December’s a pretty busy time of year what with all the Christmas shopping, Christmas parties, Christmas itself (which realistically only lasts two hours), my sister’s birthday, school projects, the ballet, two plays, etc, so my friend and I decided it would be a good time to write a novel. Yes, we ripped off Chris Baty‘s November NaNoWriMo event and moved it to December because we were too lame (and late) to do it last month. 50,000 words, plus we get an extra day to do it in.
Oh, we also decided it would be well worth the effort to eat healthy and exercise every day while we were at it.
It’s the end of week one and I am totally impressed with ourselves. We both made our weekly quota of over 11k words. This is more words than I have probably written in the past ten years. They are not great words; it is not even a great story. In fact, I didn’t even have a clue what I was going to write about up until I sat down at my laptop on December 1 and had to write something.
My story is not going anywhere in the sense that I will never revise it or even consider doing anything more with it. At first, my Inner Critic was appalled.
ME: “Well, Inner Critic, that is the point. Thanks to you, I have reread, rewritten, and reviled everything I have ever written to death, and it hasn’t gotten me anywhere. Why can’t I take this time to write something you have no control over and have fun with it? You know, fun, the way writing used to be before you showed up? And by the way, who the hell let you out of the kennel?”
So now my Inner Critic just sits on my shoulder and sniggers about the drivel dripping from my fingers as if he’s saying, “One day you’ll come back to me.”
That was then. This is now.
My friend and I posed the same challenge to ourselves in July. 50,000 words in 31 days. This time we failed. Neither of us even started past an idea in our head. We did manage to work on a graphic novel at least. But I felt kind of guilty that I wasted a whole month and never reached my goal even though I had already written three short stories. So I told myself that I would definitely write a novel in August.
Okay, it’s August 14, and I officially hate my Inner Critic. I’m seriously thinking about firing him because he’s a pain in the ass. When I was a kid I wrote for fun, for me, for escape. I was the main character in all my stories and I led some pretty cool lives; I lived with rock stars, I dated rock stars, I was a rock star. I didn’t care about “character” or “plot” or “pacing” or “setting.” I just wrote and I’m pretty sure I hit all those elements without even trying.
Then I got this brilliant idea: let’s go to school to study creative writing! And guess what? That’s when my stupid Inner Critic showed up! Now everything I write has to “measure up” to some invisible audience’s expectations. Or worse: a publisher’s. Consequently, education sucked the spontaneity, creativity, and innocence out of writing for me.
There’s been one project that I’ve been working on for awhile that I’m pretty proud of. It’s a fan-fiction serial based on World of Warcraft that I write in installments. I don’t write it for anyone but me and a few guildmates who may or may not even read it. I don’t plan on doing anything serious with it (like trying to get it published), so it’s actually fun and probably some of my best off-the-cuff writing.
That’s what I want to get back to with everything I write–that non-feeling of dread when I sit down at the keyboard (if I even get there). I don’t want to do character sketches, or plot summaries, or scene outlines. I just want to write with the same non-pressure feeling I used to when I could be anything I wanted. (Which was always apparently a rock star.)