It is done. Last night I turned in the first 75 pages of a brand new novel for the Djerassi workshop I was accepted into this past winter. They are some of the best 75 opening pages I’ve ever written, and I did it by ignoring all the “rules” of how to write a first draft.
Confession: I wrote it all in two weeks while working my full time job (and taking one insane less-than-48-hour roadtrip to Salem, MA for my 30th birthday!) and I felt totally unprofessional and like an absolute fraud while doing so.
Confession #2: If I had a choice, I would not go back and do it any differently.
You know why? Aside from these being some of the most sharply-focused, present-in-the-moment weeks of my recent adult life, I didn’t have a single moment to spare for over-thinking (except on the car ride home from Salem where I may have started to panic because I hadn’t written in two days, which we shall not speak about).
The thing is, SAVAGE CASTLE is a book that I am creating based on ~feeling.~ It’s a new thing I’m trying: listening to my gut, to what calls to me, to where the story jams and stumbles versus where it glides and flows. I literally feel these things in my hands and in my throat, and if I pay attention, if I just listen, if I just look for the words that feel the best, everything actually goes pretty smoothly.
(I have been told this isn’t exactly normal, that it might be a form of synesthesia, but since I eschew labels like that I’m just going to call it my gut feeling. I’m trying to live my life by it, these days. So far it’s working out pretty well.)
See, I trained myself to totally ignore my gut when I was younger. It caused a lot of trouble, that ol’ intuition and heart’s desire, but I became pretty darn good at stomping down the parts of me that wanted to take risks, dream big, or blaze trails. (I actually convinced myself I was already doing all of those things–that’s how tricky I am!) The problem is, of course, when you shut yourself down like that for so long, it has to come out somewhere, eventually. And it’s no secret on this blog that, for me, it all came out a few years ago in the form of a total nervous breakdown and eventual divorce (which was actually a byproduct of getting better and realizing I deserved much more than the life I was living). :D
So these last few years, I’ve been on a mission to retrain myself to hear that still, small voice (which is actually a big, loud voice by the time you reach breakdown mode–it just gets hard to hear over the sound of your ego screaming DANGER DANGER DANGER at every cool new idea you have), and writing a novel under an intense deadline is the best way to force yourself to drop all your hang-ups, issues, and concerns, and just write a damn fine piece of fiction.
My motto these past two weeks has been “I don’t have time for this shit!” regarding mowing the lawn, feeding myself, traffic anywhere, people being wrong on the internet, and, more literally, when the dog got into the litterbox and made a mess. But also, and more importantly, this motto was continuously applied to my insidious self-doubt, my tendency to get head-bobbingly sleepy when I’m stressed out, and my ability to make myself into a magical victim of the universe in three thoughts or less. I just did not have time for that shit before a deadline, but it was actually relatively easy enough to shake off so long as I always came back to this: I am a writer. There is nothing in heaven, hell, earth, or any other dimension that is ever going to change that. The only thing that can stop me, is me. So, terrible internal monologue: STFU. I can no longer hear you over the sound of me being awesome.
What I love about this experience more than anything, though, is that I learned something incredible: if I didn’t have time for that shit before deadline, then I can refuse to give my time to that shit now. I’ve given myself all the evidence I need to prove that shit was just an option all along.
Saying “no” is always an option, except when it comes to what your heart wants (unless you’re into planning your future midlife crisis). You can say “no” when insecurity and harmful comparison to other authors rear their ugly heads. You can say “thanks, but no thanks” when your ego is trying just too damn hard to protect you/itself and wants to you “play it safe.” You can say “go fuck yourself” when it tells you “don’t get excited about this one, you’ve never gotten a book deal before and you never will.”
And so, what was the result of me learning to say no to shitty thoughts? What was the result of rushing to write the first 75 pages of a novel in two weeks, between the hours of sleep, and work, and dentists, and vets, and turning thirty 500 miles away from home?
Why, some of the best, most organic storytelling I’ve ever done.
Anyway, the book is far from finished, but I’ve got a hell of a lot of momentum going in the right direction. I can’t wait to see where it takes me. :D