NANOWRIMO Week Three: The Midlife Crisis

Hey there writer.

I know I don’t have to thank you for being here with me because if you are akin to me, you’re looking for any excuse to change up the monotony of this novel-writing month and escape that mad-dash. Perhaps you’re feeling like this story you’ve been pouring your heart and soul into for what seems like years is starting to stale. Things are getting drab. The plot line is petering out. The characters have run out of things to say.

This is the dreaded, dead-ended doldrum (say that one a few times over fast) of week 3. And it can often feel like middle age in its sunken sails, stagnant air, and the questioning of the choices that brought you here.

With only 11 days left in this crazy adventure, you may feel like you just don’t want to go on. That perhaps it would be easier to abandon your project all together and take a hot little novella out for a spin. Maybe start seeing some poetry on the side. Perhaps dabble in a little erotica?

While I encourage some dabbling (especially in erotica) I would argue that all of those exploratory practices can be done right in your own work in progress. So you’re bored, so you don’t know what the characters will say to one another…I urge you to start a new chapter, in the same document, where your characters take a jump off of the tracks and do something completely unexpected. Put them in a different time, put them in a different dynamic…hell, switch their genders and see what happens. Write a poem that serves as a synopsis to the story, first from one character’s perspective, and then from another’s.  All of this play might help unlock the paths your novel needs to get going again. Think of it as putting some wind in those sails. A little spice in between the pages.

And all of those words you put down, even if they may be edited out later, still count as words towards your 50,000. Let’s be honest, at this point in the process, any word count is better than none.

It’s normal to feel a bit discouraged and bogged down in week 3, but what you’re building is worth hanging on to. It’s worth the investment of time and thought in this, the darkest, dreaded, dead-ended doldrums.

Hang in there kid. Go get freaky with your WIP and spice things up to see you through to the end.

Next week, look for the final, and highly inspirational installment of my NANOWRIMO survival guide.

Damnable

 

For the love of all that’s holy it’s hot. My garden is parched, my houseplants are wilting, their stems thrown across the table in dramatic death scenes. My hair falls in flat, dirty-dishwater blond against sun-damaged cheeks and sticking to shoulders that sag, heavy, with heat and sweat.

 

It’s the doldrums. Insomuch as February is the lull of winter, the end of July is it’s sweltering kissing cousin. When the novelty of sunny, endless days, snow cones, and happy children is replaced with the nasally cries of “I’m bored!” and the gnat-annoyance of siblings chiggering under each other’s skin with parasitical genius, the world becomes a stagnant hell.

 

The words don’t come, the ideas dry up, and the desire to do anything but lie beneath the AC unit and wish you could take off a layer of skin just to ease the burning, is squelched. (And let’s not even get into the latent idea, sitting the back corner of my brain, knowing that this is a trend that will only worsen due to my own species’ idiotic, selfish, money-obsessed path to self-destruction. I don’t need anything else piled on the heap of hopeless sagging.)

 

It’s Damnable.

 

What do we do in these contestable times? To find the beauty? To find any reason for heaving off the physical discomforts and brain lag?

Push on through, I guess. Isn’t that what the tough do? Get going?

 

Remind the under-five-foot rebel rousers of the house, with knowing eyebrow raises towards the shiny new school supply displays in every store, that the end is near and these day should not be wasted just because the heat and boredom has drained us all of the will to step up with any kind of exuberance.

 

Push on through.

 

Keep going.

 

Write the words even if they’re awkward and faltering. Even if over half will be cut and the other half will be changed. Get out the gunk and keep at it.

 

Turn your heated brain fog into the crisp daydreams of low-lit falls, exultation of Autumnal leaves and the bite of cool in every morning breath. The dark early runs, clean and shivering, cheeks pink with cold and breath puffing in perfect clouds before you.

 

With anything in life, any challenge, any weight, any trial; Just. Keep. Going.

Because the one thing that I do know for sure, is that it all changes. Always, it changes. Today was not yesterday. Tomorrow will not be today. The heat to cold, the children to young women, the sapling to tree…it all changes. You have this day. It’s all yours. Damnable or not, it’s the only time given with any sense of certainty.

setting sun

Bust open an otter pop, strip to your underthings and sit in the shade-drawn room with your thoughts. Write them down.

Run through the sprinklers with your children. When they get sassy and obnoxious, remind them how you used to rule the kid-kingdom of summer time boredom with a decent water balloon fight.

Plenty of things will make us miserable in life. Annoying heat or total emotional upheaval, bitter cold or catastrophic life events, none of it is permanent.

 

We are not permanent.

So live.

Push on through.