Put Down the Cat O’ Nine Tails and Step Away…

I’m drafting this in Campbell Hall at UCSB, waiting to hear Steven Johnson talk about his book Wonderland: How Play made The Modern World. I expect it will be interesting and inspiring, and it makes me realize that it is official: I have given up on trying to “win” this year’s NaNoWriMo.

After the first week of November, I quickly realized work on the novel I planned to tackle during the month was reluctant at best, self-flagellation at worst. Forcing myself to continue writing scenes for the novel felt wrong.

After the election, my imagination was shanghaid by paranoia. Paranoia sickened me, like catching the flu. I experienced alternating bouts of angry fevers and fear filled chills. I had no appetite, was too weak to leave my bed, and my whole body ached…worst in my chest, where my heart felt like a black hole.

All I could do was envision the worst. My imagination was trapped by the paranoia.

The Creative in me encouraged me to keep writing, no matter what. Wait for the story to recapture your stalled imagination, was my advice to me. I adapted. I created a folder inside of my novel folder for “Other Stuff” so that the writing I could work on would be able to be counted towards my monthly writing goal.

That worked for another week’s worth of words. I free-wrote, published a few blog posts, and managed to get in some good words during my trip to San Francisco.

But it just wasn’t meant to be. Writing takes presence. It takes intent. It requires energy. It is work. And I chose to work on other things in November: Helping a friend in need. Keeping myself sane by escaping politics and close-to-home challenges with a binge of Gilmore Girls.

The novel outline, the work I’ve done, the research, the plans I’ve made…it is all there waiting for me. And letting it sit allowed me to have a very important breakthrough about my main character’s passion and perseverance in the face of her own opposition, which will help a TON when I get back to her.

It is not easy for me to let goals slide. It makes me feel less. I know that will resonate with some of you, so I say it openly: LOSING SUUUUCKS! Falling short of the goal SUUUCKS!

But suckage is part of life. And I have no doubt at all that my experiences in November will enrich my life, and therefore my writing, in ways that I can’t anticipate.

And now that the lecture is over, book in hand, I think about the innovations that Johnson attributes to various forms of play. I wasn’t in a very playful mood this month. I wanted to hide with my blankie. Soon enough I’ll be inspired to play again, perhaps to fight a good fight too. But only if I learn to take care of myself. Put down the cat o’ nine tails and step away…

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