Monday, November 14, 2005

Day 14: No hindrance

Now that I've reached the halfway point with the So-Called Novel, things are becoming a lot more fun. Although I can't say I love the story I'm writing, I'm loving writing the story. Now that I've learned I can generate words regardless of whether I "feel like it," I'm settling into the freedom of just writing. It's becoming a comfortable routine: set the timer for 40 minutes, start typing, then stop approximately 1,000 words or 40 minutes later, whichever comes first.

Today I had no real word-count goal: after reaching 25,000 words yesterday, I'm ahead of schedule. So since I didn't "have to" write today, I ended up writing 3,000 words almost effortlessly: the first 1,000 in a single 40-minute session this morning, then the next 2,000 in two "writing breaks" while grading student papers.

It's funny how lifting the burden of "having to write" creates an open space where you simply can and enjoy writing. It's as if I'm discovering writer's block is a purely emotional obstacle, and when I switch from obligation to opportunity--from "I have to write 2,000 words today" to "Today I can write 2,000 words"--a magic lever is thrown, turning a block into bliss.

I'm well aware that writing moods come and go: the words that flow easily today might freeze up tomorrow. I guess that's why I chose to ride today's surging word-count while I could, for I never know when the well will run dry.

So, when do you find the words flow the most easily for you? Have you ever experienced a "zone" where your words seemingly wrote themselves? To what do you attribute such magic?
Word count: 28,040

Last line: Paul and Alexa passed a long and memorable night in the secluded attic of Talbot Hall, with Alexa forgetting entirely whatever it was she had come there to discuss with him.

(and No, you can't read the scorching sex scene that precedes today's closing line!)


At 11/14/2005 8:19 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow ... you are doing fantastic. Your word count is soaring, and you're writing scorching sex scenes, too? Yowsa!

I stepped away from NaNoWriMo and have abandoned the idea for this year, but that doesn't mean I won't try again next year. Interestingly enough, as soon as I gave myself permission to throw in the towel, my brain relaxed and ideas started percolating. So I did the only logical thing ... I started writing! I'm just doing it outside of NaNoWriMo, since it appears that trying too hard made it impossible for me to write.

Funny that you say "obligation vs opportunity" because that's exactly where I feel like I'm at right now ... I'm actually ENJOYING writing, and I haven't done that for a while. Even though I'm not NaNo'ing, I'm doing some of the best writing (in my humble opinion, of course) that I've done in a very long time.

My writing has always come in bursts, so I usually just try to ride the wave and make the most of it. The words seem to flow most easily for me when I turn my brain off and just let my fingers fly. If I think too hard, then it all becomes stilted and forced, but if I can turn off the internal editor, then somehow this gives me permission to just run with it.

Have I ever been "in the zone where my words seemingly wrote themselves"? Yes, once.

To this day I've never quite hit that sweet spot again, but once, many years ago, I was trying to find a creative way to express a very painful part of my life. One night, in the wee hours of a sleepless night and early morning, I picked up a pen and began writing. For the next two hours, time just didn't exist. It passed without a glance from me, and the pen just kept scratching across the paper.

Even though I don't usually write poetry, by the time my consciousness returned to the world, I had written a series of four rather long poems. Even today when I read them I can't believe it was me that wrote them. They are one of the few things that I've written that I know are good ... in fact, they are absolutely perfect (at least in my view). Raw, unvarnished, truthful, and poignant.

I've only shared them with a very few carefully selected people, but anyone who has seen them has either wept, insisted that I publish them, or been speechless. Only because I've had the opportunity to see writing that has come from within me like this, have I ever managed to believe I might be able to write again.

This was actually an experience that taught me about letting my voice be heard, even when what I need to say is painful or difficult. I may never hit that zone again, but experiencing it once was incredible. What a gift. Or a curse.

Sometimes I have to laugh, because knowing that such a zone exists has made me crazy with wanting to feel it again, and yet there is no denying that the harder I reach for it, the less likely I am to experience it. Maybe it will find me again, and maybe not. Chasing the muse can make anyone crazy (especially when you're halfway there anyway). No wonder writers have a reputation for being a little out there. They've been in the zone!

By the way, I'm really grateful for this writing blog you started. Even though I stepped away from NaNoWriMo, this blog led me to a place where my words started flowing again. I'm ever so thankful for that, Lorianne.

