This past November, I participated for the first time in National Novel Writing Month, which is shortened to NaNoWriMo or just NaNo for those of us who are particularly lazy. About halfway through, I stopped tracking my progress, although I ended the month with about half again the total number of words required to “win” the “contest.” Why did I stop checking in, comparing my daily word progress with other writers, participating in the spirit of the competition? Well, there are a number of reasons, but the most important one is that I don’t especially care for competition or the ego yardsticks that go with it.
I’m content to write for myself, and in that way, NaNo served a purpose. It spurred me to put something down, nevermind the direction or plot, just start. I didn’t finish the novel draft, just left it dangling at 83,000 and some-odd words. It’s been lurking on my flash drive, doing nothing, shuffling feet it couldn’t possibly have. Yesterday, I thought I’d give it a look, see if there was anything salvageable.
What god-awful tripe is this? Did I really write this mess? Fuck me. Just no.
As reactions to your own work run, it’s not exactly a gleaming statement of confidence in one’s own art, is it? The gag-reflex revulsion–not generally associated with positive responses. And if I felt that way, what on earth could I expect from readers? If I could have burned the unfinished manuscript, I would have. Perhaps it’s better that I didn’t, because I went back to it. It wasn’t actually as bad as I’d thought, but I have quite a few negative feelings associated with the memories from which I borrowed for the novel’s plot. I was reacting more to that and to the echo of shame than I was horrible phrasing or poor grammar.
But there was something else, something more positive than simply realizing I wasn’t quite as shitty at writing as I’d believed. Another idea for a story–or more appropriately, another collection of essays–began to form from the planetary debris after the Death Star had sailed on its way. As I did for No One Has Such a Dog, I’ll likely try things out in this format before working them over into stand-alone essays. What’s the plan? Well, read on. You’ll see.
I talk about making emotions work for me creatively on several occasions. But I’ve circled this little nest of anger and bitterness, humiliation and heartache for some time. Recently, I grew brave, decided I would dig into this part of my life and see if anything might be fit for a garage sale novel draft. Some of it, yes. But most of this neurotic clobber is really only fit for the garbage bin. Having said that, my mind was already on my own feelings of shame. I realized that it’s one of the central, but often unspoken, themes of my life. That may sound negative to many of you, but I assure you, I feel rather delighted with my own brilliance for figuring that out about myself.
Hence, these essays will explore my long-term relationship with Rue, Shame, Revilement, Humiliation. Regret. God, that sounds just abysmal, doesn’t it? Fortunately, I plan to leave the humor filter quite firmly off during the writing of these essays, so those of you with a sense of sarcastic, dark humor should get a kick out of reading them. I promise, nothing too heavy most of the time. But perhaps among my little steamer trunk of toe-curling “Oh god, I said that. Why did I say that?” memorabilia, there’s a bit here and there that will help someone else. Even if it’s only the comfort of knowing that someone else feels as they do.
I suppose we’ll see.