I had such a great start to NaNo. I was writing! Ideas flew! Sentences dropped like shiny stones!
And then I stopped writing for the day. I got up from my desk (and I have to admit here that I felt quit smug, quit pleased with myself. “This whole NaNo is gonna be a breeze,” I told myself).
When I sat down at my desk the next day, my mind was blank. My mind was empty. My mind was a dumb animal.
I sat and I sat with my dumb animal mind. And I wrote nothing.
Oh, I wrote, but what I wrote was mostly dribble. Perhaps there are a few salvageable sentences in the heap, but only a few.
Is this what NaNo is then? Writing furious amounts for little return? Is that what any type of writing is?
Well, it kind of is what writing is. If it were easy then everyone would do it. Though sometimes it seems that everyone is writing a book.
Which reminds me of my mailman. Years ago when my son was younger and I was pushing like heck to get published in literary magazines so that I could get noticed so that I could get an agent so that I could get a book deal (all of which eventually came true, though it was much, much harder than I expected), I sent out massive submissions and massive queries and, of course, received massive rejection letters. That was back when more magazines used “real” mail.
The big excitement for my son was checking the mail when we got home. He’d charge for the mailbox and then run in the house screaming, “Mom, you got another rejection letter!” For some reason, this pleased him greatly.
Before I knew it, my mailman was chatting to me about my publishing quest. I worked as features writer at the newspaper back then and often did book reviews and author interviews, and I guess my mailman thought that I had an “in” with the publishing world. Because it turns out that my mailman, my pigeon-toes mailman, was writing a book of his own. And he began leaving pages in my mailbox for me to read and review.
The kicker: He wrote erotic religious poetry.
Sometimes there were pictures of a very voluptuous Virgin Mary alongside the poems (I’m not making this up!).
What do you say? I mean really, what do you say?
I started avoiding the mailman. I started avoiding the mailbox. I began submitting more via online.
One day I came home and there was a very badly formatted self-published book in my mailbox. It was my mailman’s book (he finished his book before I did!). That book broke my heart. Because he was so proud.
And it made me realize that it doesn’t matter how we write as long as we write. Because maybe that was the best book my mailman would ever produce. Maybe it was his shining star. And good for him, too. Because how many mailmen write and self-publish erotic religious poetry books?
I moved soon after and found myself with a different mailperson, a woman this time, and she didn’t write poetry or even talk much. The only things she left in my mailbox were rejection letters, bills and late-notices from bills I had forgotten to pay because I had been too busy writing.
So maybe these bad writing days are like those days when I run and every single step is an effort. It’s not enjoyable but it keeps me in shape. So I’m staying in writing shape, I’m keeping my mind flexed, my imagination muscled. I’m putting in the time, and so what if some of it is drudgery? It’s writing. I am writing. We’re all writing, even when we don’t think we are, even when we don’t think it’s worthwhile. We are writing nevertheless, and I don’t mean to sound sappy but that’s kind of a beautiful thing.
Check this out: One good thing about writing struggles is that I read more during my mind-is-totally-empty time. Yesterday I came across this great blog post on Change Seven Magazine by Heather Sullivan on writing through changes. I love the last line, and the image of her mother’s ghost whispering to her as she writes. So, so lovely.
Back to the grind. Happy writing everyone.