It’s been 19 days since I posted about my preparations. Turns out I don’t follow instructions (even my own) too well. I’ve been all over the place mentally, emotionally and physically. Thinking, taking notes and not really getting much done. I had (still do) high hopes this November would kickstart my writing, but I wasn’t feeling it.
As always, a conversation with my SO pointed out what I wasn’t seeing.
I’ve said it often, and I’ll keep saying it. I’m an incredibly lucky guy. My wife is supportive of my writing. I’d say more than supportive, I think she’s getting frustrated that I’m NOT writing.
She has ideas for this NaNoWriMo attempt. GOOD ideas. She let me see something she’s worked on a couple of years back that she’d like to revisit. It’s so good that I’m jealous (in a good way). We’ve been chatting back and forth about the coming month. I love these chats. In one of these chats she mentioned something that was hard to hear but was dead on. It took me a few days to process. It took a few more to figure out what to do about it.
I’m going to be paraphrasing here because I don’t typically write down what people say to me and my memory is imperfect at best (non-existent at worst).
“I LOVE your first attempt at Revenant. I don’t know why, but I love it, it’s great! I hated when you tried again from scratch, that one was boring to me. I think you’re thinking too much. You started reading all that writing advice and you’re trying too hard. That’s what I see.”
I can argue, and I did argue a little. I love that she loves something I wrote. It sucks that it isn’t something I love. I cringe when I re-read that draft. It’s not what I was going for. Hold THAT thought.
And here’s the kicker she put out there as the discussion continued.
“I think you’ve been so focused on ‘doing better’ that you’re not having any fun anymore. I’m listening to you talk about THIS story and THIS NaNoWriMo and you know what I hear is missing? Fun. It’s not fun. Where’s the fun?”
That’s it in a nutshell.
I’ve been in a spiral of thought and emotion since that discussion. Now I don’t mean “Oh! Woe is me…how can I ever write a again?” more like “Holy shit, she’s right. What does THAT mean?”
It took a bit of thinking on my part to work it out. I don’t have it completely worked out I’m sure, but some things have shaken loose in my head. That’s progress.
Allow me to unpack a little bit. The following is my headspace. It’s NOT advice. I don’t want to give advice. I just want to write things out here, get them straight in my head and maybe, just maybe someone might find something that jars something in their own headspace. Sorry, this is a lot of words but I need to get this out of my head.
Here it all is:
I haven’t had any fun writing for years now.
That was a hard thing to think and type. Why?
Well it implies that I’m not a writer. That’s why.
That’s a thought that’s been rolling through my head a lot in these last few years.
I’m not a writer.
So where’s that leave me?
It took a long while to figure that out. Do I quit? Do I finally “fuck you I guess…I’m done.”
The fact that I can’t do that is telling.
I’m not a writer for one simple reason: I’m not writing. Not because I don’t have talent, or a calling or a pressing need. I’m not writing. That’s it.
The fact that I’m wasn’t having fun has zero bearing on whether I’m a writer or not.
I’m not writing, ergo I’m not a writer.
If I start writing, I will be a writer again. Simple. Sometimes we have to figure out the simple things first. Build a base to build on.
That’s my base right now. Write again = writer again. Ok.
Let’s get back to the thing that’s been jiggling in my head. Fun.
I’ve had fun writing before. I’ve done a LOT of writing and some of it was quite fun. My days writing with some of the people who read this blog have been the best times of my life. I treasure them.
Ok. So fun is not impossible to have. I’ve had it.
Why am I not having fun now?
Once again, my wife gave me a clue. Universally, she liked my earlier writing. I went digging.
In my opinion, my best writing has happened in the last few years. Scenes that popped, dialogue, ideas. I was putting on the page everything I was learning by practice and reading all that lovely advice out there. My early stuff in comparison was rough and frankly cringe-worthy in places.
Here’s the big ‘but’ though: I had the most fun writing the early stuff.
I wrote almost 60K in Space Pirates but I remember how much of a slog it was because I got bogged down. I re-read that first draft and the writing is top notch (for me) but everything else is meh.
I wrote almost 70K for my first Revenant draft and I remember getting to 50K early…and rushing headlong to write twenty thousand more words before writing “THE END”. I remember the feeling. There was no ‘meh’ that month.
I was looking at the wrong thing.
Somewhere along the line I forgot the first rule of NaNoWriMo and the first rule of writing:
THE FIRST DRAFT OF ANYTHING IS SHIT.
I re-read my post from 19 days ago and the prep-work I wanted to do and that’s fine. There’s nothing wrong with that. I just think I’m overthinking it.
Just write the fucking thing. That’s what I should be doing.
Then in January (or February) only THEN I can take that pile of shit, work on the outline a lot more, the characters a lot more, figure out themes and all the story architecture details my heart desires.
The second draft is the time for overthinking it.
The first draft is the time to have fun. If you can’t have fun, why do it at all?
I need to learn to say “fuck it” whenever I sit at my computer this month. I think I need to make it my mantra when I try and sit down and write every day next month and the month after that and the month after that.
I think I need to have some “fuck it” time while writing even when I try and do a second draft.
Once I learn that lesson. Maybe, just maybe I can make all that other shit happen I was talking about 19 days ago. I still want all of that. That desire doesn’t go away, but you have to crawl before you can walk and walk before you can run.