Saturday, November 03, 2018

NaBloWriMo–a Mo late

I came home from this weekend’s Write in the Harbor conference determined to start writing again.
I don’t mean Facebook post writing; I mean sweat-it-out-straight-from-the-heart-blood-sweat-and-tears-head-down writing, like I used to do here.
What better time to re-dedicate myself to writing, I thought as I left the conference, than right at the beginning of November - National Blog Writing Month. It’s perfect! How inspiring!
Then I got home and looked up NaBloWriMo and came to realize that things have changed since the last time I undertook this endeavor. It turns out that November is now NaNOWriMo – National Novel Writing Month! I missed NaBLOWriMo by, well, a month. It was in October.
I can handle some self-imposed pressure to blog every day, but the pressure to write a novel is exactly what’s paralyzing me – and it’s what brought me to the conference to begin with.
I promised my father before he died that I would tell his story. He wrote for his children and grandchildren but didn’t want his story “out there” while he was still alive. After he was gone, I came across numerous files and documents with “directions” for me, things like “Carol: you’ll want to use this for the book.”
No pressure. Right, Dad?
No one who knows me would call me a procrastinator. In fact, I’m normally quite the opposite. There’s often a fire under my butt, but moss doesn’t stand a chance with me. If I can think it, I can do it – and there’s usually very little time between the two.
Except with this book. I simply can’t seem to get started.
I don’t know if it’s Dad’s voice, telling me just how he’d like the book written or if it’s my own voice, insisting that I could never meet his expectations. But the voice is persistent, and insistent, and I am obedient – and paralyzed.
One of the sessions at the writing conference today was titled “Overcoming Obstacles.” We were asked to complete two sentences regarding our writing. The first was “If I fail…” The second was “If I succeed…” My answers show just how paralyzed I feel:
“If I fail… my father will be disappointed – from the grave!”
“If I succeed… everyone will know my father’s story – and what if he didn’t actually want that?!”
The instructor pointed out that I saw even success as failure. No wonder I’m paralyzed!
Later in the class, the instructor asked us to imagine the most terrible thing that might happen if we were unsuccessful in our writing goal – and not to be afraid to “get dramatic.” My answer to this question was even more distressing. I wrote, “If I finish the book and it’s terrible or if it’s never even published, those who thought I couldn’t tell Dad’s story would be proven correct. I would die without doing the one thing I promised Dad I would do. ‘Never forget’ would be true because first-hand memories of the Holocaust would be a thing of the past – and I’d be partially responsible.”
Then I got really dramatic (per the instructor’s direction) and wrote, “’Those who forget history are doomed to repeat it.’ Now we all have to repeat the Holocaust… and it’s all my fault!”
At that point, I had to go back to my notes from the session of the workshop called “Creating Your Writing Persona.” In that session, the instructor quoted Barbara Kingsolver, author of The Poisonwood Bible: “Don’t try to figure out what the other people want you to say; figure out what you have to say. It’s the only thing you have to offer.” 
And that is exactly what I’m going to have to do.
But first, I need to get back into the practice of daily writing, so Facebook notifications will be turned off for a month while I remind myself to do what I love (and remember how to do it).

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Margaret said...

The hardest part is getting started and getting your writing plan in order. Once you get words on paper(no matter how painful) you'll be able to revise where needed or find your voice. If you write this book/story, you automatically succeed. You will have told the history of your father's life--for you, for your family and possibly for others to learn from. If it's published, that's all to the good. Yet the writing process is also illuminating and cathartic.

Tonya said...

Margaret said it so well! Yes, the hardest part will be organizing SO MUCH material and deciding what to include and what not, and drilling down to what your angle/plot will be. But it's also such a gift to HAVE all of that material at your fingertips. You can do anything you wish with this. A series of short stories from the point of view of different people, in lieu of a novel? A historical novel with connecting generations of protagonists? Daunting for sure, but maybe in the midst of your planning, just stop to write a chapter and see where it takes you!

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