Writing Elbows

I did it, I wrote a novel in 3 days. I held my elbows at my side and I wrote a novel for 3 days straight. At the 2.25 mark (1:00 on Day Three) my elbows gave out. They hurt! I blamed them then I kissed them better. Then the day stopped. My document was stuck at 83 pages when I so badly (so badly!) wanted it to be at 100.

I wrote a story about a girl that ended up being a little shallow (17 pages shallower than I thought). It took place in one day! How much of a worthy-of-a-book life transformation can you have on that one day that will make a book worth reading? Less of one than I thought. Or at least I kept telling myself to back off because I didn’t want to appear corny. I didn’t want to accidentally write a young adult novel without meaning to! What would that say about my level of intellect? My soul?

So I added a subplot. I knew about this one already (it was in my outline). It was the story of her parents meeting at Woodstock. I didn’t know anything about Woodstock, really, so I tried to tell their story through feeling (through what I imagined was the feeling of Woodstock).  And that was okay, but it was short, because feelings are fleeting.

Overnight Sunday and early morning Monday, I began planning a new subplot. This one was the story of homeless people living in Powell’s Books (this one day takes place in Portland). However, instead of homeless people, I just created one homeless person, and I told the stories of his three great loves. This got me no further than 83 pages because love is fleeting.

What I loved about this contest was its absurdity. Everyone on Twitter shouting at each other, shouting at empty rooms: Why am I doing this? What am I doing? I loved going places that weekend (because I somehow made it to an outdoor concert and too many coffeeshops) and wondering whether people looked at me and knew what I was doing (or were interested). They didn’t; they weren’t, but I liked the secret I was holding, like I was in some cult in which we write a novel in 3 days.

strong_woman

(from http://annieneugebauer.com)

It’s what fiction writing is, some weird cult. You do that? Who else? Actually, I sit alone and do it, but I know some people…

One very big highlight was being interviewed by CBC’s Canada Writes about my preparation and afterwards about my experience. It was neat to appear on a website I look at often and to somehow feel validated, even before the experience happened. I love committing to hard things, knowing that all that matters is I committed.

I started teaching the day after I finished my 3 day novel. My back and my legs hurts but my elbows have stopped hurting! I love the sharp contrast: here I am alone; here I am with so many kids so full of energy. The experiences better one another, and I am better for committing to both of them, however hard and crazy a commitment that may be.

Preparing for a 3-Day Weekend

Next weekend I write a novel in 3 days. Not this novel! I’ve been working on this one for 2 years. Three days to finish it would be ridiculous. But a whole new novel? No problem! I speak of the 3 Day Novel Contest, something I didn’t make up. It’s a thing! Click on the link! I’m paying money to do it!

My mindset going into it is one of naive confidence, something I’m hoping to cultivate for my first year of teaching, which starts the day after I finish my 3-day-novel. It’s a frame of mind I’m actually trying to cultivate in all areas of my life.

I spent a weekend by a pool in the middle of summer. I kept cannonballing into the pool, telling myself before I took the leap: this is you jumping into everything.

penguin-jumping

(from http://www.hiren.info)

I know that for my first day of teaching I need to look like I know my stuff. I need to have the right amount of desks. I know that for the 3 Day Novel contest I need to have an outline. I need a main character with a cool name.

But there’s something else I need for both these journeys, something so much more important than anything already mentioned. I need to be absolutely crazy! I need to go feral. I need to trust my instincts before my tired, sketchy, rigid mind. I need to keep doing cannonballs even if no one’s watching, even if I’m paying thirty-five dollars to sit alone all weekend writing something that will undoubtedly have such poor grammar.

But that’s what it seems to come down to. I need to keep doing what makes me happy, in the strange, clumsy way that I do it. It’s only then that I’ll find the things I’m looking for (or what I didn’t know I was looking for, but happened to find). If I don’t whisper maxims to myself before jumping into a pool by myself, then I’m not being me! I’m not putting all of myself into it. And what better thing to teach, to write about, then the feeling of power that comes from giving it all?