Watching the count rise

I write from the strange territory of NaNo-land.

Those of us obsessed souls who donate our Novembers to writing madness all have our own reasons.  I’m not sure mine would make sense to anyone entirely sane.  But this is what I am learning:

1.  I can write faster than I ever thought I could.  Because my month will stop a week before everyone else’s (we’re going off to Boston for a family Thanksgiving celebration, and since we’ll all be together, which is something you can’t take for granted, my unfettered writing time stops on Tuesday, 11/24, the day of our departure), I’ve been determined to get 3500 words written every day.  I would have thought this was impossible, but I discover if I sit down and just keep hammering away, it happens.

2.  I am getting alarmingly efficient about the rest of my life.  When you know you have this 10 minute slot to tidy up the kitchen, you don’t get distracted as easily and don’t get lured by an apple (or more likely a cookie) and sit down to consume it while you think.  Nor do you pick up the newspaper and start reading just one article.

3.  Writing almost without revising is remarkably emancipating.  The insane man who thought up NaNoWriMo, a guy in the San Francisco Bay area by the name of Chris Baty, urges us not to delete.  Just keep on pressing forward.  Well, I’m not deleting much, but particularly in that delicate time at the beginning of each marathon session when I’m picking up the thread I abandoned when I hit my target the day before, I find myself fiddling with using a better word here, or cutting out what’s clearly extraneous there, and blast, there go seven words.  Well, so I have 14,086 of them as of this evening’s update  — I guess I can lose seven without lethal consequences.

4.  I am forgetting the concept of free time.  Every minute is now accounted for.  I’m doing the household essentials, I’m teaching/preparing for/correcting papers for the two classes I teach, I’m actually falling into my bed, or I’m WRITING.  Most of the time I’m writing.

5.  It’s odd.  When I finish my stint — and believe me, I’m keeping close track of the computer count at the bottom of my screen — I feel almost drunk as I rise and wheel away from my desk.  Drunk on words.  Words, words, delicious words that spill out of my mind onto the page.  Thinking about the odd sensation made me remember something Virginia Woolf wrote in her diary as she came to the end of her novel The Waves. I just went to find the book  to make sure I was remembering it right, and this is what I found:  “I wrote the words O Death fifteen minutes ago, having reeled across the last ten pages with some moments of such intensity and intoxication that I seemed only to stumble after my own voice, or almost, after some sort of speaker (as when I was mad).”  I read that many years ago — I checked the copyright on the book, and it’s 1972! — and it strikes me as absolutely amazing that I should be having now even a vague shadow of that experience.

It fascinates me.  Here we are, writers together sharing our common passion, and yet writing is generally the most solitary of occupations.  What do you think about when you write?  What do you feel when you lift your hands from the keyboard — or the notebook — and revisit the rest of your life?  How does your writing change you?

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5 Responses

  1. Writing is taking up A LOT of my time right now too, Beppie. I am REALLY into it. I love it because it puts me in an entirely different world than the one I am in now. I use it as an escape. I know the drunk feeling you are talking about when you stop typing, and you get away from the computer. I feel it all of the time. Writing changes everything for me, and I am not doing revisions right now either. I am going to wait until I finish the book.

  2. It’s always cheering to hear from a fellow maniac. I’m having to take a couple of days off as I’m heading out to Boston since my daughter there has a car she doesn’t need, and my daughter here (and her family) can use it. So we’re driving there together tomorrow and back on Sunday. All of which seemed like a reasonable plan when we set it up — less reasonable now, but my daughter here (the one with 5 children, aged 9, 7, 6, 5, and 20 months) has moved heaven and earth to get life organized without her for the couple of days, so off we go at the crack of dawn tomorrow.
    What’s your NaNo name? I’m Skipper.

  3. Great job, Beppie! Keep up the good work. I’m sure you’ll get there.

  4. Whew! I feel for your daughter, Beppie! 5 children in those age groups! I am not doing the NaNo. I would love to do it. I just have to get this book done by January! I have an editor and agent waiting on it. And I am only on Chapter 11! I am now getting 2 chapters done a week. I believe I can do it!

  5. At this point in my Nano madness, when I lift my fingers from the keys and move away from the computer I’m not thinking too much about anything. LOL Brain overload here!

    You’re on a roll! Keep it up!! 🙂

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