Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Meditation on Writing

In case anyone has noticed my relative silence over here for the past few weeks, it's not because I have become suddenly shy again (as far as I know I am still a newly-minted extrovert). On the contrary, I have been engaged in a not-so-secret project that involves writing at least 50,000 words in the month of November and calling it a novel. At first I thought, "oh, I'll try this and get bored with it like I usually do and that will be that." But just past the halfway point, I've got over 26,000 words written--and not just one word repeated 26,000 times--and I think I might actually make the deadline. It's not something that I ever expected to happen, and I'm still a little cautious about discussing it at all, in case that causes me to self-destruct. I am very good at enthusiastically starting projects and historically pathetic at bringing them to a satisfying close. So: cautious optimism. As I've been forcing myself to write the required 1,667 words a day, I've also been thinking about my history as a writer.

I have consistently been a voracious reader, but writing was something I only did in fits and starts throughout my childhood. I am still quite proud of the short story I wrote some (cough) years back from the point-of-view of a Rain-Blo bubble gum ball, even though the story itself may longer exist.1 As a young adult with no actual ability to make geeky friends who were my age, I spent a great deal of time generating D&D characters . . . but never actually played the game. To this date I still have not played D&D once (much less an entire campaign), but that's OK, I suspect that character generation (and character names) might be the best part. Then I went to college, and all of my writing time was taken up with things called 'papers', some of which didn't actually feel like work.2

After graduate school (Master's #1), I worked two simultaneous jobs as a technical writer, so there still wasn't much space in my life for "fun" writing. However, despite not liking to read short stories all that much, I used to write them, in the form of fan-fiction, for other people to read on the internet. Most of the archive sites for these stories seem to have mercifully disappeared, and I'm not going to say much more about that. However, I do still have a t-shirt that vaguely references that time of my life, so as long as I keep it I will always have a gentle reminder that I used to be passionate about TV. Eventually I developed this blog as an outlet for my desire to write. It allows me to keep up on my more formal prose with book reviews, and once in a while do a little navel gazing.

I've always had a secret desire to write a romance novel, and have a rough half-dozen started on various forms of media that are now obsolete and therefore inaccessible to me.3 When I started reading my mother's romance novels as a kid, I felt that I was enough of a judge of quality to arrogantly think "hey, I could do this!" I mean, who hasn't picked up a "trashy" romance and thought that they could produce something equally bad, if not slightly better? This month is my opportunity to finally put my money where my mouth is. At some point (in September or October), I volunteered to write a novel that will probably only appeal to a very small subset of people, but which will make me happy to write. And I think that's what actually matters.

1It may actually still exist; there's a lot of stuff in the garage. But that's another post entirely. If I find it someday, I'll be sure to post it here, so STAY TUNED. In the meantime (spoiler alert), if I remember correctly, it doesn't end well for our gumball hero.

2My favorite papers were for Literary Theory. One involved ten pages of deconstruction applied to the message inside a Cadbury chocolate egg wrapper, and the other was a discussion of "Jesse's Girl" as a tale of homosocial desire (we had been reading Sedgwick). For the opportunity to write these, I have to give all the credit to my friend and mentor Dr. Tromp, the same person who facilitated footnote 3.

3The same is true of my 120+ page senior thesis on Emily Brontë, but I like to think that I could recover that with the help of OCR from my hard copy, if ever there was an emergency in which my scholarship--DIGITIZED--was the only hope for humanity. For reference, the title is: 'Through life and death, a chainless soul': Emily Brontë's Poetic Reconfiguration of Romanticism, Female Authorship, and the Critical Paradigm. Available only in one college library in Ohio, my living room, and my father's house. Oh, to be young again.

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