During November, I will be posting Weekly Pep Talks written by myself or by guest Pep Talkers. This Pep Talk was written by yours truly and originally sent to the NH Region participants on 11.25.17
As I write this we are 6 days away from deadline. I see some of you have already reached – or passed – the goal of 50K, and some have validated their novels and won: to you, CONGRATULATIONS!!
To the rest of us: I’m reminded of that scene in the Blues Brothers movie, when Jake and Elwood are getting ready to deliver the cash raised at the concert to the tax assessor’s office in time to prevent the orphanage closing – and it goes like this:
Elwood: It’s 106 miles to Chicago, we got a full tank of gas, half a pack of cigarettes, it’s dark… and we’re wearing sunglasses.
Jake: Hit it.
Here’s a link to the clip if you want to see it.
Throughout the movie, we’ve watched Jake and Elwood attempt the impossible: raise cash to save the orphanage. During the middle of the movie, they’ve gotten the band together, played a few gigs, been chased by the Chicago cops, Illinois Nazis, and Carrie Fisher, driven all over the Chicagoland area advertising the concert so they can fill the hall. They stay on task because they keep their goal in mind: They’re on a mission from God.
This movie comes to mind because with 6 days to go, I’m really behind in word count. I’ve needed to spend time puzzling out my story – my middle – and sometimes this was literally writing out outlines and questions and other times it was stepping away from my computer and muddling over it while I raked leaves and cleaned Thanksgiving dishes. Yes, this might all seem like time lost because I wasn’t sitting staring at my computer screen but it was necessary. Now I feel like I’ve got that full tank of gas, and it’s just a matter of staying awake at the wheel. I will encounter distractions and obstacles along the way (my own version of Chicago cops and Illinois Nazis) but I need to keep my foot on the pedal and burn that gas.
You’ve got this, WriMos. The writing process is mimicking a novel’s structure: we’re in the “murky middle” or we’re experiencing “fun and games”, the “bad guys are closing in”, we might have even experienced a “set back” or “the dark night of the soul” and we need to keep going to push through Act III to our “resolution” and tie up those “loose ends.”
On Thanksgiving morning, I was making chocolate pudding for the trifle and I realized that I wasn’t stressing out about all the things I needed to do before 1 pm. Maybe it was because I had jotted down a schedule. Maybe it was because I delegated cooking the mashed potatoes and caramelized carrots to others. Maybe it was because I was focusing more on spending the day with people and not about the perfection of the things I was bringing. Maybe it was because I had done this so many times over 20+ years of cooking for family gatherings that I was just operating in my routine. I’m not sure. What is most vivid to me is that I wasn’t freaking out and making everyone else miserable. It struck me because I remembered years ago, I used to bounce around the kitchen trying to do lots of things simultaneously by myself, not asking for help, and then being cranky and resentful because no one was reading my mind and rescuing me. Yeah, probably after years of doing family gatherings, little by little, I’ve learned how to execute these recipes, how to ask for help, how to pace myself, how to keep my mouth shut, and how to let go of perfection (to be perfectly honest, I did nag my husband about driving reasonably so that our crockpots of stuff wouldn’t tip over in his car. Happy Ending: everything made it to Grandma’s)
My point, WriMos is, you’ve got this. Like Jake and Elwood, keep your goal in mind. What excited you about this story back on November 1? What was that question niggling in the back of your mind or wanting to be scratched? Maybe you wanted to hit 50K…can you modify your word count goal to something you can reach during these last 6 days? Like me, over the weeks (days, months, years) of writing stories you’ve learned what you need to do. When I described my book to my MIL at Thanksgiving, she said it sounded fascinating – mind you, I wasn’t reading her pages, I was telling her my idea. And that’s the thing I keep needing to go back to – that I really do like this idea and because I think it deserves to see the light of day, I’m actually ok with throwing a very messy first draft down. I tend to write dialog first and then I reread what I’ve written and go back to add description. This year, I feel like I’ve finally accepted that this is my working style and I just need to keep encouraging myself to get the ideas out in whatever format so that I’ll be able to have something to work with later. Somehow, in my mind, this acceptance is a similar feeling of calm that I experienced when I was stirring that pot of chocolate pudding – I’d done it so many times, I hadn’t even realized I had developed a method and I didn’t freak out over it. It would take a certain amount of time and I just needed to be attentive to it.
Ok, WriMos enough of my babbling.
I’ll see you on the other side of 50K.
ML: New Hampshire