I’ve always wanted to be a writer. Ever since I was a young girl, I’d dream of having my name in print, my ideas published and shared amongst thousands of people around the world. I would set up my ‘desk’ on the side table in the living room closest to the grandfather clock, and I would sit there and write my stories. And draw my pictures, of course, for I was to be a famous author-illustrator of children’s books. After several ideas only came to fruition halfway, however (my story about Princess Monaca still resides somewhere in my mother’s collection of childhood memories, the picture of Princess Monaca waiting to be rescued only half drawn and coloured), I decided I would try something different, something I was by now learning in school: short stories.
No pictures needed, this was a new art form and I really enjoyed it. Even better, I thought I was pretty good at it. Again, I had loads of ideas, all about fairies and private eyes, and I would work diligently to get those stories written (most likely because they were for actual school projects). Nonetheless, having those two stories written really put a bee in my bonnet, and I’m still quite proud of those stories, though I don’t look at them quite as often as I should.
In the eight grade, the author-illustrator dream had a chance to come true again when our English teacher assigned us the task of creating our very own storybooks. In pairs. Believing by this point that my ideas were fantastic (and not wanting anyone else to have a handle on the story), I told my partner that, in an effort to divvy up the workload, I would write the story and she could put together the illustrations. My enthusiasm carried me from start to finish, but in the end I had to help my partner put together the book itself, much to my chagrin. Looking back now, I really did give her the short end of the stick. But I was just so darn excited about the prospect of writing, of painting pictures with my words, that I hogged all the story creating to myself. I still have the book we made (even though I swore up and down that we’d give it to the teacher to keep after class was done…I must say that though a part of me is sorry, most of me isn’t. Lord forgive me in my humanity).
Now, after spending years writing essays and papers and blogging for about 2.5 years, the time had come, the walrus said, for me to write a novel. I wrote last time about NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) and expressed how I’d like to give it a try someday. Well, my friends, that someday is now. Not only does NaNoWriMo happen every year, but the lovely organizers also host Camp NaNoWriMo in April and July. When I figured out such a thing existed, I thought to myself, “Joyanne, here’s your chance! Do it!” So, I cracked my knuckles, opened a brand new Word document, and enlisted some of my coworkers to do the same. Plus, since you can set your word goal to whatever you like, I set mine 15,000 words below the usual 50,000, for a 1130 word goal per day. It seemed reasonable enough and I thought I’d get through it, no problem.
Well, internet addicts, it is now day 14 and I am dying. Never, never, never have I hated writing as much as I do now (and yes, I am fully aware of what I’m doing in this instant and the fact that as of right now I’ve written 609 words that could’ve gone towards my story, now 618). Never did I know that writing was SO HARD! Seriously, writing academic papers was a breeze compared to the novel. Probably because I’m the kind of person that likes to get all my research done first and then sit and write the blasted thing the night before it’s due, or even day of, whereas this time I’m flying completely by the seat of my pants, the NaNoWriMo mantra of “Just keep writing” constantly in the background. It’s honestly driving me mad. Within the third day I was behind and now, even after spending several hours over the weekend just sitting and writing, I’m a lofty 3991 words behind. The website tally tells me that at this rate I will finish on August 11, 11 days after the deadline.
I can’t stand it! I’m not sleeping well, I’ve had a headache every day since Friday, and my shame cycle is just getting deeper and deeper and deeper. “You suck!” the evil gremlins yell from their dark and sinister corners. “You’ll never be a great writer,” “You’re a failure,” You’re nothing!” Honestly, being inside my head is not so pretty these days. And for what? A chance to prove that I can write fiction, like the many beloved novelists I adore. A chance to be able to say, “I’ve written a novel, I’ve done it, I’ve nailed my dream!” (just the writing part, mind you; the whole editing/getting published thing is entirely another story). A chance to feel great.
Hold up, Joyanne. Are you honestly saying that if you don’t finish this novel “on time,” so to speak, that you won’t feel great, that there isn’t anything else that will make you feel great? What about being outside in the sunshine, just chilling with friends at the Legislature grounds, or going for drinks, or partaking in a light sabre class (seriously, so fun!)? Are those things not important? And what is “great” anyway? Why does everything have to be “great”? Why isn’t “good enough” good enough?
All excellent questions and if I had a therapist we probably could work through and get to the bottom of them all. Since I don’t, however, I’ll try to do my own digging:
I think for me the novel represents the idea of “making it,” of finding a place in the world, of being recognized for something that people deem worthy. Ah, there it is: that idea of worthiness and caring what people think, that ultimate life-sucker that drains the soul. You know, I kind of thought I was past all this. I thought I was doing well, that I was happy. But now again I find a way to undermine myself with these ugly thoughts instead of focusing on the wonderful things in my life, my family, my friends, new opportunities and adventures. Just a couple weeks ago, in fact, I was at a picnic with a couple of my friends, eating snacks and blowing bubbles at cool gangstas (who totally smiled), and the question came up, “Do we really need anything more in this moment?” Well, Fred Astaire wouldn’t have hurt, but the answer was no, we don’t. And it was beautiful.
I want more of those moments in my life because I’m realizing how important they truly are, and what I’m beginning to realize is that, unfortunately, sitting on my arse and writing isn’t going to help me live life to the fullest. Sure, I still want to write my novel, and I do enjoy blogging, but I need to stop beating myself up every time I decide to go and do something else. I know it’s going to take me time to get used to the idea and be okay with it, but (whoa, head spin… I’m alright, really) I know I must, and I’ll keep trying to overcome this hurdle, this shame spiral, and be a good friend to myself, whether that means pushing myself to write or acknowledging that I need a break.
Ah, another ramble. So, is this post particularly philosophical? Not really, but I don’t quite care so much. It’s just another day in the life of a woman who’s trying to figure life out, by living it.
P.s. 1319 words.