When my friends toasted the New Year this morning they all kept claiming it was going to be a very good year. I raised my glass... okay, actually it was a small Styrofoam cup... but I raised it, none-the-less and cheered and agreed.
What I have learned so far this year is this: I will likely never make a living as a novelist. It may very well be the novel, in fact, that kills me.
Perhaps a little backstory is due.
Months. Years. I can't remember when, exactly, I stopped talking about writing the novel. A novel. Anything fictitious at all. If I ever write a damned novel I will have a wonderful essay -- post publication -- on the stages of becoming a novelist because all along I've been collecting little anecdotes to share. You'll just have to trust me that they are/were clever and amusing. It doesn't really matter now.
The trouble with backstory is deciding where to start...
NaNoWriMo? That lovely month of November when wanna-be-writers challenge themselves to write 50,000 words in a month. (See badge on left sidebar -- I succeeded in 2009.) I was also an early NaNo participate. Back in the day, before they had the cool website with the graph and the whole world was doing it. So I've been a wanna-be for a while now. Wanna-be novelist, anyway.
Somehow, over the years, I became a writer. I can churn out hospital profiles at a rate of nearly a half-dozen per week. People pay me for my words. People sometimes pay me for their words. I take their thoughts/brainstorms/imaginings and turn them into something readable.
Occasionally, I have berated myself for this distraction. This "other writing" that I do. Because the dream... The dream has always been to write novels. It doesn't matter if I'm admitting it or not admitting it. It doesn't matter that my plate is full or busy or if it's with writing or not writing. These little fictions have always grown themselves in my mind and eventually they find their way to paper. Half formed, maybe. But there. Existing. Reality always in the future I imagine for myself.
When I am being kinder to myself I say that this "other writing" has always been part of the plan. It's all part of the learning curve. Convincing myself I am capable of finishing projects. That I am full of something beyond idea generation and starts. (But oh how I love those ideas... generating... starts... I bought three thick blank journals a few weeks ago just because I couldn't resist the lure of those empty white pages.) This "other writing" has taught me that my range and my depth is greater than I once imagined and that I can, quite literally, write about anything once I put my mind to it.
Where was I? NaNoWriMo.
This year I decided I was done with the starts. I was ready for a finish. I decided rather than start a story from scratch, I would approach a final draft with the same diligence I approached NaNo last year and I would complete the novel. I didn't actually think I would finish it in a month, but thought perhaps three would do. Three months (more or less) of daily toil and I was convinced I could safely tuck this thing--this finished novel--beneath my bed and get on with my life.
Get on as what? Doing what? It didn't matter really.
I longed to say this task is done. A novel. My novel. Even if you never read this novel. Done. Put away. My mind cleared for other things...
For three days I have been composing an email to my writer friend, Cheryl. (Because, yes, though I wasn't talking about the novel, there is always someone who knows even the things I am not talking about. Cheryl is one. I think probably my sister. The hubby. My good friend Melissa, more or less, she at least expects, I imagine, what I might or might not be talking about.)
My email went like this:
"It is done."
Yes. Three days to compose that. Not the polished version, of course.
But... it's not done.
In fact, just hours ago... it disappeared. As thoughts were going through my head like... "This is really it. You've done it. Yeah, it probably still sucks, but it has a beginning, a middle, an end and I am satisfied. I can tuck this one under the bed. Okay, one more read through. One more, and I will be done."
I was ttttthhhhhhhiiiiiiissss close. (You can't see the space between the fingers I am holding up as I type this with one hand -- that is just how close I... was.)
Just like that. My fingers on the keyboard and suddenly the screen is blue. Incomprehensible words telling me something about a major system melt down... world coming to an end... dumping... My computer actually said it was dumping me... or something of the sort.
It did suggest I restart the computer to see if the problem goes away.
"Operating system not found."
This is what it tells me now. Or told me.
My fingers were on the keyboard.
.... this close....
And now I've bathed in scalding water and shaved my legs (Why did I shave? Just a need to play with razor blades?) and sobbed like a baby. And I'm blogging why? Just getting it off my chest, I suppose. Until just hours ago, I was (also) working on a blog entry titled "Day 1" anyway. I don't remember what it was going to be about. Resolutions and some such nonsense...
(Note: I had not resolved to blog daily. Day 1 just seemed appropriate on the first day of this *glorious* new year.)
And bloody hell... this damned little voice inside me (okay, maybe it's hubby I'm hearing) is saying things like, "You don't actually know that it's gone." Maybe tomorrow I'll push the magic button and it'll all be there just as I left it. I'll back it up, of course... first thing. (No -- I haven't checked yet on my last backup. My gut tells me it was 30,000 words or so ago.)
Because... I'm still in tantrum throwing phase. Or perhaps just a little past it now. Because I'm feeling a little better, believe it or not. (Not a lot, but a little.)
If you've made it this far... or if you are here at all... thank you for indulging me my little tantrum. No computer advice, please. I'm not in a place to process fix-its. But if you are inclined to stomp your feet with me a little, you are more than welcome.
Happy 2011, by the way.
Hope yours is going better than mine.