This rant has been a long time coming.
One of the underlying, often overlooked truths of the profession of writing (yes, even if you’re an amateur who takes their work seriously, which is good enough for me) is what writing actually looks like, day in, day out. There’s quite a bit of perceived glamour attached to the profession, even when you manage to look past the whole “art is pain and suffering” glaze (not a fan, since I love writing almost as much as I love ranting about writing). Photos of writers—especially those of the second half of the 20th century, which I loved to look at as a kid, oftentimes printed at the backs of their books—portray them on a backdrop of their personal libraries, or shelves full of books they’ve written, or at book signings, or—as one of my favourite authors of all time—in front of a pleasant looking tree.
Almost none of the photos, though, show an hours-long narration of writers doing what they do the most with their time—sitting down and typing.* And again. And again. Today, tomorrow, the day after that, the day after the book signing, the day after they finish a book, the day before they start a new one, in the summer, in the winter, now and forever. Sit down and type.
Most of them do it at their desk, wherever that might be, and fight carpal tunnel and other, sitting-related issues, week after week, month after month. Some go to coffee shops—not my personal cup of writing coffee, although it can be alright if you’ve got company—and make use of the background noise and undemanding chatter to focus better on the pages. Some locations writers haunt to do their work have even been raised to pilgrimable levels (I’m looking at you, The Elephant House, and I’m looking at you from across the street because I know where you live and I’ve gone there specifically to see you), but it’s a bit hard to do that with the writers’ living room couches and their dining room tables and their—if they’ve played their cards good enough—(home) office desks.
Sit down, type. For hours.
If you, as me, write at home, you might be lucky enough to have a roommate or a partner who’s doing this noveling marathon, too, but eventually they’ll have to go to work, or to school, and you’ll still be typing. Furthermore, you might be accustomed to keeping different hours, as is with my current live-in situation, which means I’ve nobody to keep me company in the first few hours of every writing day, other than my good-for-nothing world-jumping lady characters, and, you know, a cat and a dog I adore, but have difficulties talking to about random plot issues.
Or, even worse, you might live with people who don’t write, and who might provide sometimes welcome, sometimes bothersome November companionship, but you will still have to spend hours upon hours upon hours during all the many days of NaNo—in a row!—hunched over your novel, and that will, eventually, lead to lonesome typing.
Some people prefer it so, and more power to them.
But what are the social butterflies among us to do with the utter, silent, nerve-wracking loneliness?
For one, join a writing community. And that’s the thing about NaNo which I probably like the most, one of the things which got me through the first few years, before I had any semblance of personal writing momentum. I might be alone at this certain place, but there are countless others out there, doing the exact same thing I’m doing at this exact same time. (Well, they’re probably not procrastinating over a blog post, but I’ve already written 600 words this morning and I needed a break because there are only so many words you can use for ‘portal’ before you run out of readers’ attention span.)
I’m lucky enough to actually talk to writers each and every day—and have been, doing it, on and off, for a dozen years or so— and I believe it was the turning point which made me step away from the path of writing atmospherical short stories inspired by amospherical songs (nothing wrong with that, just not enough for me) and join the rather smaller crowd on the highway to
hell publishable copy.
Another thing you can do is read in your favourite genres, discover new authors and stalk them—I mean, research their technique—online. I’ve found, quite unexpectedly, that reading about other writers’ approach to the everyday work and the craft in general gives me such a huge boost, in terms of confidence, general optimism and productivity. When I was a kid—and I’ve started writing about the same time I’ve started reading, so there’s really no talk of “the time before writing”, for me—I used to love stories about how my favourite writers made their best novels happen, but I mostly read them as a fan, grateful to see behind the stage, amazed at how brilliant they were.
But the biggest break came from reading non-fiction from writers, for writers, which ultimately made me see myself as a writer. And almost none of the writers in question have written anything I’ve ever read, some due to not being translated in Croatian (which I’ve read books in, almost exclusively, up to the release of Deathly Hollows), some due to writing in genres of the “not with a ten foot pole” variety, for me. And still, their words resonated with me, so much, and helped me dare keep on writing, alone, at my keyboard, day after day after day. (People whose blogs I can personally reccommend are Kristine Kathryn Rush, Dean Wesley Smith and KJ Charles, who just happens to be one of my favourite fiction writers, too, at the moment. Also, she does a killer dialogue writing lecture.)
It should probably be noted that going to my day job helps at this point, too, because I work at an info desk and my shift colleague is rather talkative, too, so I still spend almost half of my daily hours actually conversing with people.
But I’ve already been up three hours, and my s. o. is still not up. I’m still lonely as hell, and, at this point, I’m bored a bit, too, beause dammit, why does November have to so long?
So I think I’m gonna go back to writing now. Because, the characters help ease the impact of loneliness, too, at least some of the time.
And so does having fun.
Bring it on, day six!
*Of course they type, not write by hand. What is this, 1919?
Photo by briarcraft.