Late nights of staring at a computer screen were punctuated by head nods from sheer exhaustion both mental and physical. The nagging doubts inside me threatened to stop progress, but eventually through stubborn determination I would start typing, and somehow crank out nearly two-thousand words a night. Some days there was nothing I wanted more than to run away from the keyboard and curl up into a ball, but my bullheadedness served a useful purpose. I have no doubt that some nights I was writing material that I know I will throw out, but the point is that I tried to write difficult scenes instead of avoiding them or trying to wait until I knew more, which is an undefined time that may never come.
The month was a gradual process of turning off the voice inside my head that screams at me that nothing that I’m typing is good enough. Reinforced by the opinions of circle-jerking and hypocritical editors, the knowledge that I’ve gained about writing had culminated in a critical model which was paralyzing to productivity. Whenever I would write a sentence, I’d think of how much was lacking from my current work, and get completely bogged down trying to think of ways to deal with everything at once. However, when I was sitting at the computer and forcing myself to stay awake until I had the word count, it was like a staring contest with my inner demons until they eventually receded to give way to creative flow.
I spoke with a friend about this phenomenon. When you start writing, it’s new and you’re blissfully ignorant (usually) of many aspects of good writing. You don’t care. It’s exciting and you tread on unfamiliar territory with a sense of wonder. As your experience grows to the point where you know the lay of the land but doubt your ability to cope with it, your willingness to journey can be suppressed. NaNoWriMo is a wonderful tool to get you moving again.
Another wonderful experience, which has never been as strong as with this novel, is that the characters told the story. I came into the month with a premise and an image of a cast of characters. They had very conflicting viewpoints and backgrounds, which I did in order to create clashes that were interesting and relevant to the theme of the work. Although I only had a vague picture of where the novel was headed, when I went about trying to get everyone to work together, the conflicts wrote themselves. I ended up spending considerable time just getting everyone to cooperate, which might sound headache-inducing, but I think is a realistic treatment of a post-apocalyptic world where the survivors are hyper-independent, borderline misanthropes. Like any author, I love my characters, but I tried to implement some principles of good conflict generation and maintain tension on every page. The stuff I’ve put them through makes me feel like a sadist. To my wonderful characters: I’m sorry! To readers: I hope their struggles touch you in some significant ways.
The other aspect of the writing-frenzy that rubbed off on me was the habit of writing. I feel like daily writing is now just a part of my schedule, and there’s no talking my way out of it. Although I’ve reached the goal of 50,000 words, the story is not done and I’m going to keep writing every day until it’s told. I think this is something they don’t tell you when you start off for the month–be warned! You may develop some unhealthy addictions to sitting at a keyboard.
From the health side of things, I would like to try and develop some better, more consistent habits for writing, which may come with time. I’ve ordered Dragon Dictate, which I am anxiously awaiting for its ability to write through speech, and not be confined to sitting in front of a screen during the long process. Combined with a great Plantronics wireless headset that I got, I think it’ll provide a great platform for healthier writing styles. Just testing out the headset the other day made me giddy with the feeling of living in a sci-fi world.
This month of writing reminded me of how much I love exploring imaginary worlds. The Sun of Noumenon is rising.