Watch Out! Here comes NanoWriMo!

Okay, confession time.  To this day, every time I hear the word “NaNoWriMo,” the first image that pops into my head is a miniature rhino that goes bulldozing headlong through a page of words.  Letters flung everywhere.  K is clinging for dear life to the top corner of the page; R is knocked on its back on the bottom left.  Chaos everywhere.

And that can be exactly how National Novel Writing Month feels.  Chaotic.  Especially when you have to crank out a given amount of words each day.  Think about it: let’s pretend that 50,000 words is your writing goal for the month of November.  There are 30 days in November.  That means you have to churn out 1,667 words per day.  If life gets in the way on any given day, then you get to double your word count the next day.  And that, my friend, is a LOT of words.

Last November I finally bucked up and committed to doing NaNoWriMo.  “Why,” you ask, “would you subject yourself to that much stress?”  First, as an artist, I thrive under pressure.  The creative juices just start pumping when I have a deadline staring me down.  But second it was one of the best things I’ve ever done to jumpstart my writing.

You see, I’m notorious for sitting in front of my computer and fussing for an hour over what the right word is.  While that’s fine for the editing process, I can easily find myself consumed with word choice over actually getting the story down on paper.  Writing the story is the fun part!  It’s where the characters begin to become flesh and blood and the action gets your heart pounding.  But if you’re too caught up in the minutiae, you miss all the fun.  And that’s where NaNoWriMo is an awesome tool.

You don’t have time to worry if the scene is flowing or if you used just the right lingo.  You have to write fast and furious.  You have a deadline; you have motivation.  Something to keep you accountable to write.  If you take up the challenge, you’ll get the story down on paper, and that’s half the battle.  Once it’s down, you can edit to your heart’s content.  Sometimes getting it down in the first place is the hardest part.

So I challenge you: if you’ve been procrastinating on writing your novel (or any other work for that matter), sign up for NaNoWriMo.  It’s a fabulous writing exercise if nothing else.  And you may be surprised and the direction your writing takes you, and how far along you are in just 30 days.

Here’s your next stop: www.NaNoWriMo.org .  Good writing, and good luck!

 

On to a new chapter…

I sit and stare at my keyboard like it’s some alien device with incomprehensible runes.  I stare at the computer screen.  I’ve already checked my email and Facebook three times.  But that’s not what I came here to do.  I need to write.  I haven’t written in a day, a week, a month.  The words are bubbling and brewing just beneath my shell, begging to overflow.

I reach out.  My finger traces the square plastic keys.  I pluck at the “M”.  And stop.  I can’t.

I can’t do this.  Not without her.

I draw back as though the worn keys have suddenly bit me.  Salty tears well in my eyes.  I try again.  It’s a no-go.

She would whap my nose if she knew how silly I was being about all this.  She’d call it silly, anyways.  But for me, the loss of my cat had grieved me to the point I couldn’t do the one thing my soul craved most: write.

I’d never seen a cat who loved to read so much.  Every time I had a book in my paws, she would nestle up under my arms to read it too.  And when she discovered that I could write, she was tucked down beside me every time, offering very apt “cat-tiques” when I jotted down something that was crap.

And we’d come so far.  We had been working on the final draft of our book when the cancer had set in.  Cammie refused to let it deter her.  We would sit on the floor together and I’d read a chapter at a time to her.  She never failed to offer an opinion.

The last weekend was so tough.  She felt miserable and had taken to hiding under the papasan we always curled up in to write.  I knew what we would have to do come Monday morning.  But how was I to get her through the night?  I tried singing – which no one on the planet except Cammie seemed to appreciate – and tucking her favorite toy in next to her.  Nope.  Nothing helped.  I tried a last ditch effort.  I got out the notebook and a few books.  Her ears pricked up.  Then she sat up.  Wiggled toward me.  I pushed a book under the papasan to her.  Her eyes lit up and she pawed it, drawing it closer to her and using the book as a pillow as she watched me write.

I feel a soft pawing at my foot as it dangles over the edge of my papasan.  Then hear a soft mew.  I look down and see a pair of blue eyes set in fluffy white fur looking up at me.  Antoinette.  A thumping of paws rumbles through the room as the all-black Gypsy comes bounding into the room.  It’s writing time and they know it.  My new “cat-itors” in training.  They have a lot of learning to do, especially about not sleeping on the keyboard while I’m trying to type, but they seem enthusiastic enough.

I smile a little as they tuck in nearby.  Gypsy tucks in next to me in the spot mirroring where Cammie used to lie.  She paws at the keyboard.  She knows what it’s for.  She looks up at me in anticipation.  “Well?”  I can see it on her face.

While it will never be the same without Cammie, I know she’d want me to carry on as usual.  I’m glad for my two new little friends to keep that encouragement going.  On to a new chapter… with permanent paw prints on my heart from the last.