A Necessary Sense of Direction
I’ve recently been driving my husband mad with the incessant debate about our housing situation. Should we move or should we add on? If we add on, how much should we add on? If we move, where should we move? To what type of neighborhood? In what school district? To what type of house? With how big of a yard? Or maybe we should build instead.
It’s a series of questions I ponder constantly. We love our neighborhood, but the house is smaller than we’d like and the school district is lacking. We’ve solved the school district problem by sending our kids to private school, but do we want to have to do that for the next twelve years? Will we recoup the cost of an addition? Wouldn’t it be nice to shorten my husband’s commute?
The part of this debate that drives my hubby mad is the fact that we have no intention of taking any major action on the house front for at least a couple more years. So why debate the issue now? Because our future direction will inform our present decisions. If I know that we’re going to stay in this home long-term, for example, I’ll make different decisions when we give our master bath a necessary overhaul. Granite instead of laminate. A tiled shower instead of an acrylic surround. The addition of a window to brighten up the room.
I need a similar strong sense of direction when I write. Before I put one word to paper (or, more accurately, type one word on my laptop), I need to know who my characters are and where they are going. I need to know their ultimate destination.
This month, I am participating in National Novel Writing Month, a movement that encourages writers to cast of their inner editors and write with abandon for thirty days. The goal is to end the month with a 50,000 word manuscript. Granted, writers should have no great expectations for this 50,000 word draft. It is just that—a draft, and a very rough one at that. But the exercise forces writers to break out of the habit (one that I embrace) of allowing doubts and insecurities to hamper production. So often I find myself writing and rewriting a first chapter dozens of times before ever proceeding on to the rest of the book. At that rate, I’ll be lucky to finish anything, ever.
But while NaNoWriMo encourages writers to just write, without necessarily having a sense of direction, that sense of direction is something I desperately need. And so I started with an outline—or, more accurately, a chapter by chapter synopsis. I drafted this synopsis last spring, and it’s been sitting untouched on my laptop ever since. So I’ve dusted it off and have been using it as my roadmap through this wild ride of a month. I’m now at over 7,000 words on day 3—far better off than I would be had I started cold. (Trust me, I know me. I’d have thrown up my hands in despair by now.)
I will see this challenge through to the bitter end, regardless of what comes over the next four weeks. I need to, for my own writerly sake. I need to establish this daily habit, to prove to myself that I can plow forward rather than constantly look back, and that new and exciting things await me on the literary horizon.
As for the house, we’re still debating that issue. Good thing we aren’t acting on it anytime soon.