Author: Lisa Acerbo
Darkness comes alive at five in the morning when I lurch out of bed and make my way to the Keurig coffee machine by rote memory. Darkness laughs when it trips me (thank the bowl of cat food that mysteriously moved in the middle of the night and the maze of cat toys scattered across the floor) or bruises my elbow (I really thought the entryway to the bathroom was right there).
You might wonder whether I enjoy getting up so early and writing in the morning hours, and sometimes I do, but November was different. November was National Novel Writing Month, and I decided to reach 50,000 words by November 30.
“Good luck with that,” my non-writing friends offered.
The high school students I lovingly instruct laughed and asked, “How many pages equal 50,000 words?”
“About 200 pages,” I replied.
Silence filled the classroom for the first time since day one of class. They were flummoxed. Then a couple snickers and “Really?”
Forcing myself up in the early hours of pre-dawn to write might sound strange, but I had to try something. Anything. After completing my first novel, Apocalipstick, and having it published by the wonderful people at Eternal Press, the second book languished in a small file folder on my computer. I would stare at the file occasionally, scoff at the meager contents, and turn away, surfing Facebook or Twitter.
Starting to write again, especially with the demands of a full time job, was hard, but then came the joy and pain of National Novel Writing Month. I often struggled for motivation, waiting for the first glimmer of sunlight to act as a muse. At times, writing every day became a struggle, especially when my characters had nothing to say.
During those mornings I lacked inspiration, the blank page gawked at me. After an hour I eagerly deleted the disjointed ideas or the few hundred words I managed to squeeze out so. Those were the days when George Orwell summed up my emotional state best. “Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout with some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.”
Other times, words came fast and furious. I found models to read, which provided inspiration. There were days when my characters sprung off the page, alive and with places to go, zombies to slay, and much to say about it.
As November streaked into December, I realized that the writing process, the journey, the adventure of National Writing Month became more important than word count. The fact that I found a way past my writer’s block, created new adventures for my characters, and realized they still had important things to tell each other, made every morning worthwhile.
I might be tired and cranky until I catch up on sleep, but the next book now has a life of its own. I reconnected with the characters and they have found new adventures. Unfortunately, they have also run across some minor calamities and nasty-tempered zombies, along the way. It wouldn’t be the apocalypse without it.
In his amazing book (can you tell I’m a fan), On Writing, Stephen King said, “Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work.”
Now that it is December, I have to remember to get to work, not only teaching but also writing every day. Just like my other job, some days are not as fun and exciting as others, but the process is important. It is watching the characters come alive and the plot travel down a road of its own.
While National Writing Month might be over, I recommend that more people start writing a little every day. What is the worst that can happen? So now it is your turn. Turn on the computer or grab a pen. Create. Laugh. Cry. I believe people end up living a little more when they write.