So this is my first free 15 minutes all day long. It’s been a long day. I really wanted to do my 15 minutes in the morning, over coffee, but the Baby had other plans. I just kicked the Boy off the computer–he’s been on for more hours than I’m willing to admit and I thought, “Great, the Baby is asleep, the Boy is getting ready for bed and the husband is gone. I can do my writing.” No sooner had my butt his the chair when I hear, “Hey Mom?
“I’m sorry, Mom isn’t here right now. If you’d like to leave your name and number, she’ll be sure to get right back to you.”
Sometimes we just have to do that. Sometimes we have to say “no” to things that aren’t of the moment. The Boy’s “Hey Mom?” wasn’t of the moment. We’d spent the whole day together and he didn’t have any pending needs beyond hearing himself talk. Or he probably wanted string, “Only 6 feet. But you can’t ask why. And it has to be really strong.” Yeah, I’ll file that under, “Not in your life.”
But it is hard to say no to him. It’s hard to say no to a lot of people. And things. I really try to not over-commit our family but sometimes I really feel like we are in a giant hamster wheel. And just when one day is winding down, I’m planning for the next day’s activities. And, because I’m a “planner and a fixer” (I’ve decided that’s a better term than “neurotic worrier”) I need to have a backup plan for my plan. And sometimes another backup plan on top of that. What if it rains? What if someone is sick? What if the car has a flat tire? What if there is suddenly world peace and everyone is standing around, singing “I’d like to teach the world to sing” and we have 15 minutes to make it to the movies? What if?
So I set my timer to 15 minutes and started writing. I have brain freeze. I need to get past the fact that I won’t write ANYTHING of substance in 15 minutes and that the point isn’t the output–it’s the process. Every November I participate in NANOWRIMO–National Novel Writing Month. I’ve done it for the past 3 years. The first two years were a piece of cake. Last year….not so much. Let it be said, I did have a baby but, shesh, like THAT gets to be my “get out of jail for free” card for the rest of my life? The point of NANOWRIMO is to write 50,000 words in 1 month. Wow–how huge. That’s 1666 words a day. That’s still pretty big. Almost too big to bother trying. How can anyone with a job/career, life, family, activities EVER write 1666 words in one day? Or 50,000 words in 30? A lot of people ask me what I win if I finish. I always say, “bragging rights.” “What do you mean?” they ask. “When I’m at a party and people ask me what I do, I get to HONESTLY say that I’ve written a novel (now two).” How many novels have you written? Now I won’t say, by any stretch of the imagination that my novels are good–no way. What NANOWRIMO gives you is (535) a shitty first draft. Which, again I say, how many shitty first drafts of novels do you have?
The other thing NANOWRIMO gives you is an opportunity to start a new habit. I know they (whoever the heck “they” are) say it takes 12 weeks to make a new habit, but a month gives you a third of the way there. Write everyday and at the end of the month, you could have a novel. Start editing the novel on January 1st (take off December to let the novel bake) and at the end of the year you could have a not so shitty final draft. Several people from NANOWRIMO have gone on to have their novels published. Some, more than one.
But still–50,000 words. Even the 1666. That still sounds like a lot to do in one day. Actually, you COULD do your entire daily word count in an hour or two. I know that sitting in front of a computer and staring at the blank page can be terribly intimidating. The moment I sat down here, all my creativity just flew out the window. Believe me, I’d been much funnier and insightful thirty seconds before I put my daughter down for bed. There is something about staring at a dream–no matter what that dream is–that freezes us up inside. The painter suddenly wants to wash his brushes. The graphic designer needs to back up her hard drive. The scrapbooker needs to organize her supplies. The writer needs to fold laundry. Or knit. But the knitter–she’s doing the dishes.
I wonder why we suddenly freeze up when we are given the opportunity to be free–to express ourselves. Straight out–I’d say it’s fear. What if the painting/design/page/story isn’t good enough. What if I don’t have enough talent. But talent isn’t contained in a solid glass. Talent is like a sponge that absorbs everything we touch. You can’t “not have enough talent” if you have a love and passion for your craft. Do not confuse talent for success. They are two very different things–often complete opposites. There are MANY talented people who aren’t “successful” in terms of money or fame. And there are many successful people who don’t have talent. They may have luck, connections, intuition, friends, and skill, but they aren’t talented.
Well, my 15 minutes ended about 3 paragraphs ago. Right where the 535 is. I marked what my word count was at the moment the timer went off. In 15 minutes, I wrote 535 words. That would be about 1/3 of my daily word count. In just 15 minutes. These last three-four paragraphs took another 10 minutes (including being interrupted by a phone call from the Girl. Something about needing help on her computer game. And now, my word count is 1000. 15 minutes. That’s all it takes to write a novel. See you tomorrow for another 15.