Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Write Now

Why am I writing a blog? Well, because I am a “writer”. Right. I guess that all depends on how you define the word “am”. It’s been 20ish years since I decided that was my career goal. A few less since I pursued my goal on a daily basis with college journalism classes, writing for the college paper and writing radio commercials. Things which convinced me that “doing what you love” for a job, was a sure-fire way to make you hate what you love. (By the way, that’s also my biggest fear about being a stay-at-home mom.)

About a year ago I met a lovely lady who was starting a writing group (check out her blog cursinginheels.blogspot.com). I thought, “Now is a great time to get back into writing.” Not really, actually I thought, “hey, she lives in my neighborhood and she’s a mom. Maybe our kids can have playdates.” I realized I was way out of my depth, when she talked excitedly about the book she wrote for “NaNoWriMo” as if everyone knew what this “rhino” creature was.

“NaNoWriMo” turned out to be “National Novel Writing Month”, an annual challenge to write a 50,000 word novel in the month of November. A couple of the other women who attended that initial group meeting came back the next month enthusiastically stating their intention to “do it.” Me? I thought, that’s nuts. But I did our writing exercises, and that crazy NaNoWriMo thing kept charging around my head. Because the thing was, I actually had a story in my head again.

I’ve always had a story in my head, since I was five years old. Back then, the story was that I got the red ruby slippers. With a matching headband and barrettes. And a purple room, with a purple telephone and a fluffy purple rug. And the kid with the cowboy hat was my friend. Don’t worry, the plots have improved since then, although color coordination did play a major role for way too long. Mostly it was an escape mechanism, but I figured I could turn it into a real success, if only I’d develop the skill for getting the stories out of my head, onto paper for others to enjoy.

But the years went on and although I always had time to think of these stories, I never seemed to have the dedication to writing them. As I grew older, busier, less in need of escape, the stories came more slowly. Then something happened to turn them off altogether (long pause for dramatic effect).

I had a baby.

This sweet, fussy, crying, demanding little girl suddenly became the thing that occupied every spare brain cell I had. And even some of the non-spare essential brain cells, like the ones that allow you to place dirty dishes in the dishwasher rather than in the refrigerator. After a while, Crying Little Girl and I worked out a compromise. I would devote 50% of my brain to her, and that would leave 50% for normal human function. This plan was working great for 2 years, and then along came sweet, cuddly, hungry little boy. Now I wanted to give him 50% of my brain. And how could I give Little Girl anything less? Which left nothing. One month of zombie life later, enter plan B. 25% brain to Little Girl, 25% to Little Boy. 25% for functioning. 25% to guilt over not being able to give 150%. Zero, Zip, Zilch to creative daydreaming.

Eventually, the Little’s demands eased up a bit. I chucked the guilt on the compost pile. In place of guilt, a story was creeping in. Nothing too deep—just a combination of a dream and an actor I had a minor crush on. Said actor’s career seemed to be going nowhere, and in frustration at the lack of good film material, I decided to give him a leading role in my NEW STORY.

Long story short, I decided to make this short story long, and turn it into a NaNoWriMo attempt with no greater goal than to say I did it. And since I’m very goal-directed when I actually have a goal, I did do it. I wrote the required number of words, of my novel, in the month of November.

Best of all, I loved it.

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