Friday, November 30, 2012

A Novel Experience

Unbelievably, I delivered the goods, rising to the NaNoWriMo challenge of committing 50,000 words to paper in thirty days. How? If you’d told me on Halloween that I’d write a novel’s worth of prose before December, I’d have laughed in your face. But there’s something about specific goals and deadlines that brings out the scrapper in me. It was infuriating to struggle against the clock, short of inspiration, bereft of ideas, with no time to research. But it worked.

Now I’ll let you in on a little secret: It’s awful, most of it, so much so that I’m afraid to look. This exercise has made me question whether I could ever actually write a book. I had to beg, borrow, cheat and steal. I bumped off a few good characters. I pitted siblings against each other. I cried. I cursed. The horse disappeared and never came back. The rest of the people who invaded my brain for the last month, well, I could care less if I ever see them again. The weren’t cooperating, anyway. I hate them, every one.

There’s a reason I went into advertising — pithy headlines, I can churn those out all day. But a novel? Maybe there are some seeds of a story in the pile of pages I produced. I honestly don’t know. I ploughed through it, though, so I’ll allow myself the luxury of following Audrey Niffenegger’s advice: “Now that it is December, I hope you will kick back, have a cup of coffee, reread your 50,000 words, ponder a bit, and then… go for a walk.” That… that, I can do.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

The Emptiness of Days

1. a. Holding or containing nothing.
    b. Mathematics: Having no elements or members; null: an empty set.
2. Having no occupants or inhabitants; vacant: an empty chair; empty desert.
3. Lacking force or power: an empty threat.
4. Lacking purpose or substance; meaningless: an empty life.
5. Not put to use; idle: empty hours.
6. Needing nourishment; hungry: "More fierce and more inexorable far/Than empty tigers or the roaring sea" (Shakespeare).
7. Devoid; destitute: empty of pity.

How do you depict nothing? The last couple of months have felt irremediably hollow to me, the usual platitudes offered as camouflage for grief doing nothing to assuage the emptiness of my days. The invisible losses are the hardest to overcome: the losses that hide, cavernous, behind the chaos of the quotidian. The losses that can't be described or dispelled. I've ploughed through my allotment of sympathy, I know; I'm not looking for a handout, but I have to do something.

Empty places have borders, as far as I can tell, so perhaps it's safe to assume that if you linger long enough around the edges, tossing things in, the space will eventually fill up. Nothing else seems to be working, so I'll give words a go. It's  National Novel Writing Month, with a goal of 50,000 words in 30 days. That's certainly a challenge for me. Can I do it? I don't know yet; I've never tried. But at the very least, even if they aren't brimming with meaning, my days will be full.