This is a guest blog I wrote for Script Chics - make sure to give them a look at www.scriptchics.blogspot.com for witty women writers!
For days, until just a few seconds ago, I stared at a cursor blinking on a blank page, trying to decide what to write about writing. There is nothing more menacing than the steady flash of a cursor going nowhere, and nothing more beautiful than the steady horizontal movement once the words pour forth and something is created that people may actually want to read and enjoy.
When I was asked to write about writing, I didn’t think I’d have such an issue getting started. After all, I’ve written as long as I can remember. When I was a kid in the 1970s, it was with crayons or sometimes dandelions or clovers as I sat out in the outfield during softball games, where I was relegated as a kid with little to no softball skill. Words helped me escape, work out problems, make friends, and influence people. They also got me into a decent amount of trouble, but those are stories for another day.
In order to get writing, I need the trifecta of time, a great idea, and the gumption to get started. Right now, I’m working on the sequel to my first novel, which is due sooner than I like to think about. I have the great idea and the gumption, but time is always elusive. It’s a good thing November has come, or I’d never get it done. Which reminds me – I also need deadline pressure. Is there such a thing as a quart-fecta? Quarfecta? Fourfecta? I don’t know what it looks like, but I need it.
All I can say is thank the universe for NaNoWriMo! I commit to write 1500 words or more daily, and carve out the time to do it. I don’t know what it is about this great annual exercise that helps me stop using my teaching job, kids, husband, and house as excuses to avoid the accursed cursor, but as my teen daughter would say, “Sign. Me. Up.”
I am not a writer who creates outlines or meticulously chooses between an appositive or a participial phrase in order to add detail to my sentences. I don’t deliberately debate decisions regarding alliteration. I don’t hand-write everything first and go back and type later. I pick where I’m starting and decide where everyone should end up, and my characters just sort of wind (and sometimes suffer) through their own stories until they arrive. NaNo is perfect for my free-form writing style. Without the word minimum and mind-wandering, I wouldn’t work out different ways to write dialogue or the perfect way to describe a place. I wouldn’t get the satisfaction of racking up ridiculously high word counts. I wouldn’t have the experience of having to overcome the mocking cursor every day for a month. And I wouldn’t have finished a book. Or met the wonderful ladies I worked with over the summer at NaNoWriMo summer camp.
There is something special about being part of a bigger writing thing. Knowing that thousands of my author brothers and sisters sit every day writing what could become genius is empowering. Knowing that I am accountable for 1500 words, and that some of them will be perfect. Knowing that I can accomplish something through words that I can’t in any other way, being good at not much else.
In my experience, once I get going the daily totals actually end up closer to 2500 or 3000 words because I simply can’t stop in the middle of an idea, because I’m so old I forget everything by the next time I log in. I’d encourage anyone who is a writer – or who wants to be one – to sign up. It’s free. It’s a conversation piece, It’s a great way to form a writing habit.
Best of all? I conquer the cursor.
Courtney is a most fabulous writer and teacher of gifted middle school students. She is the author of two novels - see the "Cate Books" page of this site for information! Watch for updates about future books that need to be part of your personal library. In the meanwhile, enjoy her pithy life observations.