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8:57 p.m. - 2010-10-26
No No NaNo!

Every once in a while I read something that's so good, so right, a something- a paragraph or even just a short phrase, that flips me over on my back and leaves me stupid and winded knowing I'll never write something that good.

This is NOT a sideways plea for compliments and reassurances. I'm a good writer, sometimes even damn good. What I am not is a fiction writer. I can tell a hella good story, but they are true stories. My own stories or things which happened to people I know. I've tried bending those stories, fluffing them, sending them off to fetch me back a new part, a part that didn't happen but could have. But either they come back empty-handed or they don't come back at all. Lost out there somewhere, unable to come back to tell me what could have happened. I can only write about what did.

Sucks sometimes. Truly it does.

I've given this a lot of thought and have decided my lack, this weird inability, comes from a discipline I put on myself as a means of survival. I trained myself never to think about What Might Have Been. Occasionally (but not very often and usually only when I've been drinking) do I take a walk through the Land of If Only It Had Been Different. And I never get very far before the hurt and the anger and the bitter galling unfairness bite big bloody chunks out of me. I don't have to walk more than a few paces before I'm crying. And in rush the questions that have no answers and will drive me insane. The 'why' questions.

The 'why' questions make me broody and miserable. Even worse they suck all the joy and hope out of the future.

And this must never be allowed.

So, 'what might have been' is a don't go there place. A good and fairly reliable way of managing the past, but it surely is a killer to the creative process.

I bring this up tonight because it's almost NaNoWriMo. More than a few of my friends are gearing up for their annual whack at it. Some make it, some don't. Makes no nevermind to me, I admire their guts regardless of outcome. Me? I tried it three times. And was in a fetal position under my desk weeping hysterically by Day 10 every damn year. The first time was because I foolishly went into it with the idea that I could write fiction if I just tried hard enough. The paltry stilted, frankly awful prose I barfed out, all 1,800 words of it, was so horrible it completely undid my faith that I knew anything. Not just about writing, but about everything. Every laughable outfit I ever donned, every disaster dinner I ever cooked, every flub, faux pas, verbal misstep, gah. I got overwhelmed with my own ineptitude and cluelessness about who really lived inside this LA suit I'd been walking around in for the last 41 years. And then spent the next few months trying to recover from knowing what a miserable, hurtful, badly dressed dork I actually was.

The second time I thought perhaps I'd tried too hard to make something brand new from pure imagination. I took a leaf from the King and tried to cannibalize my past and use it as that jumping off place to get into the Land of Make-Believe. Uh huh. See paragraphs two and four above. That year I got almost 3,000 words in before the regret and remorse had me gibbering. Spun me out into a nice juicy nightmare cycle too. The lilacs were out before I had a decent night's sleep again.

I laid off for a couple years and then like a dope thought I'd go for it one more time. That was The Year of Silence. The year I spent learning how not to be Mike's Wife. Or anybody's wife. The year I supposedly got my shit together, but now look back on and see a long blurry smear of misplaced bravado and physical starvation. For that third try at NaNo I figured I'd abandon fiction altogether and just write My Story. You know what happens when you go that far up your own ass? Yeah, you end up lost in the dark and covered in shit. And boy howdy, did I ever.

So, no NaNo for me, thanks. I'm all good here. I do, sometimes, go spelunking through my terrible past. But I go in well-armed with a zillion candle-power miner's helmet on and plenty of disinfecting wipes handy. I unearth what I feel I have to and then get gone pretty quick. Cowardly, maybe, but it keeps me sane. And afterwards I can sleep at night, mostly. If I do shake myself up some I grieve for a day and then go off to find some life affirming stuff to do. Baking, hugging on my guys, celebrating with and for my friends and their good things. I talk to the trees and pet the cats. What I do NOT do is make myself go back in.

You, my brave, brave friends who are taking the leap this year, I salute you! I'm ready to encourage and console. I'll beta-read and offer my best-est advice if you'd like me to. Just don't ask me to join you. 'Kay?

Chickenshit and reasonably comfortable with that. ~LA

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