Tonight marks the end of Day 5 of National Novel Writing Month, NaNoWriMo, or Nano for short. For those of you familiar with Nano and obsessed with “word count” and “stats,” here is that page:
For those of you who don’t care about word count and stats, God bless you. Let’s talk about other things. The novel is coming along. I am way ahead of schedule. Of course, if you know me, and those of you who have been reading here for a while do know me now, you know that I am very much an overachiever, so I do more than the “bare minimum,” certainly, each day. Part of this is fear that I will fall behind, so I get ahead. I fear that I will catch the flu (they told me the flu shot won’t take effect until around the 13th) or that some ill fate will come upon me and I’ll have to take a number of days off. So I am about six days ahead of schedule. The other part is simply my desire to push my limits.
Being a perfectionist is a bad setup for Nano. It means that the internal editor is at work while I write. So I go back and “fix” as I go along. This cannot be helped. So I figure it into my writing time. The quality of my writing is a little better for it, and rewriting won’t be the nightmare that it would be if I chose to ignore my internal editor.
Last year’s Nano was totally different from this year’s. Last year’s book was an easier book to write by nature of the type of book it was. But my word count was lower and I was burning, burning myself out–fast. I was starving myself and declining rapidly. This year, I am nourishing my body and taking care of myself. What I can do while eating properly and not starving myself far surpasses anything I could possibly have expected.
Needless to say, this book is decidedly a difficult book. First person is really, really tough. I am having trouble with the “voice” of the character (ask an MFA EXACTLY what this means and you’ll get quite an explanation). I am playing with it as I go along, and I must say, I’m not pleased with it yet. Maybe by mid-book I’ll have it down, but more likely, I won’t. Maybe if I’m lucky, by the end of the book I’ll have a mere inkling of where I want to go with it.
I discussed this with my T today, believe it or not. Let me back up. Yeah, it’s kinda weird discussing this kind of thing with one’s T. She, after all, doesn’t see my writing, and we don’t discuss writing much. But let me back up. By the time I got into her office today, I had already gotten a head start on the tears parade; that is, I had been crying in the hall! Of course, no one had seen me. I have done worse. I have started my tears on the bus on the way over to my T’s office. I have done a lot of crying on buses, actually. I’m relaxed enough on the bus and my mind wanders so it’s easy and understandable that I might go into a dark space in my mind. Buses are anonymous and no one notices because everyone’s busy texting. No one’s actually on the lookout for a skinny girl with tears falling down her cheeks. I’ve cried on airplanes, too. I suppose people do a lot of that. I’ve actually seen it, and fantasized that the person had just said goodbye to a sweetheart. Maybe she had.
At any rate, I had a tearful session with my T. I told her it completely overwhelmed me that only a couple of months ago, I had completely given up, and was convinced that I would not live much longer. It is a major shift, when you assume that you will die, to suddenly be given life, to have all this time put into your lap. And I can’t quite handle it right now, today, at this moment. It is too much to bear. It is like a light that is too bright. You have to shut your eyes for a while.
I am overwhelmed by everything non-Nano that I have to get done. These things would be a challenge anyway with or without Nano. And it doesn’t help that I have been sleep-deprived since Sunday night or so. I am swept up in the excitement.
My T, though, helped me find the real cause.
As I have told you before, I cannot speak aloud or even write the title of my Nano novel without becoming noticeably tearful: I am So Cold, and Hungry in My Soul. So I didn’t dare tell my therapist (besides, it was at the end of the session and I didn’t want to start up crying–again). Remind me not to think about the title while on a bus or airplane unless I remember Kleenex. Please.
My T asked me if I felt emotion while I was writing the book. I told her I felt nothing. I feel detached. Distant. No feelings, just guilty for putting May (I changed her name) through anorexic tortures. Then I talked about the book. I told my T about everything I was doing to May. I told her about some of the things happening to May that had happened to me, too numerous to list (plus I don’t want to give too much away too soon).
Is it really a good idea to be writing this book? Is it really the healthiest thing? Is it cathartic, or is it going to make you sick again?
My response: I must write this book.
That is not answering the question.
It was clear that I wasn’t going to abandon my project, no matter what her recommendation was. But she did say this: Let my feelings come. Feel my feelings. Don’t bottle them up. Because they’re going to come out anyway, and it will be better writing if I let my feelings out into my words.
I think she’s right.
So I’m going to take a new approach from now on. Starting tomorrow. And I think I’ll be less overwhelmed, less tired, less frustrated, and maybe I’ll find May’s voice if I relax, let the feelings come, and acknowledge them, believe them, and embrace them as they come. It’s only Day 5, after all.