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Pre-NaNo freakout

October 29, 2013

Ah, it’s that time of year again, where I’ve ceased to be excited about National Novel Writing Month and am instead absolutely panicked.  I have been working on Michael Stackpole’s 21 Days to a Novel, and of course I’ve gotten to the plot part and am like, “Well, gosh, look at that pile of dishes in the sink.”  “If I don’t finish the second season of Once Upon a Time soon, I won’t be able to get current and discuss it with my friend.”  “Hey, I should make something with those apples/that broth/everything in the cabinets.”  “Ooh, this person is online and we haven’t spoken in ages!”


I don’t know when my anxiety about writing started; I used to write all the time.  I started in 4th grade when we were told to use our vocabulary words in sentences.  I couldn’t not string sentences together into a story.  Once I started, I couldn’t stop.  I wrote out dozens of synopses for stories, drew awful pictures of what my book covers would look like.  At some point, I started to wonder about the structure of a mystery, and how to write that.  Then at some point, I guess I actually started writing, but never anything to completion.  It took an 8th-grade assignment in our Writing class (compared to our Reading class) to get me to finish something for the first time.

It was a short story called “Cola Summers.”  It was about a half-French (OF COURSE) girl named Colette (OF COURSE) whose unconventional parents had always made life work for them, but eventually they decide to go their separate ways and her father (I believe) falls in love with someone else and wants to marry, which her parents had never done, and she had to come to grips with that and the wedding.

When I type it all out like this, it sounds about a thousand times better than anything I’ve written since.  It was probably cribbed off of something.  Most of the stuff from 4th grade was a cross between stolen from Sweet Valley High and stolen from Sleepover Friends/Fabulous Five/those sorts of things.  I remember one of the besties of the main characters was named Grace and her first book was called Amazing Grace.  OF COURSE.

By 8th grade, I was reading a lot of Dean Koontz and, I think, Anne Tyler.  So whatever, man.

In high school, I wrote stories that didn’t have endings because the next big thing excited me too much; I had to move on.  Or I wrote until I ran out of drama and moved on.  I took a writing course in high school on Saturday mornings that was taught by a college professor, but I never felt like I learned about plot or structure.  I wrote a lot of really bad poetry in high school too.  I wonder if that’s why I’ve always been down on poetry; because mine was 1) awful, 2) about sex, and 3) being read by my high school teacher.  Uh, not because I had a crush or anything (ew), but because I wanted to know if it was good.  But after the fact I wondered if he thought I was trying to tell him something.  Ew.

After high school, I went to college as an education major (because writers don’t make money) and acted like a total snob about Comp 101, then didn’t go because by then I was having anxiety issues and couldn’t stand in a line long enough to drop a class.  New things scared me, and college was full of new things.  I ended up failing the class because I didn’t go back after the second or third time, and therefore couldn’t go on to creative writing.  Not that it mattered.  I used a broken heart as an excuse not to focus on my education (I didn’t even want to be there; I wanted to take a year off and just take a break because high school had been very frustrating for me as someone who was only interested in challenging the status quo) and I failed my entire second term, except maybe for one class where the teacher had a heart attack and everyone got a decent grade.  I decided to take this opportunity and chuck school in favor of a very charming liar, marriage, and a child, partially for reasons I will detail when I start my romance project.

It was probably then that I found myself too busy to write.  I had been addicted to what passed for the internet back then for a few years by then; my isolation as a parent (and, soon, a single parent) only fueled my desire to talk to people online.  I made wonderful friends who are besties to this day, but any addiction is bad.  Still, not the point.  I got further away from Being a Writer, which is what I thought I was going to be.  I don’t remember when I felt like I’d stopped writing, but it must’ve happened, because in 2001, I said to myself, Self, time to actually write, and I wrote two things from start to finish, mostly.  I plowed through super-quick to get to the end so I could say I’d gotten to the end, and they were rough drafts indeed, but they were complete, start to finish.

The one I typed was only about 30K.  I wrote it in two weeks.  I loved it, but then I had to get a new computer and the new computer didn’t have the same program so when I transferred it to the new Word program, the formatting fell apart and everything is one line with lots of what looks to me like line noise.

So I never did go back to it.

Then I worked for a television production company writing a pilot for a television show as we plotted the rest of the season.  That was fun.  I had a writing partner and the whole company come up with the ideas together, but the boss mismanaged the company into the ground, and I left.  A few failed attempts at a life and a full-time job, I was in the woods, going back to college when my daughter started elementary.

I found I was good at writing papers, but that made me feel like MORE of a failure when it came to fiction.

I tried to write; I would write two or three days in a row, and then nothing.  By this time, the anxiety about writing was terrible.  I would do anything but write, even when I wanted to write.  Even when I had an idea I loved.

A friend of mine paid for both of us to take an online writing course around 2008.  The course did not ask us to finish anything at the end of the term.  I was annoyed.  I thought maybe having a deadline would push me.

I don’t think I finished anything, of course, because I didn’t have to.

I tried NaNoWriMo.  I keep doing NaNoWriMo.  But I never finish anything.  I keep “winning” NaNo and losing faith in myself.

So maybe this year, instead of trying for 50K words in a row, maybe I should do each scene–painstakingly plotted out thanks to Michael Stackpole–and go for words in each scene equalling 50K, instead of trying to do 50K straight and never getting to the actual ending?

Every day I tell myself I’m going to write.  Or read.  Or practice the piano.

Every time I distract myself with others things.


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