I think every writer, possibly anyone who has ever tried to write, can relate to the moment when the words seem so weighty and the subject so large that writing further seems impossible. In my experience, this happens during NaNoWriMo somewhere around the 17-22-day mark. I look at the word counter on the lower left of my screen and I think, “How? How could I possibly write 1,667 words in the next 24 hours? I cannot do that to my characters. They need me to take my time. They need…. they need… they need a better writer.” It isn’t contingent on plot-position, either, as I have written the entire 50K story in thirty days as well as the first 50K in thirty days.
Why would anyone subject themselves to the kind of crippling fear that happens at the 30K mark? The fear that says the characters need more from you than you can give?
This story has been both incredibly easy and extremely difficult for me to write. I was able to hold to the needed 1.6K nearly every day, even though I was away from home. The characters are complex, and I love them, so it’s easy. I have been sticking roughly to my outline, but it feels like there is so much story to tell about my characters. It may be the most fleshed-out novel I’ve ever tried to write. Sometimes it feels bloated, but I think that’s because I’m enjoying it so much, I can’t bear to write farther in the plot in case I miss something.
So while I had my characters dally over exquisitely-described food during yesterday’s word sprint, talking about nothing and everything to build their report, I wondered if I was being thorough or if I was being afraid.
I was trying to describe it to someone and said, “I just can’t let these characters down – they’re too important to me.” I was informed that must mean I was growing as a writer, but I retorted that this happens every NaNo. But it doesn’t. Not like this.
This story has made me laugh out loud in a crowded airport, brought tears stinging to my eyes in spite of myself, and caused me to space out completely and abruptly when other things and people needed my attention. This story is… well, I think it is more important than the others.
I’m still writing, though. I still hit my word count yesterday. Even though I’m worried to death that I will fail this story, I’m still here.
Maybe I’m more afraid of stopping and stalling than I am of screwing up.
Some writing feels like a 9 to 5; you show up at your desk, put your words in, pat yourself on the back for a job well done, and head home for the day. That kind of writing doesn’t inspire fear like this – a bit of trepidation, maybe, but not fear.
Fear is what happens when you’ve put your heart on the line, when the flames are so close you can feel the hair begin to singe, and when there is so much of your blood and treasure invested that you begin crying at the thought that you haven’t done it justice. Fear is when you’re painting the story with your beating heart instead of a paintbrush. And when it’s that important you can’t stop. But more than that, when it is that important you can’t let your fear stop you.
Being a writer is when you go back to your chair, you station your butt therein, and you just keep going even though it feels like it might kill you.
“It is only when you open your veins and bleed onto the page a little that you establish contact with your reader.” – “Confessions of a Story Writer” Paul Gallico
Keep NaNo-ing you crazy word people. Here’s to 50,000.
For anyone interested in my project, you can check it out HERE.