Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Join the Club

In a way, I'm a bit sad.

I've been sticking with the Don't Break the Chain approach to revising one of my old drafts -- a book that optimistically combines love, sex, religion, drugs, death, magic, biodiesel and video games under the unlikely title of The Ballad of Congo Willy.[1] This was the product of NaNoWriMo for me in 2011, and I have attempted rewrites and restarts every few months since the keys cooled from the original draft, always fizzling out for one reason or another.[2] But I'm actually almost nearing the end of it now, three months into making myself spend some time with it every night. I can't say that it's actually good, but I know at least that it's improved from its previous form, shoved in a box on a shelf being ignored.

Inspiration was hard to come by for this one, and instead of getting itchy fingers at the approach of November this year -- time for a carnival o' writing! -- I'm feeling kind of... dry. Empty. Not used up, necessarily, but not as eager as in years past. A bit sad, even, because there's no way I'm not doing NaNo this November, and more than I'll allow myself a night away from C.W.. Writing even terrible fiction is such a sea change from my day job mucking around with databases and code,[3] and I enjoy the oddball camaraderie of the Typewriter Brigade and the general festival nature of NaNo. For someone who slips into his habits easily and stubbornly refuses to get out, a month of creative chaos is a welcome and necessary part of my life now.

But what to write about?

I know that I'm not a (seat of the) Pantser come November. I don't just sit down at the typewriter and bleed. I need at least a sketch of a character or two, and a situation to toss them into: the basics of an outline, which I adhere to or drift from over the course of the thirty days. This flawed exercise is my capital-p Process, such as it is. And usually I am coming into October with just exactly these basics, having scrawled them down in notebooks and index cards during the summer. But I've spent all that time this year rewriting and revising, not sowing. So just as I'm forcing myself to Get Creative Daily, Dammit, I'm going to cutover into Full Bore Planning Mode in October.

The Internet[4] attributes this quote to Jack London:
You can't wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.
After three months of enforced hill-climbing, I completely agree. There are days when rewriting C.W. was mental agony, and days when I couldn't get out of the way of my fingers fast enough. And I know that book is far better[5] overall for the attention it's been paid this summer, especially when the going got tough. And now I'm looking at the hill that is November, and realizing that I need to climb this thing yet again, and the only way to do this is to grab hold of both sets of bootstraps[6] and go.

But it's friendlier with more.

So here's a challenge to you, dear reader. Who's with me? Who's willing to head out and club up some inspiration? Who needs to break out of their daily rut a bit and write four weeks of bad prose? "I have nothing to write about" isn't an excuse.

Who's going to join the club?

[1] I did say I was being optimistic.

[2] Just one reason: pure unadulterated slacking off. I've tapped a vein of the stuff and mine it all day long.

[3] All of which is flawless, of course.

[4] "The Internet is always right." -- Abraham Lincoln

[5] And much, much weirder. I'm happy with that, too.

[6] Not sure this is physically possible. Not worrying about that, either.


sjb said...

You know I'll be there. Cause I rite good.


Ted said...

I offer you encouragement, but probably not solidarity. I've found that Nano encourages me to write what I'm not particularly good at (fiction) and makes me feel guilty for not doing it. Besides, all my Nano buddies from years past have given up, so I'd have to make all new friends. And boy, do I hate having friends. :D

CStanford said...

I've been wondering if I could do it this year since I've got a new job that has me working three evenings a week and leaves very little downtime. But I can hardly imagine November without NaNo. Most years I also have some kind of plan by now, having built it up over the summer, but this year I have the least ideas ever.

I think I'll try it this year, but I don't know if I'll be able to use a typewriter.