Today I have no soundtracks, no special albums. Well, actually, I do, but they were listened to while driving six hundred thirty-five and a half miles. That’s the exact distance I drove from Central Pennsylvania to Northwest Indiana, temp home to home, in ten hours, forty-five minutes. When I arrived home this little guy was waiting for me. Awww, isn’t he/she/it/the little unspeakable mind-ripping horror cute?
I relaxed, I caught up with news with family, and then I watched TV with my daughter, finishing the evening with An Adventure in Time and Space, because this last week has been all things Doctor Who, Mr. Filch was driving the TARDIS last night, and I wanted to watch.
When I crawled upstairs at ten PM local, eleven my adopted time, I was dead. My body felt the strain of zipping across country at a fairly constant speed of seventy-three miles per hour–about one hundred and eighteen kilometers per hour for the rest of the world–and having been up since about one-fifteen AM central time. Rather than get on the computer, I shut it all down and crawled into bed. I was off to sleep in about five minutes–
But not before I got upset that I didn’t write anything.
That’s not something I’ve done during a NaNo before. I always get words down in November, unless I’ve finished my novel. It’s not finished, so I should have wrote, but I didn’t because I was simply dead-ass tired. And by saying I was upset, what I mean to say it that a couple of tears slipped out, because I was blaming myself for being weak, for not getting in there and getting out at least five hundred words. I’d done it before: why should that night be any different?
I’ve said on more than a few occasions that the secret to writing a novel is sitting down and writing. You wanna get the story told, you write the word. Are you tired? Rest, then write. Are you sleepy? Take a nap, then write. Did you just drive six hundred miles? Decompress, then write.
It’s easy to think you’re stronger than you are. It’s easy to believe that if you don’t do something, you’re kind of a wuss because you didn’t so something you think should have been done. I’ve seen people do that with working out–I even did it myself. You get into a routine, and you keep the routine up, and then the first time you slip away from that routine, you flagellate yourself for the inability to meet some impossible goal. I did this once when I was teaching aerobics–yes, I was an instructor once. Five minutes into my class I felt something in my left calf tear, but rather than sit and not aggravate it, I did the remaining fifty minutes of the class. “Did” is a relative term, because with about ten minutes to go I was in so much pain that I finally sat down on the riser and called out the moves from visualized memory while my leg screamed at me.
The upshot of it all was I’d ripped the muscle horribly, and I spent the next week hobbling around like a cripple. And what did I do? I got mad at myself–for not working out.
The thing is, however, is I know if I’d tried writing last night, I’d have made a mess of it all. Crap would have ended up on the page, and no way do I ever want that. There’s no reason for beating myself up, because the choice comes down to either writing, or writing well, and I’ll take the later each time
I often find it necessary to remember what science fiction author William Gibson once said in an interview. He was asked if he writes every day, and his response was that he does, unless he doesn’t have anything to say. He said that sometimes, for whatever reasons, the words simply won’t come, and when that happens he puts the writing away and goes off to do something else. George R. R. Martin has said something similar, that if he isn’t feeling the writing, he puts it away and does something else. He also stated in the same interview that he still has days when he looks at his writing and thinks, “God, I can’t believe I wrote this crap!”, proving that no matter how successful you become, or how many fans you piss off by murdering their favorite characters, you can find yourself suffering from insecurities about you creations.
There is no shame in not being able to write because the outcome would have resulted in disaster. There is no weakness in being so tired that rather than writing you are out cold a couple of minutes after your head hits the pillow. It happens, and you live with it.
Remember, it’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon. You’re in it for the long run, so pace yourself. When it comes to writing, it’s not better to burn out than to fade away–
Because every story fades away to “The End”.
It’s the best fade of them all.