Immerse yourself – It’ll keep you going

If someone asked me a year ago, Reem, can you imagine ever writing a novel? I would’ve said no. Despite of the fact that I wrote a bunch of stories from the ages 9 to 13. Short stories mostly, but stories nonetheless. Other memories I have are of me cooking plastic food for my parents in a toy oven, presenting it in plates and expecting them to pay for it. Two things I was sure of growing up, although not entirely during the lost years; 1) I love cooking and possessed the entrepreneurial bug, 2) I had a wild imagination and loved imagining stories and writing.

Of course, the only valid career choice was business related. And so, I went to business school, specializing in tourism. I went to work. I did great, for a while. And then I was miserable. I’ve just summarized nearly 10 years of my life in 3 short sentences. What I am getting at is, that I never saw myself ever pursuing writing as a career. Even now, that I am actively writing. My family doesn’t really know, because I haven’t explained it yet. My friends don’t know either. A few close people know. The world – whoever reads my blog – knows. 

When I decided to write a novel, specifically, participate in NaNoWriMo, I became very aware of my apparent shortcomings. I started wishing I studied literature, at the least, taken a creative writing class. I scoured the internet for tips and tricks, the tabs piled up on my screen as I fell down the rabbit hole and the headaches started.

What kind of music should I listen to when I am writing, I asked google. What’s the best way to say “she walked really fast because she was very angry”, and yes, that is literally a sentence captured from the novel I am currently writing. It’s a place-holder, or so I tell myself. I found a number of books that are supposedly useful for aspiring writers. Aspiring. HA! Another word I hate about describing myself. A word I used to use. I now say, writer, aspiring to be published. I also looked up movies about writers or fiction, I figured that they would somehow help me focus or spark an idea or two. I did most of this prior to NaNoWriMo, as part of the prep I suppose.

On the 31st of October, I watched Will Ferrell and Emma Thompson’s “Stranger than Fiction”. I thought it was brilliant, and it didn’t inspire me. It depressed me a little. Because it was so good and imaginative. How will I ever make something this good? I can’t. Queue depression and self loathing. Ugh, us writers can be very annoying. Jeez. Somehow I got over myself, and on day 1, I wrote.

Day 2 came around, and I wrote. it was tough, I procrastinated, and I watched “Love Actually”. Not exactly a movie about writers, although, there’s a writer in the movie. Anyway, skip this one. It did nothing for me – writing wise that is. I used to love this movie, I’d watched it a few times before. I managed to write despite of the lack of motivation and inspiration.

Day 3, 4 and 5 are a blur. I didn’t write much, because everything I wrote was garbage. I was also in the middle of reading “Me Before You” by Jojo Moyes. You see, that’s another thing I’ve been doing lately to help in my writing. I’ve been reading a lot more. I would now randomly pick up a book from my (To Be Read) list and kind of force myself to read it. For research, I’d tell myself. The book was good, but long, and sad. I sobbed when it ended. Rejoiced when I found out that it was being turned into a movie, and then sobbed some more. I was mostly sobbing because I imagined watching the movie in the cinema, and I felt that I would burst into tears when that thing happened by the end of the story. But part me of was sobbing because I barely wrote anything for NaNoWriMo, no, for my novel, and my word count was suffering. The chart on the Nano homepage was mocking me. Thankfully, on day 5, I discovered word sprints and virtual write ins and writing buddies. The sobbing helped it seemed, to get the juices flowing, pun intended. Day 5 gave me my word count, and then some, making it possible for me to take day 6 off and most of day 7 off too. Most importantly, day 5 gave me actual content I was proud of.

You see, all this, simply means that I have survived week 1 of Nano. All it took was for me to completely immerse myself in writing. All my senses are attuned to my surroundings, focused to help me write this novel. Gosh, it would be a shame not to finish it. A damn shame. It’s hard to be excited about something that is this hard, time consuming and also emotionally draining.

PS: Other movies I’ve seen that helped me write and gave me motivation are: (Under the Tuscan Sun – Julie & Julia – Midnight in Paris – Eat Pray Love). There are other movies on my to-watch list as well.  I just realized that I’ve watched 7 movies in about 5 to 6 days. Read 1 book and started two others. I’d rather do this for research than the alternative. Multiple tabs on safari truly depress me.

PPS: The featured image is an alley of the streets of Stockholm, on a clear cold night, in October of 2014 (one of my many travels).

Happy Writing to all the NaNos out there or anyone crazy enough to do this thing.

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