Thursday, May 14, 2009
DAY 14: Write a Novel in Two Weeks
When I was working on my first novel, I made a daily visit to a Website that promised that anyone (yes, you, too, if only you weren't such a loser!) could write a book in two weeks. I don't remember whether they were selling software, or self-hypnosis or maybe even a book that they themselves had whipped out in a 14 day orgy of caffeine and typing. It didn't matter. Whatever it was, I had no intention of buying it.
And yet, for me, there was an inexplicable magic in their overheated pitch, and every morning before I began to work, I reread it. It became my personal writing ritual. Though I knew it was manipulative, and I didn't believe it, it worked anyway. It didn't matter if I was exhausted or riddled with the doubts that stopped me so many times in the past, I only had to read their page of hype and the tap opened.
Did I finish a novel in two weeks? Nope. Nor did I ever believe I could--though we all know it can be done. (Tish Cohen wrote Town House a novel so good that it was nominated for the prestigious Commonweath Prize in that time period.) But using my magic ritual, I had a draft in 90 days. A record for me.
Unfortunately, by the time I was ready to write my second novel, the Website had disappeared, taking its mysterious voodoo with it. I was crushed. I was also forced to think about what their pep talk had done for me, how it had released energies I never knew I had. Since I never bought the product, I never learned the secret they were selling.
But I learned something about myself. I learned that I could do more than I thought I could, more than I was allowing myself to do. I might not be able to write 20 pages a day; or have the resilience to stare at my laptop for twelve hours at a stretch, but if I tried, if I challenged my self-defined limits, if I set out in the morning with a sense of expanded possibility, I surprised myself almost every time.
Now I designate every Tuesday as "blitz day." Most days I'm happy with my normally slow, but steady pace, but on Tuesday, I get up earlier than usual and give myself my version of the "pitch" in the mirror. (Fortunately, my family already knows I'm crazy.) Then I go to my room and write as if I really could finish a novel in two weeks.