Wednesday, November 26, 2014

A Different Sort of Rat--One Last Pep Talk

Here we are, wrimos, on the final stretch—the very last leg of the race. And though we are exhausted, we are determined to sprint across the finish line with all the grace we can muster before we pass out on the grass at the end of the track. Likewise with our characters. All through this month, they have fought monsters and obstacles and deadlines of their own. This is called the RAT—the race against time—and it’s something that most books need. Usually they have goals with teeth—save the world in twenty minutes or it burns, become queen or the kingdom breaks apart, save the endangered owls or the housing development seals their doom.

You have not been immune to this rat race yourself. December is closing in, bearing with it promises of presents and holiday pounds and too much pie for anyone’s good. At the beginning of the month, you probably felt excited. Thirty days can seem an eternity to the hopeful writer’s mind. So much can happen within that span of time; books can develop and spring to life; love can begin and end. All of eternity seems encapsulated in this November collection of moments that has become all yours.

Yet, here and now, looking back at the preceding days, no doubt you wonder where they have gone, why they have rushed away in such a flurry of fluttering paper and clacking keys. The potential of time resources that you foresaw has now been tapped nearly to the fullest. Coffee is scarce. Nerves are taut. For those of you who celebrate Thanksgiving, schedules are packed. But if you’re like me, you have so many stories left to tell—not even half the words in your head have been committed to paper thus far. This month will end, and it seems that with its demise, the glow of creating will fade, and life will return to its normal mundane routines locked tightly in the spinning of the world. All those bright moments in your head will fly off like faeries once the month is passed. A tough pill to swallow, huh?

December will come and snatch away the thousands more words that you so wished to write but couldn’t. Your work of genius will sit abandoned in the dusty archives of your computer—finished or unfinished, it matters not. The window has passed for fantasies such as these, and it is time to move on and answer the call of reality. Can’t you already hear the phone ringing? Perhaps you believe that if you don’t get those words in your head written down before the close of November, you may never get another chance. For some, that may encourage you to write like your life depends on it. Because it does. (That was mostly a lie.) But for others, and sometimes I hold myself among your group, the fear and the gravity of this reality is enough to freeze you in your tracks with dread. And while you sit unmoving, time rushes by in the never ceasing whirlwind of commitments and obligations.

Regardless of where you stand on this matter, November is almost over. Nothing can change that—not even coffee. Our kitchen is filled with smoke from my German apple pie, and the strawberry rhubarb is sizzling nicely. Soon pumpkin bars will join the mix. And the cooking, yeah, it’s eating my word count. So is blogging. That’s life. The thing is, you’ve worked yourself hard all month. Now it’s time to relax and enjoy family and these moments that, like this NaNoWriMo, you will never be able to retrieve or redo if you miss them the first time.

At this point, you may be asking if this is a pep talk or a stress talk.

Here’s the crux. No one (at least no one important) ever said that you couldn’t keep writing after November. Many of you already plan to. Good on you. Sprint to the finish line—yeah—but the race doesn’t have to end there. Oh no. After all, you wrote a novel, and I’m sorry to tell you this (not really), but it’s not over yet. Unfortunately, if your work of genius is anything like mine, it has a face only a mother could love. You may think it’s fresh and exciting, but it is probably going to take many drafts and tons of revisions before anyone else will see it that way.

But in the end, where’s the fun without a challenge?

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