To everything, there is a season … including writing.
For years I squeezed writing into the nooks and crannies of my life. Distractions came in all forms, including my day job that paid the bills, the family that needed clean clothes and 24-hour taxi service, pets who needed kibble and vet visits, friends who – let’s face it – I needed more than they needed me. I managed to render several short stories and essays, even got a few published. But I got nowhere on my novel aspirations. My latest attempt, after ten years – yes, an entire decade – hung suspended at 50 lovely, overly edited pages.
I started STELLA ROSE during NANOWRIMO 2008. Angela (my BFF) challenged me to participate, and I had recently received the inspiration for STELLA ROSE in the shower. So I committed to NANOWRIMO and writing 50k words with a beginning, middle, and end of a novel. (Read more about NANOWRIMO here.) Two weeks in, I had 12k words. I wasn’t going to make it.
Drastic times/Drastic measures. I took vacation time the third week of November and holed up alone in a deserted condo in Killington, Vermont. As this was the week before Thanksgiving, the lifts hadn’t opened, so it was just me and the lady at the front desk. I had to drive 30 miles for a bagel – which I did exactly once. I consumed four pounds of M&Ms, and countless cups of coffee. I went to bed thinking about Stella Rose; I awoke thinking I was Stella Rose. I typed standing up, screaming words when I couldn’t type fast enough so I wouldn’t forget them. Oh, Alicia, this girl was on fire.
I wrote 35K words on one week.
I won NANOWRIMO easily with 53k words, and the shitty first draft of STELLA ROSE was complete.
With this momentum, I was inspired to write more regularly. But old habits die hard and sometimes weeks and months would go by with no novel work. As the anniversary of my 35K week approached, I knew if I was serious about finishing this novel, I needed to keep my ass in the chair for another solid week. Each fall, for the next four years, I retreated to Stella Rose’s world for a week of writing/revising/unwriting.
One week each year doesn’t sound like much, until the time comes to do it and your world revolts. But I stuck to my commitment to Stella Rose. I owed myself one week each year to sink into what makes me tick, to show my kids nothing should stop them from doing what they love – even if only for one week each year, to practice what I preach.
This annual commitment provided the scaffolding for my writing life, generating biweekly write-ins at Phoenix Books with my stalwart writing buddy and indie-published YA author, Sarah Ward (visit Sarah here), inspiring me to be faithful to my writing group – the Tuesday Night Writers Who Meet On Wednesdays, and getting my ass in the chair at home at least once a week.
It’s not elegant, this writer’s life, but it’s mine.