I’m in the processing of compiling notes for my NaNoWriMo novel, which feels like I’m chasing after fireflies in the dark, the light flickers once and fades, and here I am with my hands out like a beggar waiting for the next one to show up.
I know what I’ll be doing—vaguely. I’ve learned outlines are rarely integral in most things artsy. If ever possible, I try to avoid doing one, but when I do make one due to a renewed sense of ambitious hope to finally ‘get it together,’ I’ll deviate from it anyway. If I could follow outlines, if I could learn what it means to follow an itinerary, then I might be more efficient, which I would happily apply to every other part of my life such as shelving the books stacked on the table or simply making the bed in the morning. But I don’t. I just go ahead and do it whilst different thoughts campaign in my head. Going to go on record and say I don’t recommend this approach to everyone. You might go insane because of it.
There’s certainly a place for order. My dad will be the first to tell you that. Whenever I visit him, we watch something together, a trashy science-fiction movie or a blockbuster hit. Even in the hottest, uncomfortable heat of summer, I will parade around in this non-sentimental, red suede blanket that he’s had for a few years. When I’m done with it, I attempt to fold the blanket back into place, folding it in half and hanging it over the couch. My dad will crudely shake his head like he’s watching someone pick a scab. I’ve folded it wrong. This is about the time he reeducates you on how to properly fold a blanket. This is the militant code of order I grew use to, and while it may indicate varying degrees of stubbornness, I never really adopted this mentality. I don’t care about the proper etiquette of folding blankets.
Which is why I can’t apply this sort of order into my work, especially into the novel that I’ll be writing, a semi autobiographical, painful, confusing, and numbing period in my life. It’s not all grim. There’s the highs and thrills too. Still I’ve never made sense of all of it, just fragments of it.
I suppose the other reason, the underlining meaning, to writing this second novel is to sort out a lot of things I never had the chance to talk about or say to anyone. I was innately shy, kept my feelings reserved, and rarely said how I truly felt about things, partially because I was so withdrawn. It also didn’t help that I had some cruddy friends at the time. Then life hit me. I was left shell-shocked. I turned into a great bitch, burned bridges (with said cruddy friends), and started to feel as though the smile on my face was detachable. At sixteen I was not ready to talk about what had happened; I was a pressure cooker potting every hot pepper ingredient imaginable. I was pissed and devastated. I didn’t even start talking about it until recently.
So if I’m going to write this monstrous novel full of kicking spice and blistering emotional heat, I thought, okay, I should have a plan. Plus I thought it would offset the high probability of me drowning in a pit of despair. As I started to take notes, I remembered a little of this, a little bit of that. And wow, memory IS the best work of fiction. As Sylvia Plath said:
Some things are hard to write about. After something happens to you, you go to write it down, and either you over dramatize it, or underplay it, exaggerate the wrong parts or ignore the important ones. At any rate, you never write it quite the way you want to.
I mean converting memories into words? I’ll be lucky if I tell 3/4 of what actually happened versus the things pictured in my head fueled by years of repressed anger and grief. I’m still trying to remember if so-and-so person’s eyes were shiny green marbles or were they more like minty gum? Nothing is quite right. There’s always something that’s changed. But then, I can’t restore order to something that never had any order to begin with. I’ve gone ahead and resigned to this fact.
I’ve ripped the outline to pieces, not in the way someone does before delivering a dramatic speech and tearing it into two pieces, declaring to everyone ‘this comes from the heart!’ Well, so can a speech you’ve spent a lot of time thinking about–but I digress.
My writing will be imperfect, inaccurate, and full of noisy punctuations. Without the outline, I can avoid interruptions. Take chances. Write something I didn’t expect I’d write. Learn about something and make mistakes. Make mistakes.
I’ll say it again. Make mistakes!
With fifty thousand words ahead of me, I’m bound to meet some road construction. I’ve learned, sort of in the way Julia Roberts has described her life as airy these days, that I’m okay with most of this. Let the rude and false epiphanies hit when they hit. Enjoy the non-outlined journey ahead.