Not only am I being able to write again, but something I read here somewhere (I don't remember where, exactly) sparked an idea that gave new life to an old project of mine. It had been fermenting in my subconscious for years, and couldn't find a way out. Then, you said something that let me approach it from a different angle, and all of the sudden the story began writing itself.

I wish I could remember what it was exactly that you wrote that opened it up for me. The very business of writing ABOUT WRITING is a brilliant way to loosen those doors that have been nailed shut.

In a nutshell, whatever it was that you wrote sparked this sort of idea: I had lots of inter-connected stories, but I couldn't figure out a way to weave them together. In fact, I wasn't even sure they all belonged in the same place. But something kept nagging at me (for years, I tell you). These pieces of stories kept cropping up, always floating around, looking for a place to land. Then you wrote something, and all of the sudden *WHAM*

Now I'm writing the stories from the perspective of the one thing that every one of the individual stories has in common ... I don't want to say exactly what, but a good analogy might be a house that has been lived in by many families. That house might have many stories to tell, but the people that lived there might never have known one another. The only thing they would have in common is the house. Yet all their stories are part of one larger story. Something like that.

Anyway, I'm probably not making much sense (or else I'm making perfect sense), but the end result is that I'm writing again. Which feels a little bit like being able to breath again.

Thanks, Lorianne. Ever so much.


At 11/15/2005 12:26 AM, Anonymous maria said...

Lorianne ... this is really inspirational -- and had I not made a few previous commitments this month for other projects and to family, I would sit down to that NaNo novel of my own.

I am, however, revisiting an idea that came to me after my first NaNoWriMo ... and am on my way to doing a bit of research, even as the character is emerging from the shadows with ever more clarity!

At 11/15/2005 9:06 PM, Anonymous bethadams said...

Congrats on your super productivity, Lorianne! I didn't know you were doing this blog-journal too, along with NaNoWriMo.

I'm not writing fiction, but I *am* in nose-to-the-grindstone mode on my book -- can I write here about it?? My goal for October and November was to complete the first of the two remaining 3-chapter sections; approximately 30,000 completely polished and edited words. I finished the final draft yesterday, and have about only another day or two of work to do on it. YES!!! (See, yesterday was a good day!) That leaves another 25,000 words or so to write, for the 2 long and 1 short concluding chapters of the book. They're outlined and all the notes in order. I plan to do that in December and the first 3 weeks of January, which will leave me two weeks for general clean-up and final editing before the submission deadline of Feb. 7. I'm figuring that the whole manuscript will come to right around 100,000 words, of which, incredibly, 75,000 are done.

Does this sound familiar? I *know* I am crazy.

At 11/16/2005 6:42 AM, Blogger Lorianne said...'s great to hear about the progress *everyone* is making on such different projects!

ntexas, I think your experience mirrors that of many folks: as soon as you allow yourself *not* to write, the writing comes. I think NaNoWriMo is a great way to plant the *idea* of writing a novel, so whether or not you do it in a month or in November, the possibility has blossomed. ("Maybe I could...") And I think that *possibility* is more exciting than any 50,000-word document a person can produce.

(By the way, judging from the word-count on your comment, I don't think you'd have any problem getting to 50,000!)

Maria, your experience with the "ghost" of a previous NaNo novel sounds like what I've suspected: that NaNo isn't about writing completed novels, it's about jotting down the *notes* to a novel. Once that wretched first "not even a rough draft" version is pounded out, there's the freedom to revisit it later, after the compost has ripened a bit. The fact that the story & its characters is still percolating in your brain says to me there's something there, so bravo for returning to it!

And, I am so impressed (and proud!) of your progress! You bet that you can boast of your progress here: when I started this blog earlier this month, I envisioned it as a place where *any* and *all* writers could come, eavesdrop on my work-in-progress, and then talk about their own projects, no matter what the nature. I'm kinda the idea of "100 Days," except I'm writing actual posts to keep myself honest... :-)

Anyhow, it's so exciting that you're that far along with the book! I knew you'd been working on it, but I didn't know the end was so clearly in sight. Congrats on meeting your Oct & Nov goals: have you given yourself some sort of treat or reward to celebrate? I'll be interested to hear how the remaining chapters go; it's exciting to think the whole thing will be done in February!


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