Yesterday I went to a craft festival and spent a couple of hours making rounds of the booths and finding some treasures. I also soaked up all the good vibes radiating from the artists and their creations. One glassmaker and I talked for a few minutes about direction and vision and realization, and how weird and wonderful the path is that takes us from dreaming to living the dream. Our arts are completely different but as artists we followed our hearts in the same ways. It was a bit like meeting a sibling I didn't know I had.
Something I noticed as I made my way through the aisles were the artists who were demonstrating. There is something amazing about watching someone practice their art in public. You get a decidedly rare glimpse of techniques in action, the sort of materials they use and the steps they take from idea to finished piece. Some I understood, others completely mystified me. I noted that the demonstrating artists often had helpers mind the booth and the browsers while they worked, and yet they never seemed to mind stopping work on their piece for a few seconds to answer a question or accept a compliment.
I'm about to spend thirty days writing virtually in public but I haven't considered my project from the observer's point of view. I've always assumed when I talk about my work that everyone who listens is on the same frequency, but that's not really possible. I do things that even I don't really understand, such as planning out basically everything with a story but writing dialogue spontaneously, which must seem illogical. No, it is illogical, but I do it because I've learned over the years that this planned/unplanned approach produces the best results for me. Anyway, it gave me a lot to ponder.
Some of you may still be on the fence about whether or not to join in NaNoWriMo, and you've got another day to decide before the madness begins. I wanted to talk to you fence people today because I think of all the writers out there you're the ones who are most often neglected. It's all well and good for me to natter on about writing a novel in November; I'm a pro, I've published, I can write a book in the shower (not really, but I'm rather fond of that myth) etc. I'm going to sit my virtual booth here and show off all month while I do what surely I must be able to do in my sleep.
Maybe some of that is true, but what you don't see is what's in my head right now. So here's a peek: I don't know if I can do it. I've never written these characters or operated in this world. I'm prepared but certainly I could be better prepared. I haven't color-coded everything to death yet. Sure, it's an interesting idea, but what if I fumble it? What if my mojo stops working? What if life decides to make mine miserable from 11/1 to 11/30? I have to revise another book and promote a third during November; what if I fall behind and can't finish? What if everyone hates it? What am I going to do if I screw this up? I'm a professional, for God's sake. What was I thinking?
Yes, despite all my experience and publishing glory I am just like any other storyteller. I worry, I doubt myself, and that blank page scares the daylights out of me. I'm no different from you. Right now, at this very moment, if I could call it quits I probably would. It's too much for anyone to handle. I can do this next year. Give me a day and I can definitely talk myself out of the whole mess.
I won't do that. You know how Adele supposedly throws up right before she goes on stage to perform? Same thing. We're doing the same thing right now, you and I, we're puking. Okay, mentally, but it's just as bad. So have at it: question yourself, ridicule yourself, beat yourself up, whatever it takes to get it out of your system before Thursday. Then come and join me on November 1st and do this thing. Don't think about it, do it. Because that is the difference between those who publish and those who don't. We're all nervous and doubtful and dark, we writers; it's part of why we're so good at what we do. What separates the wannabes from the pros is the courage to write in spite of anything and everything, most especially ourselves. And that's the one thing I can't teach you; you have to find it on your own. I believe we all have it in us; it's simply waiting to be found. I can tell you this much: when you do discover part of yourself, and you make that the reason you write, nothing will stop you. Not even you.
If that doesn't convince you, I have one thing for you to read. Tim Kim and the folks at NaNoWriMo's Office of Letters and Light were kind enough to lend me some space on their blog to write about another NaNoWriMo experience of mine, which you can read here.