When I first thought I could be a writer I was 14 years old and sat down at my Brother word processor (this was before we had a computer) and wrote 10 pages single-spaced (I’d be thrilled with that now, by the way). I thought Wow.
But then I stopped. I couldn’t write anymore, I was tapped out, exhausted. I had poured out my heart and was spent. A sense of disappointment came over me. I guess I can’t be a writer, I thought. I believed being a writer meant being able to write continuously without end until it was over, never resting ever, never stopping to think or even, well, live. Literally.
Twelve years later I was older and wiser and hopefully a little less intense, and decided to see if I could actually maybe maybe write a novel. I went about it a different way. I decided to see if I could write one chapter in one week. When I did, I smiled to myself and said, “Self, you can be a writer. If you can write one chapter you can write ten.”
If you’re participating in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), maybe you know what I’m going to say— if you can write one word, you can write 50,000. But…. maybe it’s not that easy. Maybe you can’t write because you don’t have time, can’t think of anything to say, aren’t in the mood, can’t stop editing yourself, your muse has gone on vacation, you’re tired, you’d rather get drunk or snuggle with a pillow.
I get it. The other night I came home feeling lousy about something and totally not in the mood to write. My word count was glaring at me and a moment of panic set in. What if I become one of those writers who can only write when I’m in the mood? If so, I’ll never get anything done! But then, somehow, as if coming out to me from behind a cloud, a rainbow said, “Barbara, remember why you love to write in the first place.”
Ah ha! I had so many choices suddenly: I could make my characters speak for me, either through their better mood or through my sad one. I could have them act out my feelings or escape into different ones. I could use my words to make me feel better. I could entertain myself. I could write because I loved it. Who’d have thought?
Whether you’re new to this writing thing or not, there is good news: writing is not sitting down to pour out 50,000 words in one sitting. It’s not eating your breakfast, lunch, and dinner all at once.
Writing is every day, a little bit at a time, one tiny word at a time. You may end up scrapping a lot of it and that’s okay. It doesn’t matter right now. The only thing that matters is creating a little something every day, even if that means infusing all your pages with angst and hopelessness about this process. In fact, go for it. That’s what writing is for. Now is not the time to hold back. Write for love, because you love it and because there’s no time like November, when we give thanks for what we love.
And then stop every once in a while. Look at what you did. You made words appear where there was nothing. You made life happen for your characters, you made beings (human or otherwise) feel and act and live. You filled a void with only your words, your beautiful words. Let yourself be amazed. I am.