It is close to 9:30 PM. I scramble, tucking kids into their beds, stowing leftover food from the evening’s get-together and changing into something comfortable before I rush to the study. I boot the laptop up and connect to my university login page. The next three hours fly past as a group of us take apart each submission, highlight what works well in the narrative, which passages are impactful and eventually turn our attention to constructive criticism. As I sign off a little past midnight, my eyes burn. I power down and lean back in my chair to savor the moment before I head to bed. Each time I write, I focus on what can be better. It is only now that I realize that what works well is as important a lesson as what needs work. When I hear comments that state that my narrative is engaging or that my writing is vivid, I makes me happy. It makes me want to absorb the constructive criticism and morph it into something good.
It has been a couple of months since I started on my yearlong writing program. The first few weeks were about getting to know each other and then we warmed up to the recommended reading, and the weekly discussions. Each week builds on the one prior and I often feel like I am scrambling to keep up. I work on my first submission, a five-page beginning to my fictional piece. I see a glimmer of promise. Yet, as I sit to write, all ideas seem to evaporate. All that remains is the ghost of the story I want to tease out.
I try free-writing.I try heuristics. I avoid thinking about the story. I lay awake and think of the characters, the settings and what I want to say. I toss and turn as dreams intrude into my real life and I wake, not sure where the lines blurred.
I tell myself I will do better with deadlines. I sign up for NaNoWriMo. A day later, I am overcome with misgivings. I play around in Scrivener. I look up how many pages make a chapter and how many chapters are in a typical 400 page novel. I am excited. I am terrified. I have no clue what I have signed myself up for.
Somewhere in the tumultuous state of my mind, I find pockets of calm. “You are doing this for yourself. You are doing this because you want to.” I repeat to myself till I feel zen.
The truth is, there is no one holding a sword over my head. There are no clamoring fans or agents lined up to read what I write. This is a journey I have embarked on purely because I want to. I only hope at the end of the year I will have written something I feel proud of.