Nearly halfway through NaNoWriMo, and my count of new words has ground to a sudden halt. Not because I’ve stepped away from the writing, but because I’ve changed how I’m working.
I had fallen into a pit of self-loathing, hating everything I saw on the screen. Every sentence I scrolled past lost all merit and turned to garbage. I thought very seriously about throwing out everything I had and starting the same story over from scratch. Again.
I said as much to a couple people, who responded by raising incredulous eyebrows and asking questions. And because I couldn’t answer their questions very articulately — “It’s all just turned to shit at this point,” I wanted to say — I decided to try one more thing before really scrapping it all.
I printed my entire novel, all 450 pages of it, and put away my computer for some old school reading-on-paper. And I was shocked to discover: I liked what I read. I continued reading, and I continued liking.
Maybe this post is going to jinx me now, as I’m only 72 pages into the thing — slowed down by line editing — and I know there are plenty of messes in the pages ahead, just waiting to be cleaned up. But I just had to record the thrill of it. This is Draft #6 of a project first begun in April 2013. I can’t believe I have this printed thing to hold and look at, containing work that I’m actually proud to call mine.
It’s amazing what switching away from the screen can do. When I’ve wound my brain too tightly, changing the font and printing the story out somehow loosens me up again. The physical shape of it proves that this project actually looks like a book. It feels real.
That feeling is not to be discounted, when the discipline of this art can be so agonizing and lonely. We have to be our own cheerleaders. Sometimes that means being easier on ourselves, and using up lots of paper for reassurance.