Monday, October 22, 2007

Pulling Yourself Out is Hard to Do

This year, after nearly a decade of nothing, I managed to reverse a bit of the damage I've done to myself. I can't buy back the years I wasted with gluttony and non-productivity, but I can kick myself into overdrive in an attempt to catch up. That is what I am doing, and that is the purpose of this blog.

I grew up loving stories. I would beg my parents to make things up to entertain me, whether as a bedtime treat or to keep boredom at bay during car rides. At twelve I started writing my own ghost stories, and by middle school I kept a notebook on me at all times. I was first published by a small press my senior year in high school. I remember, late in the school year, getting my first acceptance slip the same day I received my college acceptance letter.

I wrote for a couple more years and then, in my early twenties, I stopped. I stopped writing, I stopped reading, I stopped exercising. I stopped planning for my future. I can't pinpoint the exact cause of all this. I wish I could. I wish I could blame it on deadbeat boyfriends or the crappy teachers I had at school, but ultimately it's entirely my fault. This bothers me because I still can't figure out why I would give up so many things that were important to me, and for seemingly no reason at all.

Earlier this year, I found I had doubled my body weight. I was no longer reading or writing fiction, I was in debt, I was depressed and I was on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Again, all of this for reasons unknown to me. It was then that I decided I was going to stop marching towards the cliff I'd inevitably end up throwing myself off of. I'd get my act together and shape up or die.

I'm fifty pounds lighter today and as of this afternoon I have four manuscripts out right now. I know that doesn't sound like much, and it's not, but it's a momentum building within me that I don't think I could slow or stop if I wanted to. And I don't.

On to the present. The real purpose of this blog is, in addition to the daily writing exercises I put myself through, to sharpen my writing skills. I'm pleased at what I am writing but I also fear I may have atrophied. Seven years is a long time to be away from something you love.

I'm also using this blog as a means to keep track of my goals. National Novel Writing Month is almost upon us. I used to think it was the stupidest idea ever, back when I was someone who USED to write short fiction. I realize now that I was quite jealous of people for no good reason. They were doing it, while I was laying in bed staring at the ceiling fantasizing about I could be doing but wasn't. I could have participated any year I wanted to, but I was afraid. I was afraid of failure so I just didn't do it. Illogical, I know. This year I'm going to treat it as an extended, month-long writing exercise and see what I come up with. I'm planning on writing a novel based on a short story I wrote ages ago (and have sent out again) called The Woman Without. I've already met some participants in Pittsburgh who seem pretty cool. When all is finished, I hope to have a big lump of first draft garble to polish and a handful of new friends. It's no fun being lonely, I've discovered.

Until then, I hope to have at least two more short stories finished by Halloween. I'm about 1200 - 1500 words into both of them but they've stalled out a bit. Between brainstorming and reading the stack of fiction guides I have I might be able to meet this goal. Here's hoping.

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