Diary of a Novel: July 8

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Traveling makes me nervous. Which isn’t to say I don’t enjoy traveling. I do. But also the thought of stepping out of my familiar front door out into the world is also always a little bit terrifying.

It always helps to carry some bit of home with me. Ideally, that would be my cat, but traveling makes cats even more nervous than it makes me.

Sometimes when I go to writing conferences and I’m by myself, I take my yoga mat with me. When I’m in a period of regular practice, the yoga mat itself is home. Which is to say not just that the yoga mat is a physical thing that lives in my house, but that the practice itself is home. The act of doing yoga is a refuge. It is safe and familiar.

In the last six months or so, I’ve made my writing into a practice. It’s something I do pretty much every day. This doesn’t make it easy. It just makes it easier. The hardest part is almost always making myself sit down in the chair. After that, the hardest part is keeping myself in the chair.

I can’t take my writing chair with me on the road. I can’t take the coffee shop with me, which is my other writing space. I can, of course, take my laptop. But more than that, I can take the practice. The comfort of something I do every day. Writing can become a refuge, like my yoga mat. Something safe and familiar. A tiny corner of orderliness in the middle of the chaos.

So we’re off to the beach soon and I still have about 15,000 words of the novel left to write. That’s assuming it doesn’t take more than 70,000 words to get the story fully told, which it might. The only deadline is my own. Part of me wanted to get the novel done before heading to the beach. Part of me just very much wants to get this draft done. In the last part of writing a novel, every other thing you could be doing starts to seem so much better. Wouldn’t it be so much more fun to be editing that other thing? Or to be weeding? Or to be working on fall course syllabi? Wouldn’t anything be better than another day of this?

I’ve been pushing myself the last few days. A sort of desperate scramble to get more written. Yesterday I wrote almost 3,000 words. It felt like writing out of a daze. Writing a draft is like putting up scaffolding. You’re just testing out how it’s all going to hang together. You’re never really sure if even of your decisions are going to make much sense down the road.

This morning, I re-read what I’d written yesterday. That’s almost always how I start in the morning. It’s sort of like dipping your toes into the water before diving in head-first. And it turned out those 3,000 words from yesterday were pretty good. There were moments that made me smile and moments that made me a little sad. Even if it felt like I was in a daze at the time, it was better to have written the words than not.

Writing is like that. It’s always better to have written than not to have written. It’s always better to give the voices a moment to scream their crazy shit and then move on. It’s always better to have stepped through the front door and out into the world.

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