In November 2006, I decided to take a major writing challenge. November is National Novel Writing Month, and at that point I thought writing a novel in 30 days would be a snap. After all, I wasn’t sleeping more than a few hours a night, and my brain was basically revved up all the time anyway. So I began on November 1st, having planned absolutely nothing in the way of plot, setting or characters. This was to be a total stream-of-consciousness activity (as was my whole life back then. Who needs thoughtful reflection? Just slows you down!)
And so, Stoppage was conceived. For the next eight days I wrote, and wrote, and wrote. I wasn’t constrained by spelling or grammar—that could all be fixed later. My first chapter was really dark and creepy, featuring a morose pair of misfits. Stephen King I ain’t, so I quickly realized I couldn’t keep going in that vein for a whole book. Therefore, my second chapter was very upbeat. And so it went. Every other chapter was a total downer, followed by a chapter-long ray of sunshine. It was almost as if the author was manic depressive! Or something! Eventually, the characters began invading each other’s chapters, just as my moods were overlapping to an alarming degree.
|The novel in question|
|A bipolar poem of mine, published in an anthology|
On Day 8 I wrapped up my odd little tale. I could barely stand to re-read what I’d written each day. It was a kind of mental health self-portrait, and I never did like to have my picture taken. I showed Stoppage to just a few people. Steve and the kids were very charitable, and actually found things to praise about the book. In the end, though, I let it all go, literally shelving a very disturbing week and a half of my life.
Ten years later, I’m finally ready to challenge myself again: 30 essays/blog posts in the next 30 days. Why? It just feels right to push past the limits I have set for myself (after a flurry early on, my blogging pace has slowed to two entries a month.) My mental state is stable, so I don’t fear what I will try to produce this month. I have enlisted the support of family and friends, including my writers group. I’ve told enough people about this project that I would feel really stupid not to follow through.
I made sure there is an extra pound or three of coffee in the pantry, and I’m trying to get ahead on some church stuff so I can carve out an uninterrupted hour or two each day. Will I make it to November 30th without quitting? Will the resulting essays be halfway decent? Only time will tell!
I invite you to join me on my literary adventure. Read, comment if you are so inclined. In turn, I stand ready to support you with YOUR next big plan. As long as there is life, there are endless possibilities for us all. Come on, let’s take the plunge together!