fifteen years of no hugs, no phone calls, an infinite amount of change. I have to assume he can see me and is watching as I stumble through life, making and repeating past mistakes before finally seeing the light, changing course, and making new ones. Fifteen years’ worth of decisions I had to make without his input. My mother has had to play two roles and weather my incessant questions about the man my father really was, the man I never had the chance to know. I was eleven when he died, peacefully in his sleep, and left me to wonder for the rest of my life. I have millions of questions I would ask if I could see him — are you proud of me? Am I doing this right? Do you approve? Who are you? What did you like? — the list is endless. Fifteen years of cherishing the same memories without the ability to create new ones.

Two. The number of years I haven’t self-injured. Not that the temptation hasn’t been there, the temptation to find something sharp and dig into my skin with it. But I haven’t. Two years I’ve kept the promise I made myself to do better, be better, and be nicer to myself. It’s also the number of guitars I have, beautiful guitars I’ve wrangled music from with my unsteady fingers. Eleven is the number of years I’ve played, six since the recording of my first EP.

Eighty-nine. The number of original songs languishing between the covers of a plain white binder. Each melody, every chord, and every lyric erupted from somewhere deep within me and splashed itself across the page. There’s a private story for every song, a layer underneath resonating with truth. Occasionally I’ll share the story when asked, but more often than not I’ll settle for the songs to be open to interpretation. It remains to be seen if they’ll ever be committed to recording. Each one brings up a new memory of the head-space in which I used to live. A darker place.

Four. The number of published articles I’ve written. Some better than others, but each one a part of me. I never thought I would make any money at all from writing, but occasionally I tell myself that maybe there’s something to this. Maybe there’s a reason I spent my entire childhood locked away in a world of books, using them as substitutes for the friends I didn’t have. Maybe my love of language and lust for the perfect sarcastic sentence isn’t all for naught. I tell myself that, and keep writing. Fifty-five is the number of blog posts I’ve published since starting this journey.

Thirty. The number of days in November, the month of NaNoWriMo. Say what you want about the quality of writing one can wrangle in such a small amount of time, but as long as it’s creative gasoline fueling literary fire, it’s a wonderful thing. I wonder if all writers are frightened procrastinators and think it might just be me, so next month I’ll be speed-writing the book I’ve been afraid to talk about. Not editing, not judging, just pouring out the story and characters that have been living in my head for so long. Setting them free, to live on the page before I go in with my editor’s knife and chop bits of them away to discard and trim the story.

One hundred twenty-four. The number of days since I last bought a pack of cigarettes and used them to slowly destroy myself. I’ve found new ways to tame the demons in the attic of my mind, using gum and tea to appease my oral fixation. I couldn’t even count the number of cups of tea I’ve consumed recently. Occasionally I’ll be doing something mundane like cleaning the bathroom at work and I’ll be hit by a wave of craving so big it could be classified as a tsunami. I wait, and it dissipates.

One. The number of lives I’ve been given, to spend however I choose. Do I choose to be afraid to seek that which fulfills me? Do I choose the banal over the spectacular? How many minutes will I waste on things that don’t matter to me, things that will never bring me joy, peace or knowledge? None. Beginning today.

There is no point living if the life is not one of my own design.