It’s a humble PNG image, but to me it’s the most exciting one I’ve seen in a very long time. Today I finished NaNoWriMo. I wrote a novel. I almost want to put an exclamation mark on the end of that last sentence, but I don’t think it’s really sunk in yet. To me, my novel is just 28 little documents living in my computer and in my brain, nothing more.
I might have mentioned here that I’ve written two “novels” before, when I was a teenager, but they were short and awful and one basically ripped off The Outsiders (which I was obsessed with in Grade Eight). I don’t mention it to show off, but only to hopefully illustrate how different, how real, this novel feels. The other two will never see the light of day, but I put so much into this one. So much thought and consideration. And I even kind of fell in love with every single character and thought about them as I was falling asleep. This novel was hard and frustrating and exhilarating and fun. At first, I didn’t think much would come of it, but over the past few days I’ve decided I’m going to continue working on it in the following months, to make it into something that I hope people other than my mother will enjoy reading.
Mostly, it feels strange to be released from the constant, internet-tracked obligation to write at least 1,667 words a day. It feels strange that tomorrow, nobody will know how many words I’ve written, or if I’ve written anything at all. It feels strange to be able to work on other things. I had coffee with my friend Amy today, when I had 999 words to go, and was telling her about a short story I’d started in October, before NaNoWriMo. It feels like years ago that I was thinking of these three characters in this wee situation they were in. Oh my god, I just realized that I can go back to writing short stories, where 5,000 words is considered close to the limit. Will it be strange to write short stories again? Will I still love it? Will I write another novel, ever?
For now, I’m going to watch Walking Dead with my husband (who has supported me incredibly during this process and has always believed I could do it, even when I wanted to give up) and wash some of these dishes. Maybe I’ll write a novel about it when I’m done. ;)
If I can’t sleep, one thing I like to do is to look at webcams of cities where it has just turned morning. Sometimes nobody is out of bed and sometimes people are already having long chats outside in the dark. Sometimes the spaces look so eerie without people.
I always feel like I should preface this by saying “I’m not some weirdo,” but can it be weird to watch the world wake up in public spaces?
Anyway. Here are my favourites from last night/this morning.
I also enjoy these ones, from Dublin. I’ve been looking at this site forever, for years, I think! I used to dream of going there, to visit the Not to Worry! store.
I finished this book on the way back from Montreal. It was the first time I’d ever read it (I know, I know). It was found in a laundromat by a family friend and given to my mother. Look at the gorgeous cover! Old book design is unmatched, in my opinion.
Old books are great, especially when they’ve been used by a student in a mixture of relevant class notes and future invention ideas.
I almost didn’t want to give this back to my mother when I returned from Montreal!
My parents used to live near the beach, when there was a racetrack across the street. Now, houses are there, painted in too many colours. We walk slowly down the boardwalk and my mother points out trees to my father – “This one is so big now!” She tells me that when she was my age, when everything was new, she dreamed of living in the little building in the last photo, just her and her dog and the beach and the lake.
When I was growing up, we called it The Beaches. Now it’s unfashionable. Now it’s just The Beach. But I can’t do it. Just like I will say “SkyDome” forever, until nobody remembers what I mean.
Visiting my parents is often so much like a ready-made writing retreat. The house is quiet, softly lit, often sleepy. The TV returns seven channels and there is not much in the way of distraction. I sit straight up, I do crosswords from the paper, I write hundreds of words at the kitchen table I carved my name into at age eight.
An oil lamp from Istanbul, a present from my brother. In the background are buttons with the Berlin “walk/don’t walk” symbols.
My old Goose on a Moose print and various old photos of my mother and Finland.
I’m not really a fan of Doris Lessing’s fiction, but I love her as a writer. If she catches me not writing, she shakes her finger at me and tells me to get moving.
A dusty plant given to us by friends, and an old monster made by Suzen a long time ago.
This 1945 penny was in my change from the grocery store a few months ago. I’m not really a monarchist, but I love history and I like to imagine the way the world was when this coin was new. It’s also fascinating to me to have a coin with a different monarch on it (it’s been just one all my life). Remind me to bore you one day with the story of why George VI is facing left.
Until I took these pictures, I never noticed how I’d unconsciously grouped things together – items that remind me of traveling; items with the same colours; items from friends. I also feel a small amount of shame at how sparse my writing area is, especially my four corkboards. The fourth one has just one thing on it! I need some inspiration, I think. So many of the blogs I read are by people who produce tangible things – illustrators, artists, photographers – so their spaces are always so obviously visual. I suppose I could put up things that evoke feelings or ideas – and to some degree I have, but I’m wary of things ending up corny.
There is no greater excitement than starting a story. Finishing a story is satisfying, but in a different way – it’s a worn-out, bleary-eyed kind of happiness. You almost don’t even care. You don’t really remember the thrilling beginning, the new idea becoming a narrative with real, live characters.
Today I took myself and my laptop to a coffeeshop. I opened my Word doc called “Ideas and Beginnings” and picked something at random. I copied and pasted it into a blank document. And suddenly I had a story. I can’t even explain how it happened – and it would probably be boring if I tried – but suffice it to say I spent the next hour solidifying a story that had been in my brain for quite some time. It finally found something to stick to. Very exciting!
I will say, however, that naming characters will always be, for me, the very hardest part of writing.
I also discovered the Taddle Creek Archive and spent some time reading some amazing short stories. Here are some of my favourites: