Friday, November 26, 2021

Plowing through a NaNoWriMo project

By Dan White – Special to the Sydenham Current

I am half way though the National November Write More, or NaNoWriMo, project.

As of this moment (I am writing this on November 18th) I have 28, 289 words towards my 50,000-word goal.

In case you’re wondering that’s 44 pages of single-spaced writing so far this month.

I am a little behind my goal of 1,667 words per day and I will need to make that up later to achieve my goal. But I can’t fixate on that, I want to, but it will do me no good.

You wouldn’t know it to see me now, but I, and my battered knees and hips, can tell you that I once ran marathons.

I loved the training and the preparation, the actual running of the marathon never went as planned but the finish line was a goal I would not let go, even if I should have.

I am crazy deadline/goal oriented; I can’t recall a time when I wasn’t.

So, I WILL write 50,000 words this month.

I will not have a novel completed this month.

But I will have the bones of one.

The NaNoWriMo website I visit daily right now has inspirational messages from authors. Perhaps you think that silly, but the goal of writing 1,667 words every day can be daunting.

I awake at 6 a.m. every morning and write for the better part of 90 minutes prior to walking Oliver.

The first several days of writing went by fairly smoothly and I was on my target until the inevitable happened, life interfered!

I got sick for a couple of days and fell behind in writing and I have a commitment to this column which is like interrupting a cleansing to binge on junk food.

This column is essentially empty calories this month… and I mean that in a positive way.

I write this column because I enjoy it.

I don’t get paid and the words don’t count towards my daily total.

Of course, the throngs of readers would be devastated should Dave and I cease to contribute our words without significant wisdom.

Now I am in the middle of the process and the hard slogging is in full stride. Sometimes I sit before the computer as the sun comes up on the mighty Sydenham and my mind wanders as I contemplate whether; I will ever have anything worth reading, if I actually want anyone to read what I am creating, the purpose of writing the subject I am writing or… my naval.

My mind is at odds with me or more accurately, my ego is fighting with my creative spirit. It’s at those times that I take a quick break to read a fragment of an inspirational message from an author.

Two of my favourites thus far follow:

“I always think of the first draft as the process of digging up the clay. Everything else—kneading, sculpting, glazing, baking the clay into its final form—that’s all revision. I dread the digging, but I also know that if I don’t make myself do it, I’ll have no raw material to work with. It doesn’t matter that the clay is ugly. That’s just what clay is. Everyone secretly hopes to be a creative genius whose first drafts are golden perfection… but the reality is that’s never going to be the case. So the question of, ‘Will this piece of writing be worth reading?’ is actually totally irrelevant in the digging stage. I’ve got all the revision rounds to worry about actually making it good. That’s a problem for Future Emily.

Emily X.R. Pan is the New York Times bestselling author of The Astonishing Color of After”

“I also found that so much of my writing experience was actually spent thinking. I would be critical of myself, wondering if this was really just procrastination. I’ve decided it is not. I believe that the stories we want to tell drive us, in a sense, to write them the way they want to be written. Those ideas, in the best experience, take on a life of their own, will possess you and, if you are fortunate, you will become the scribe to your idea. That is, the idea will lead you as opposed to you struggling to articulate the idea.

I don’t think writing is ever straightforward. But, when you find yourself having to push harder, work harder, and think harder than you thought would be required when you first sat down to write, do not be discouraged. The more you polish, the more it shines.

Importantly, remember, you have a story that wants telling. So, believe in it, believe in your ability to tell it and don’t ever give up.

Michelle Good is of Cree ancestry, a descendent of the Battle River Cree and a member of the Red Pheasant Cree Nation.

Her first novel, Five Little Indians, won the HarperCollins/UBC Best New Fiction Prize and her poetry has been included in Best Canadian Poetry in Canada 2016 and Best of the Best Canadian Poetry in Canada 2017.

The thing is, creating is messy. It isn’t straightforward and it isn’t always easy. There is work and determination mixed with equal parts inspiration and enthusiasm. Troy Brooks popped by the other day and he was talking about a new creative venture he is working on and his observation was that once an idea makes itself known to you it is imperative that you trust that a muse will appear and your work will be inspired.

But it isn’t a case of you sit and a supremely gifted spirit whispers in your ear or guides your paint brush to create unparalleled genius.

There are moments of that type of inspiration for sure.

If you don’t trust your instincts you end up spinning your wheels, but only the foolish or arrogant believe that there is no need to revise a first draft of any creative work.

When I write my next column, I will be reporting that I completed the 50,000 words and who knows, it may be more than that some day. It is an introspective journey that the wee small voice has whispered in my ear for decades that I need to write to transition my story to “just a story.” Beyond that, I will probably use my clay to build a bowl, but I may do it for a very limited audience. The truly crucial point is, I will do it.

Final note: Theatre Kent is returning to the stage. December 5 Theatre Kent presents, Return to Sender at the Capitol theatre. For more information contact Theatre Kent on Facebook or the Capitol box office, 519-354-8338.

Also, if you have ever considered trying your hand at writing a play, Theatre Kent is looking to start a group to help playwrites in waiting become playwrites. Stay tuned.

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