“I find having a mortgage to be a great motivator to keep on working.”
Mo Willems

author: Nicole J. LeBoeuf

actually writing blog

Days Ten through Twelve: Put Something In
Sat 2011-11-12 22:07:54 (in context)
  • 21,391 words (if poetry, lines) long

It's been a good few days on the novel. I've been slacking off with the blogging of it, but not with the actual writing. I've discovered that if I spend two hours alternating 15-minute word sprints and 15-minute rests, I generate between 3,000 and 3,200 words. So that's what I did on Thursday. I did it again today. And since @NaNoWordSprints challenged everyone to have a #5Kday, I kept going. In pure word count terms, I am all caught up.

In story terms, things keep happening unexpectedly. Which is kind of fun and kind of nervous-making.

Driving to the airport the other night, I saw what looked like the tattered remains of a garbage bag rise up on the wind, whip around a bit, then sink down again. And I thought, "Ah, ghosts on the side of the road." And I continued thinking, "Imagine if that were a normal sight. Ghosts on the side of the road. Just part of the acknowledged world. You'd have to learn about it in driver's ed, along with other unexpected things you have to be able to handle as a driver. Wildlife, inclement weather, ghosts. And are the ghosts going somewhere or are they waiting to get picked up?"

So I had my next chapter. It was about time I set a chapter in a world whose reality wasn't quite like ours. In this chapter, a little girl acquires a costume ring from a gumball machine in that shop, and it lets her interact with a very particular ghost.

Bitsy was bad. She went where she oughtn't. But it's not her fault! She just forgot. She forgets things sometimes. Momma tells her, Don't you go in that store. Don't you go in there. Bad things for sale in there. Bad things a little girl shouldn't see. Bitsy is a very little girl -- she's eight and three quarters precisely. Any littler and she'd be a baby. Bitsy's too little to see the bad things on the shelves, because they're way up high where Momma would have to lift her. Pa used to lift her up high, way too high, and Bitsy would scream and scream, but Momma knows how to lift Bitsy up safe and sound so she can take down her ghoulie-bear or see the family picture of herself and Momma and Pa and her old big sister Camerie who lives on the side of the road. Bitsy wants to go visit her. Pa took her once, but it was so long ago Bitsy's forgot. Pa says Bitsy was very brave and didn't cry or try to run away, that Bitsy tried to hug Camerie, and Camerie, who was singing and singing Oooooo ah oooo, stopped singing and got so startled she shrank down to the size of a mouse and blew away. Bitsy knows that's how it happened because Pa only tells true stories, but Bitsy's forgot it all. That's why she wants to see Camerie now. She forgot what her old big sister was like.

Bitsy forgot about the store, too, about Momma saying no no no, she was so set on visiting Camerie all by herself. Since she's so little, it took her about two times forever to get halfway there, following the sidewalk and then turning left because Bitsy isn't supposed to cross the street by herself, then following the sidewalk under the great big highway. Bitsy isn't sure if that's crossing the street or not. Is crossing under the same as crossing, period? Camerie crossed under, long before Bitsy was born -- a whole year, Momma said.

The store's another forever along the sidewalk, right about when Bitsy's getting confused about where Camerie lives. The store's got dirty windows Bitsy couldn't've seen inside even if she weren't so little, and when she runs her hand along the reddy brown wood its walls are made of, she gets a splinter. It's not the kind of splinter that hurts. It just sticks out like a little tree that got blown over in the wind. Bitsy's still staring at it inside the store, because there isn't much other than that for a little girl to see in the store, what with all the shelves being way up high, and the splinter is interesting the way it sticks out of her hand.

And the chapter just kept going. I've been writing on it for three days, and the chapter's word count is 9,549. I think I may have stumbled across an entire novel here.

NaNoWriMo feels very self-indulgent. This year especially. It's not the first time I've started the month with no clue where I was going, but it's the first time that the shape of a novel hasn't arisen quickly and naturally. I mean, the year I drafted Like a Bad Penny, all I had to go on were two men coming out of a bagel shop, but before two days were out I knew what the novel would look like. This? I continue to explore. And constantly working day after day on something that doesn't guarantee to become potentially publishable, that's what feels so self-indulgent. Like, I can't really justify it to myself. It feels like writing, but is it productive? I don't know.

So I keep reminding myself, "It's NaNoWriMo. It's supposed to be self-indulgent. It's your chance to make unexpected things happen."

John and I were talking finances the other day. As is often the case, I mentioned feeling a bit like a slacker because I wasn't working as hard as I felt I should, producing as many stories as I knew I could, or doing as much "day job writing" as I felt I ought. And John said something that kind of blew my mind. He said, "Well, I often feel like I'm not the force for good in this world that I ought to be. But by supporting you, giving you time to not only write but volunteer and stuff like that, I feel like I am making the world a better place after all."

And that sort of hit me right in the teary-eyed spot. I'm sure if I thought too hard about what John said, I could convince myself to feel terribly pressured about it, like I needed to produce enough positive change in the world to justify two people's existence instead of just one, so work HARDER work MORE stop SLACKING... but right now, what I mostly feel is affirmed. Like a great big permission slip just got handed to me, and I can believe in it.

So noodling around in November, following this or that clue through my imagination in search of a story with no guarantee of what I'll find -- that's OK. It's part of the process. It does, eventually, lead to story. And it's true to that good old Shel Silverstein motto of Put Something In: "Put something silly in the world / That ain't been there before." I think as long as, whatever I do with my days, I take Put Something In as my guide beacon, I'm headed in the right direction.

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