“Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.”
It was pouring. I stood outside the grocery store still wearing my church clothes and ballet flats, my cart full of the week’s provisions. The car was so far away. When I had arrived, it wasn’t raining. I had considered bringing the umbrella. But it was a large golf umbrella. A ripped one, at that. It wasn’t really going to be worth the struggle to maneuver the umbrella with a full cart, so I left it in the car. I wondered why they didn’t make grocery carts with canopies.
Taking a deep breath, I realized I didn’t have a choice. I’d have to go through it. It reminded me of the children in Michael Rosen’s kid’s book Going on a Bear Hunt. In search of a bear, they encounter tall grass, a river, mud, a forest, and a snowstorm. Realizing they can’t go over or under these obstacles, they bravely proceed through them. Like many well-crafted children’s books, that one carries a profound message for adults as well: Be brave. Of course, I ventured out to the car with the full cart in the pouring rain. That was the only way I was going to accomplish the task.
Now I’m facing another challenge–NaNoWriMo. I committed to writing 1667 words a day over 30 days to end the month of November with a 50,000 word novel. Yes, there are other things I’d rather be doing. Come to think of it, I’m fond of sleep and sanity, but this is a promise I made myself. I knew it would be difficult, but I didn’t realize how difficult it would be or why. Now I know. It sounds juvenile, but it’s difficult because it’s a lot of words to write in a day. I’m writing fiction, and I don’t usually write fiction at all, let alone a long work. But I had an idea that wouldn’t let go, so I decided to see what it had to say. The thing is, it develops as it is written.
So, I sit down and I know I have to fill my word quota for the day, but even with an idea and an outline, I have almost no idea what I’m going to write. Most of it is a complete surprise. And most of it is terrible. Even as I write, I think You know this is terrible, right? You know when you finish you’re going to have to revise the whole thing because this stinks, right? Yes, I know all that. But I’m doing it anyway. Yes, I want the 50,000, but I’m also learning things I wouldn’t have learned if I didn’t do it, and it’s only been a week. If I stick with it, I’m bound to learn even more.
I have a greater appreciation for writers. Even the bad ones. It’s so easy to criticize someone else’s work when you haven’t attempted the thing they’ve done. Once you’ve tried it, you can see what they went through. Maybe they didn’t do a great job of it, but at least they completed it.
So far, it’s been seven days. I’ve written over 11,000 words in 27 pages. I’ve never written that much before in a single document. It reminds me of that scene in The Fellowship of the Ring where Frodo and Sam are setting off on their adventure and Sam says if he takes one more step it’ll be the farthest he’s been from home. I hear ya, Sam. I passed home about 8,000 words ago. I guess if I’m accomplishing things I’ve never done, that’s progress. The only way to do it is to go through it. Butt in the chair. One word after another.