Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Getting started

So, in November, I have signed up to the 'write a novel in a month' website (http://www.nanowrimo.org/). This means I am aiming to write 50,000 words of my book on motherhood.

I have already written reams and reams of words on motherhood, and done a lot of interview-based research. I get up every day at 6am (ok, sometimes I don't make it, but a lot of the time I get up). But I feel terrified, and unable to progress.

During the day I go to work, write all day, in a very different style, and execute tasks. My checklists have become clean and ordered, they are accomplished checklists.

In the evening, my time with the children has become contained and neat: a bedtime story and we're done. Occasionally, alone in the dark morning, I glimpse a future in which my battery-farmed children will emerge, pale-skinned, into the adult world, devoid of personal interests, utterly narrowminded, unable to cross a road by themselves, and in debt for the rest of their lives because I couldn't earn enough money to send them to university. This is all grist to the motherhood book, but doesn't help me solve the moral problem of what to do when my daaughter gets up at 6.10am, and comes downstairs wanting to spend time with me, at the exact moment that I am trying to steal a march on the day and write.

It's clear to me that my writing problem is twofold:

  1. I am terrified of accomplishing a book, given the struggle of completing one ten years ago. I am terrified to become that selfish again.
  2. I have already written so much that my thinking has both clarified and become muddied by excess. It's easier to give up. I am closer to finishing than to starting, and it's starting that carries all the heady excitement. The reality is that I am in the slog straight, those swimming lanes where you just go up and down, eating away at what has to be done before you hit your goal.
  3. Writing at this point is somewhat mechanical -- or rather the insights that do emerge are completely unpredictable, and available only because one is close to the material. I am terrified of becoming both immersed in my material, but simultaneously more detached from it. I am, again, terrified of finishing.
So actually my twofold problem, that became threefold in the writing of it, is still only singular: I am terrified, not of starting, but of finishing, losing all the thought, seeing it distilled into one kind of thing, a thing that can be judged and found wanting.

What can I learn from all of this?


  • It's not fair.
  • Life's not fair.
  • I ain't dead yet. Get on with it.
  • I am terrified of finishing writing, big or small.
  • I am inflexible once I have finished something, and find it even harder to go back and undo it.
  • This inflexibility, this desire to kill things, is also part of why I am terrified to finish my book.
  • Openness is both pleasurable and overwhelming: being halfway through a subject is at once glorious, but also bog-like.
  • Criticism is far harder to take when it is externally-imposed, and when its grounds are relative rather than absolute.
  • I just have to get on with it. Writing still has to take place in real time.


Muzuhashi said...

Hello there - a certain Mr K put me on to your blog (via a link on Facebook) - much food for thought, as I expected, but I am now intrigued to know (several months after the fact - I only just read this entry) whether or not you managed to finish your nanowrimo - not that I'm competitive or anything (!), but as I may have told you, my own effort of a few years ago fell about 7 or 8000 words short, and that was when I had all the time in the world to write (unemployed, other half was about 6000 miles away etc.) - did you manage to go one better, and more to the point, was it a positive experience...? Take care and love to the husband and kids! 'Muzuhashi'

Ingrid said...

Sadly no... I am still struggling. But I never give up!