Monday, November 19, 2007


The absence of posts commenting on my progress with National Novel Writing Month 2007 may well be a bit of a clue - I'm struggling to get anywhere near the allotted target of 50,000 words. In fact, over halfway through the month, I'm struggling to get anywhere near 5,000 words - one glance at the wordcount here shows you my current situation - and the wordcount hasn't been updated in six days either. Lame, isn't it?

I actually find it slightly depressing, as it makes it look as if I don't want to write, whereas sitting down with my notebook and pen, some suitably undistracting music, and a mug of tea are things which I thoroughly enjoy (same goes for sitting at the keyboard, but I tend to do my initial draft longhand). So why, I ask myself, do I seem to find it so difficult to apply myself (and my behind to the appropriate chair), even within the setting and constraints of Nanowrimo?

It partly worries me that I might - and this is something I wrote about last year when I failed to get anywhere near 50,000 words - be more keen on the idea of 'having written' than on actually writing; that is, that I might derive more pleasure from writing if I could just jump to having finished without the hassle of actually having to put one word after another. There are a lot of people like this, I know - the people who say things like "You know, I've always wanted to write a novel…" whereas I suspect that what they actually mean is "I'd like to have written a book, and had it published and in the shops", or something to that effect.

It's only a partial worry to me, though, as I know that I actively enjoy writing - the process of coming up with an idea, then working it into some kind of narrative, figuring out whether it would be best as prose, TV, radio or comics, and then actually putting pen to paper (or digit to keyboard) to tell that story is something I genuinely derive a lot of intellectual pleasure from, and even when I'm trying to figure out what comes next it's fun. So I'm confident that my lack of Nanowrimo progress (so far - I'm not throwing in the towel by any stretch of the imagination) isn't born of some self-sabotage, or that I might not really want to write.

But unfortunately, this last few weeks have seen me awash with mundane but necessary chores which occupy the time I'd otherwise be spending writing - redecorating the shared stairwell of my building, sealing up cracks in the brickwork to keep out mice (yes, somehow mice have made their way into our second-story flat), wedding arrangements, my ongoing hospital radio commitments, and of course the fact that I work 9-5, have all rather eaten away at the time I was hoping to spend writing this month.

As I say, I'm not giving up on Nanwrimo this year (this ramble is by way of an honest update), and in fact having written this (slightly more personal than usual) post, it makes me slightly embarrassed and mindful of how it looks like an attempt to excuse not writing - because there are so many excuses (and occasionally even reasons) not to write, but the reason FOR writing is, for me, a more basic and burning one: I want to tell stories, and hopefully other people will like reading them as much as I enjoy writing 'em (and obviously, if I can earn a living from it, then all the better).

The trick, I realise, is not to allow writing to be one of a number of things that 'I ought to do', but to make sure it's top of the list, and that other activities are only done after the wordcount or pagecount for the day is met. Simple, I know, but there’s all too often a gulf ‘twixt theory and practice, isn’t there?

(Oh, and if you're wondering why I'm wasting time posting to my blog instead of working on 'The Body Orchard', I'm writing this in my lunch-hour at work - not an environment where I can get any novel-writing done, as people are so gosh-darned noisy. Tch).


Catherine J Gardner / Phoenix Rendell said...

At least you have 5,000 words down that you didn't have at the beginning of the month. Don't beat yourself up...

The Factory said...

I'm coming for you soon...

John Soanes said...

Thanks Catherine/Phoenix - having mulled it over and posted, and read your kind words of support, I thrashed out a thousand or so words on Monday night, including a sequence which almost took me by surprise (I thought it was going to happen much later in the story, but it fitted perfectly at the end of chapter two).

And Mr Factory: I doubt you are coming for me, but thanks nonetheless for making me feel loved. In your inimitably strange way.