by Lillian Csernica on October 29, 2014
I will never go bungee-jumping. Not for love or money. I watch videos of people doing that and I think, “Oh my God, are you insane?” It’s one thing to be an adrenalin junkie, but it’s another thing to jump off a bridge when all you’ve put your faith in is a glorified rubber band.
Nov. 1 is fast approaching. I’m standing on the bridge right now, staring down into the abyss that is the emptiness I must fill up during the NaNoWriMo challenge. Do I have a safety line? I believe I do, in the form of my plot outline. I know my beginning, my middle, and my ending. I also know from past experience that these will change as the story takes shape, as the characters insist on making their own choices, and as I get more research done. That’s fine. I am a Planner. I do not start a novel with the same wild-eyed glee I might feel when I hammer out a hot short story idea. I keep a running list of all my alternative choices, ideas, possibilities. Now and then that makes me crazy, but sooner or later I get it all sorted out. I think of this pile of alternatives as paying somebody to inflate one of those big airbags the stuntmen drop into when they’re doing some stunt from extreme heights. I’ve got a good, sturdy, glorified rubber band in the form of my plot outline, but I also believe in taking out a life insurance policy.
I’ve had days where the story has fallen apart on me. The characters deflate, the plot hits a massive snag, my research is struggling with my imagination, and the words are not coming out the right way. That stage is almost unbearable. All I can do is soldier onward and keep trying until something pops back into place or I shake the kaleidoscope and a better pattern emerges. This is what separates the serious writers from the dilettantes. Can you hang in there when writing isn’t any fun anymore? Can you keep going when you really do have to sit down at the keyboard and open a vein? Fortunately, the NaNoWriMo community is really marvelous at cheering on all the participants. I have three writing buddies, and I hope to have more.
What doesn’t help is having Major Depressive Disorder on top of a writer’s usual set of woes. I anticipate some days when I’m going to get discouraged. On the other hand, having lived in the Pit with the Black Dog gnawing on my guts for months or even years at a time, I can say the boing-boing of bungee jumping doesn’t seem all that intimidating. At least you get yanked back up again. I suppose a better parallel for that would be Bi-Polar Disorder, but you’re supposed to write what you know, and I know about depression.
I’m feeling that same flutter just under my ribs, that anxiety-induced rush of adrenalin that happened the first time I stood at the end of the high dive. The board never looks at all high from the water, but once you’re all the way up there looking down, it’s a much different view. You might think this is no big deal for me, given that I just completed a 90,000 word novel. It took me eight years to write that novel, from the very first idea to the moment I decided it was time to send the manuscript to my agent. Now I’m going to try to write a bit more than half that amount in just thirty days. Part of me is screaming, “Oh my God, are you insane? You’re really going to jump off that bridge? What if the outline falls apart? What if the rubber band breaks?”
Yes, I’m scared. On the other hand, all the really good stories start with “What if?”