If a questionnaire asks me what my hobbies are I list writing. I enjoy other things like spending time with my family, playing with my kids, visiting with our backyard chickens and those sorts of things. But as long as I can remember I liked to create stories. Before I could write a sentence I would create worlds with my toy cars. Later in my life when I didn’t have any real friends to speak of I would retreat to my room and enter into the worlds I created with Matchbox and Hot Wheels. Toy spaceships were hard to come by back then. I used toy airplanes, bottle caps, a hairbrush, and whatever else suited me. The thing I liked the most was the escape from reality that making up stories gave me. At night after bedtime I could stretch my imagination more quietly telling stories like a radio narrative to myself. Without toys for props my stories could be more about adventures. But spacecraft often played in. By junior high school I was writing stories in longhand on lined paper. Character development was secondary to a good exploit. But I was writing stories. I was a writer.
I have several short stories I have written over the years. I am writing the a complete revision of my novel Icarus now. And for a long time I have wanted to participate in National Novel Writing Month. Called NaNoWriMo by most people, this takes place every November. Writers are encouraged to spend the month writing a novel which by some definitions is 50,000 words. My first draft of Icarus was 57 thousand something. And it took over a year to write. But I thought what fun this could be. I decided to go for it. To help commit myself I changed my Facebook picture to the NaNoWriMo logo and announced that I was going to try for it. Friends congratulated me. And I had a story in mind that I started years ago. The Christmas song “Do you hear what I Hear?” has always intrigued me. I have imagined that there is some inspiring backstory with this song and I have wanted to write this story for the every Christmas for the past decade or so. I figured it was time.
Tuesday morning, the first of November I got up at my usual writing time. I fire up my little laptop. The IBM Thinkpad® has no internet. I am used to the configuration and feel of the keys. When we moved to this new house I set up a writing space with this laptop plugged in and set up there. That morning I wrote 679 words. That is about what my Roadwalker blog has each Monday. The target word count per day is just under 1700 words to be able to reach 50,000 in 30 days. So the next morning I got up at four.
I felt like such a writer. I am up hours before dawn. I am going to write my novel. I am a writer.
My laptop wouldn’t boot. It had died. I went back to bed. As far as I was concerned the novel was off. Everything I ever wanted to write again was off. I was no longer a writer and nothing was worth anything anymore and I would never feel joy again for as long as I lived. I really felt like that. I changed my Facebook picture to a scowling Wile E Coyote. I crumpled and threw away my 30 day calendar with and plan.
Prajna reminded me that I could use one of the family laptops. I knew that, but it wasn’t the same. The mojo I got from my very own laptop was gone. I went to work as usual and finally began to calm down. I thought about an iconic scene in the move Chariots of Fire when Eric Liddle is running a race. He gets knocked to the ground and everyone is sure he has lost. Then in slow motion with a majestic Vangelis music score behind him, Liddle gets to his feet and begins running again. And he wins the race.
So I suffered a setback. The question isn’t who doesn’t. The question is: what now? So the next morning I got up at four again and wrote 1531 words. The next day I wrote 1792. At the end of four days I had 4001 words. Not the daily average I needed to attain 50k by the end of the month, but still something. I changed my profile picture back.
Then the next day I wrote nothing. And the day after that the same. It’s all good. I don’t think I can handle getting up at four every morning;. I work until 10 at night. I just need more sleep. But I’ve taken it on. And most important to me, I got back up after a setback. When the story is done I’ll let you know. When, not if, it is done.
Now I’m outside a Starbucks on a rainy Monday morning polishing up this entry before posting it. It’s a cold rainy day and I’m drinking coffee outside a café. Novel or not, I feel like a writer today.