Friday, November 9, 2012

just stomp and tell it.

I'm officially 8 days into NaNoWriMo(National Writing Month--write every day for the month of November and at the end have a 50,000 page novel of sorts, in a nutshell). I can't believe it's only been a week. Writing this much per day makes the week feel like a lifetime. Perhaps part of that is the subject matter.

My next project on tap is a memoir. I thought NaNoWriMo would provide me with great practice and I could get a leg up on the process. Part of me thought this would make the exercise of writing daily much easier--write what you know, write about life. On one side, it is easy. The plot is unraveled and I'm picking my way through, writing about the moments that come to me. On the other side, it's difficult. Way more difficult than I anticipated. I thought it might help me(and maybe help others taking on the same challenge) to post a bit about the things I've learned thus far. Here we go:

- Screw you, sequential order. It just ain't gonna happen. I don't feel like writing about how things were before the age of 10 for days in a row. It's not a bad thing to jump around, worry about the connective tissue later. I used to fret about getting the order of events right, but now it makes more sense to jump around

- Writing a memoir kind of feels like a good workout. You need time to properly warm up and stretch beforehand. Same goes for needing a cooldown after the exercise. I figured this out when I spent the latter part of a day in a nonspecific funk after writing about heavy subject matter. It's your life you're writing about, so you're going to feel a bit more emotionally involved. It's gonna get in your blood and you may feel old emotions come rushing back. It's okay, and not something to pull away from. Just anticipate it ahead of time if you can. Set a mood. Listen to music that will pull the tough stuff out of you. When you're done, cleanse your pallet. Dance like a fool around the living room. Let it go. Let the recollecting and writing be the ultimate release. Cushion your writing with that wind up and cool down so that it doesn't feel like going from one extreme to the next.

- Source material. I've kept an online blog of some sort from 1999 forward. You'd be amazed at the details(and entire experiences!) I've put on the backshelf since first writing about them. It's been great to go back and rediscover memories that way. Look at old letters, emails, photographs. Find your evidence.

- I've struggled with just how much I want to reveal. I think it's important to let it all hang out for the first draft a memoir. You can trim the fat later. You can zero in on one particular "era" or time period if something sticks out more than the rest. Some stuff is simply difficult to write about. The harder it feels to crack, the more I want to bang a sledgehammer against it. It's my life, and if I don't bust it open and tell it, then who will?

It's pretty amazing to have this piece of work extending out of me, growing a bit each day, reminding me of how much I've lived and experienced. There is a strength surviving in my bones that flares up when I start writing. I glow from the inside out. I know I don't say it often enough, but I'm proud of myself. Here's to thousands of more words on their way.

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