Nanowrimo is proving to be an exhilarating, terrifying ride. Whenever I'm called upon to explain the project, there's an inevitable question that follows: "And... is this fun for you?" I find myself pausing before I answer -- a lot. Trying to formulate a response to this question has had me asking myself, "Is this fun? Is any of it fun?"
I've come to the conclusion that, for me at least, there's only a very tiny aspect of the writing life that is just pure, delirious, unadulterated fun. It's those moments when the story has a firm hold on you and the present world ceases to exist while you are sucked down into a vortex of words and people and places that have somehow blossomed into life, apparently on their own. Those moments, when you are just dragged along for the ride, are the most fun.
Mostly though, for me, it's like trying to catch a cloud and keep it in your hand. There is this nebulous, vague, but seemingly important idea or picture or feeling I am trying to lay hold of, and every word I write is either chipping away at the rock that comes between me and the idea, or putting a clear line around it, waiting for each little fragment of the drawing to join up and turn this transparent whisp of condensation into a clear shape, an outline I can recognise and understand. Proving my point entirely, in this paragraph alone I have stumbled into a thousand metaphors in my attempt to make things clear -- and still I've failed.
What I'm trying to say is that, mostly, writing kind of hurts a little bit. There are rarely times when it doesn't feel like very hard work. I write with my stomach clenched and a frown line between my eyebrows. I write slowly, methodically, imperfectly -- none of which sounds like the definition of fun. And when the slow, methodical, imperfect work is done, I must go over it all again, seeing if I can make the imperfect just a little more perfect, the unclear just slightly more clear. I bump up against my own failings again and again, which also is rather not fun, and I see just how not-good I am at forming words into pictures, of making the untrue appear true.
But for some reason, I still want to do it, and this is the weirdest thing of all about writing. In trying to find something to compare it to, the only example I've latched onto is that of exercise. Exercise is horrible. If you're not born possessing the sporty gene, then it's just something that you have to drive yourself to do whether you feel like it or not. You have to wear ugly shoes, and you know you will get sweaty, and you might get a stitch or an ache in that part of your leg where it feels like there's a split between two bones that shouldn't be there. You do it anyway, though, because you know you must, and a part of you hates it the whole time.
But another part of you comes alive, and starts thinking thoughts in rhythm to the beat of your feet against the ground, or in time to the revolution of the wheels whirring underneath you. And you get sweaty and sticky and there's a hard, sharp stitch that the hateful part of you considers might be the beginnings of a heart attack. But the other part of you revels in the humidity and the knife-edge of the breaths going into your lungs, and that part of you tells you to do just five minutes more, and then another five minutes more. And then you are done, and the only part of you making any sense is the part of you that feels most alive now, and you can almost think that you're actually getting healthier with each hard-drawn breath you take, and you feel lighter than you did before you started, even though there's an odd click in your ankle that you suspect wasn't there before. And you know that tomorrow night, when you are tired and you just want to sit and watch tv, you are going to hate the thought of exercise all over again, but that tiny alive part of you will nag at you until you start moving again, and once more you will feel happy and alive and like this horrible horrible thing is what you were actually meant to be doing all along.
I think writing is a little bit like that -- for me, at least. It hurts and makes me ache but it's a good ache, the sort of ache that stays with me into the next day and reminds me that I have flexed a muscle that was made to be moved, that is all the healthier for having been stretched.
All of which, of course, I did not intend to say when I sat down to compose this post. I was going to write, instead, about the hazy sunset my mother and I drove out to shoot last night, and to give you a little sampling of the pictures. I was going to tell you how the nano novel is consuming much of my writing time, and is using up nearly all of my meagre store of words. I was going to say that I have no words left to give to such paltry pursuits as blogging.
But look! My own blog makes a mockery of me. I suppose that's as it should be.