The day before something is a breakthrough, it’s a crazy idea.
~ Peter Diamandis
I have a crazy idea. As a matter of fact, it’s so crazy that it just might work.
I wear many hats in my daily life. I am a musician and a teacher, a jewelry designer and seamstress, a flowerpot gardener and a baker, a mother and a sister and a daughter. And that’s just for starters.
I am also a writer – although last year when my piano studio exploded, my dream of being a traditionally published author of fiction (preferably of the New York Times Bestseller variety) was brutally shoved to the back burner and placed on a very, very low simmer.
Now don’t get me wrong; this professional explosion has generally been a very good thing. I am teaching and playing like never before, closer than ever to living the life I always imagined for myself. But whereas common sense suggests I should just be content with what I have, the truth is I love writing too. And I have missed it.
I’ve even taken little stabs at it. For example, last October I drafted an outline for a Christmas novel that was to be my NaNoWriMo project. Unfortunately, November is an insanely busy month for me as a teacher; last November, I presented at the Georgia Music Teachers Association state conference, my students participated in a local competition, and I performed my first concert with the Gwinnett Symphony Wind Orchestra, playing both the piano and the clarinet. Finding two or three hours a day to write during that those weeks turned out to be completely unrealistic. I started strong and gave it my absolute best shot. But about three weeks in, with less than five thousand words under my belt, I finally admitted defeat.
However, I still believe in that story; I still want to finish it. And recently my thoughts have wandered again and again to The Wishing Box, the very first book I ever wrote. Badly flawed as it is – it was my very first attempt at fiction writing, after all – it is still the book of my heart, although now when think about it, the characters are fifteen or twenty years older than they were before, and they are sharing different tales with me. I am itching to get them all down on paper.
I’ve read about a million books and articles and blog posts about how to write a novel in as little as fifteen minutes a day. But getting up fifteen or thirty or sixty minutes earlier and writing before my teaching day begins just doesn’t work for me, especially now that I teach before school every morning. Neither does trying to write after my last student leaves at nine o’clock at night, when I am both ravenously hungry and physically and mentally exhausted. In between, I am busy keeping up with paperwork and doing my own music practice and attending meetings and rehearsals and doing a thousand other necessary things. I’m not making excuses here. I’ve literally made myself ill by overdoing in general.
There’s one thing I do know about myself though: I have done some of my best work when I was up against a deadline, locked in my bedroom wearing pajamas with an abundant supply of coffee and dark chocolate and biscotti, completely immersed in a project until it was done. I have completed term papers, professional presentations, and magazine articles under just that kind of duress. So what if I were to set aside a long weekend – three days, perhaps – and spend it doing nothing besides crank out the first draft of a novel?
I know I am capable of writing as many as fifteen thousand words a day. I have done it before, a few years ago at the bitter end of NaNoWriMo when I was absolutely determined to cross the fifty thousand word mark or die trying. I had already purchased my winner’s t-shirt; I felt I had no choice but to earn the right to wear it. Of course, that first draft was pretty awful, as most first drafts are. But, as they say, you can’t edit a blank page. And even though I am unable to do much actual writing in fifteen or thirty or sixty minute blocks of time, perhaps revision could be accomplished in smaller chunks.
So here’s my plan. I hereby declare July 23rd-25th PaNoWriWe (Pam’s Novel Writing Weekend) and dedicate those three days to finishing the Christmas novel I started last November. If all goes well, I can imagine PaNoWriWe becoming a part of the natural rhythm of my life. Perhaps I could draft a novel every summer, when my teaching load is a bit lighter than it is when school is in session. Then I will just have to figure out a way to find time to revise, even if it’s just a couple of hours every Sunday afternoon.
I won’t know unless I try.