December 02, 2004

typing at the speed of sound

I seem to have taken an inadvertent leave of absence from this blog. Also possibly from my sanity. And certainly from my social responsibilities (Email? What's that? I'm sorry, did you write me? I'll write back, I will. At some point. Maybe even soon. I swear.)

I'm not quite sure, though. It may in fact be the opposite. I seem, at any rate, to have discovered a secret, a well of extra time in my day or, okay, maybe just more efficient use of the time I had always so casually, thoughtlessly discarded while bitterly complaining that there was never enough.

All of which is to say that I've been writing like a turbocharged demon on the lam from the law.

It started with the realization that my birthday's coming up (the 29th of this month, if anyone's paying attention to dates) and that I still haven't finished this damned novel, nor have I published, nor have I done much else of note in the past few years (excluding the whole parenting deal). I may not have a huge degree of control over the publishing part, but you know? Can't publish what doesn't exist. And I can at least take control of that part. Finish the first draft by my birthday? Why not?

At the time roughly five days ago I had a little more than 400 pages written, about 80,000 words. My goal is simply to get to the end of the book, wherever that may fall, but I expected it would come somewhere between page 450 and 500, somewhere between 90,000 and 100,000 words. So fifty to one hundred pages in a month. Doable, though I've probably never written quite that much in one sustained drive. But Diane was zipping through her NaNoWriMo novel, writing 2000 to 3500 words per day. Surely I could apply backside to seat cushion, fingers to keyboard, and tap out 1000 words a day (approximately five pages). Twenty five pages a week, one hundred pages in four weeks, The End a done deal in a month.

But this is December. Month of extracurricular activities. Holiday shopping, celebrating, school vacation (starts the 18th), mother visiting (starts the 16th). Not only that, but we're mid-bathroom spruce-up, which entails a lot of painting. Which is primarily my department. And did I mention some people are coming next week to put new flooring in the kitchen and someone else is coming to hollow out the cabinet next to the sink for a dishwasher and someone else will come to hook up the plumbing and someone else the electricity, a veritable parade of worker bees? Hard to get sustained writing in with all that commotion.

But why not try?

This week I've been trying. And a funny thing happened. Once I decided I could, I did. Ten pages (2000 words) Monday, fifteen pages (3000 words) Tuesday, another ten pages yesterday and eight pages so far today, rapidly closing in on ten. I'm on page 450 at this moment but by the time I go to bed, that landmark too will be past history.

There's probably nothing more boring than hearing a writer talk about page count. I realize this. But you have to understand. I have never, no not ever done this before. It's like flying, like skimming along the surface of water in a motorboat that turns into a glider plane and you're soaring and everything's moving so fast it's a blur, and you're dizzy and laughing and giddy with it all.

More important to me, I don't think my writing has suffered for it. Im not just filling space, writing randomly, hoping to somehow tap dance my way to the end. I can tell. If I look back at the pages I wrote so painstakingly, a page one day and half a page another, they're the same in tone, in style, in content. It's of a piece. And that makes me happy too.

I don't know if I could do this earlier in the novel. In fact, I know I couldn't have done it in the first chapters. I had to find the tone, find the voice, set up the story. Too much to do. Too hard. Impossible to barrel through that and do a good job. But this? If I've done my job, I've set everything in motion already, built and built the story threads up until it's all ready to topple over. The ending is a matter of giving it the push and helping it all cascade down. Or something. I'm not sure. I'm still in the midst of it.

But there's something else at work here. The fact of deciding to write more every day, to push past that "this is HARD!" whine that says stop, frees me up. I feel it every day. The first page is tough. I'm finding my stride and I keep slipping. But then? If I say, "Okay, big deal, it'll pass," it does. The muscle cramps, the brain stutter, the myriad excuses for stopping, they fade away and leave me alone to write. And that's good to know. That I can do this.

This week I write in the morning while Dan's getting Damian dressed. I write in the afternoon while Damian's at school. I write in the later afternoon if Damian's got a floor timer in the house. I write at night on my bed, listening to Damian's sleep-snuffle and occasional sleep-commentary (he talks in his sleep but we rarely understand what he says). Words pour out of me with every sigh, with every exhale. Out my ears, my pores, my fingertips. And Im happy. So so happy.

Posted by Tamar at December 2, 2004 10:35 PM

Congratulations, it sounds wonderful. And effective.

Posted by: Kay at December 3, 2004 12:24 AM

Absolutely rhe best feeling there is, Enjoy the groove, and cherish the addiction!

Posted by: Chris at December 3, 2004 04:53 AM