Welp, didn’t make it this year. Shit happens: holidays, family drama, local plagues. All that stuff happened last year, too, but my subject matter this year was a lot heavier. I mean, I killed off a thirteen-year-old girl in Chapter Two.
I still learned a lot, though.
Lesson Number One: I cannot, no matter the circumstances, take myself seriously. My story this year was a serious one, and I’m pretty sure that’s why I didn’t finish.
The Uninsured Life of Alicia Penn is fiction, but heavily based on my life– to the point where part of the book is in fact written by my thirteen-year-old self. The events that transpire in the novel are all real (my best friend did pass away, the preacher at Sarah’s funeral told the airplane story, the climax of the novel is actually mostly-unfictionalized),. The context is what I played with for the purpose of narrative (I was seven, not thirteen, when Sarah died, and novel-Sarah is Catholic because I had a Catholic on hand to bug with questions). And I never went downhill quite as far as Alicia.
The thing, though. My thirteen-year-old self was still figuring out how to handle that whole feelings thing, so most of what she wrote was either serious and insightful or hilariously misinformed. My twenty-four-year-old self is much snarkier, and handles fear/misfortune/rejection with an aggressive sense of humour. Just take a look at the post I put up when my grandfather passed away a few weeks ago. This doesn’t mesh well with my overserious younger self.
Meaning: my novel had no snark. It took itself way too seriously. I’m an unserious person writing The Next Great Coming-Of-Age novel and that just doesn’t mesh well.
So editing note-to-self: add some snark. Some funniness. Some absurdity.
Lesson Number Two: I can write heavy material best when I’m in a good place myself.
I was not in a good place this November. I just lost my grandfather, which shook me more than I was expecting– and it still hasn’t completely hit me. I find myself talking about “Grammy and Pop Pop” without realizing it’s just Grammy now. It’s hard. Mix that up with the usual cocktail of anxiety (I had to get on a plane over the holiday, a process that for me usually involves therapy and occasionally medication, never mind that I fly all the damn time), depression (protip, if you decide to base your self-worth in a talent, don’t choose one that’s got a reputation for rejection), and family drama (I’m Jewish).
Don’t get me wrong, I was in a pretty bad place last year too. The difference is that last year, writing was a distraction: the story was silly, absurd, and required little to no emotional energy. In fact, it was an excellent distraction from the shit that was going on in my life.
This year, I had to summon the energy to pick up a metaphorical pen every time I tried to write, and I was already exhausted.
Lesson Number Three: fun, weird material is best for NaNo. I can do the serious story provided I give myself some emotional breaks.
On the bright side, I did get done what I needed to get done. I have what I need for my application to the Iowa Writer’s Workshop. And oh my god, I’m actually sending that in in a few weeks.
Wish me luck.