Thursday, December 11, 2003

I've found myself in a writing frenzy lately.

I kept hearing about this National Novel Writing Month that took place in November, and of course never being one to follow the crowd, I am taking the philosophy of it into December. Okay, I just didn't hear about it until it was well underway, so I started in December. Plus, reading Francesa's success with the method got me inspired. Based on their goals, it bases your progress by a set goal of words written per day in order to reach the 50,000 mark by the end of the month. I did the math for December, and I think that puts me at around 1800 words per day. Sometimes I make it, other times I pass it, and sometimes I don't. I always have the number in mind of where I'm supposed to be.

Surprisingly, this method sets you free in a way, as you're concentrating on that goal of so many words. As a result, your writing really loosens up and gets wonderfully creative. And that's when it happens, the words on your screen blur because you are not beating your head against your desk to think of a story, but watching it unfold in front of you. The hole in your screen appears into the world of your story, and your fingers work like mad to type down what you see. From people's smiles, needs, past, their hair color, cadence, fears, houses, conversations, and most importantly, the story in which they participate. The story that's been floating around in your head as you drive to work, shower, shelve books, walk around naked in your apartment, ring up customers, walk to your mother's to watch Queer Eye, sip your mocha inside starbucks. The story that has you reciting the conversations of your characters just inaudible enough to not be accused at the grocery store of talking to yourself as you grab the sheep's milk feta cheese off the shelve in the refrigerated section. That story. The one that won't leave you alone and taps your shoulder every now and then because like Glenn Close in the movie Fatal Attraction, it will not be ignored.

I used to concentrate on pages as goals, and that always left me frustrated. For some reason, a word goal gets to the heart of the matter. After all, writing is about words and getting them down on the paper. Or in my case, the screen. Anne Lamott has a book about writing called Bird by Bird, and has a chapter called Shitty First Draft. So this is my shitty first draft, meaning that this time it's about the words, and letting them fill the pages without the worry of the criticizing editor standing over my shoulder.

I've let my characters show me the way this time. I type, because I'm following their lead. Yes, it's all coming from my head, but what's amazing is that it doesn't feel that way. All of a sudden, I've let go of all restraints, and have let my story walk 1800 steps a day while I tag along with it. And suddenly, writing feels so light and easy. I don't care if I'm the only one who ever reads it or if the story just plain sucks. It's my creation, and the important thing is that I'm letting it happen in its pure, untainted beauty. I'm letting it out of my head to explore, and like building my Halloween costume, even though I'm wandering into unfamiliar territory with some of the subject matter, I know exactly what I'm doing.

I guess I've stumbled upon that next project that I was needing.

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