It’s Halloween. I woke to a Facebook picture of a friend in green translucent makeup. I got my morning coffee from a guy dressed like Waldo. If this year is like the past several I will again and again wonder why a big bearded guy dressed as a ballerina is buying cold medicine, or the teller at the bank is doing Elvis impressions. It’s not that I don’t like Halloween, I do. I guess I just have a short attention span.
It’s good weather for Halloween today. It’s foggy and dark and even now, at ten in the morning, I can imagine spirits emerging from behind the parked cars and making their way through the strip mall parking lot toward me. The space between this world and whatever world lies just out of sight seems very narrow today.
It is a good day to get ready for an adventure.
November is National Novel Writing Month. If you know about it, you know the drill. 50,000 words in 30 days. That’s 1667 words a day. Every day. For 30 days. There is only one way to do it, realistically: no edits, not questions, no doubts. Chris Baty, the founder compares it to snapping the rearview mirrors off your car and driving as fast as you can.
If you don’t know about it, you probably have only one question: why? Why come home – as most of us do – from a day spent sitting in a chair starting a computer screen to spend 2 or 3 more hours sitting in a chair staring at a computer screen. Why put your social life on hold, why eat even more junk food, why rant and rave and cry over a “contest” that has no prize, no award ceremony, and where all you have to do to win is pull your sleep deprived self over the finish line at midnight, grimy 50,000 word manuscript in your cramped hands.
Everyone who does have NaNoWriMo has a slightly different reason, but most of them boil down to some kind of permission giving. Giving themselves the permission to do something they have always wanted to do. Giving themselves permission to try, to make mistakes, to at least for a month dedicate themselves to a wild crazy dream. Giving themselves permission to give into a passion.
For me, it helps me practice overcoming Resistance. You know Resistance. It’s that voice – or those voices – that tell you can’t, you shouldn’t, you won’t be able to, you don’t deserve to, you aren’t talented enough, you don’t have the will power, you haven’t planned enough, you’ll fail so why try every time you try to do something create or exciting or new.
There’s no fighting it. It’s too wily and persistent. And the internal struggle can become just another tactic Resistance uses.
I recently heard someone talk about “dancing with the ego.” That is, not fighting that inner force that, like a smothering parent, tries to protect you by locking you away in a tower from everything interesting and wonderful. But rather, seeing it and naming it, then ignoring it and going on. I love that loving, playful image of dealing with Resistance.
And this is my month to practice those dance steps. See, I can read about overcoming Resistance all day long. I can teach about it and write about it. But none of that actually helps me overcome it. November is the month of “enlightenment as you go.”
So this week I worked to remove the passive barriers that I know will trip me up. I have filled my cupboards and fridge with easy to make, relatively healthy foods, so “I can’t write I have to cook” is not an issue. I have done the lion’s share of the fall yard work, so that’s one less thing I “should” be doing. By the time I go to bed tonight, my kitchen table will be cleaned off so it is an inviting work space, instead of an inviting dumping ground for everything I brought home with me. Tomorrow, I will make sure my winter clothes are out and ready, because I start NaNoWriMo in fall, but I come out of it, blinking bleary-eyed at winter. My house will be in order.
And I will continue keeping my internal house in order. I will continue with my mediation and self-observation practices, to help me hear the call of my Better Self over the voices of Resistance. I will step up my yoga practice to keep me grounded in the here and now and not the many unpleasant futures Resistance is spinning. And also to loosen up those “hunchie muscles” in my shoulders and back that complain after too many hours at the keyboard. My internal house is in order.
I have my effects gathered. A NaNoWriMo survival kit full of inspiration. A spreadsheet to track my progress. A box of pistachio and dark chocolate covered toffee. All of them, like all good charms, by people urging me on. I have my support team, ready to shame or bully or encourage me when my courage and determination lapse.
On one hand, this is an adventure into the unknown. I have no ideas for a plot, only the beginnings of a character in mind and no clue what the first words on the screen will be tomorrow. But on the other hand this is familiar territory. I know what lies Resistance will tell. I can already feel the sinking dread of coming home in the cold dark and knowing I need to find the energy to eat and leave again to write. I know I will feel the thrill of loving everything about my book and the process of writing it. I also know I will feel the need to lay on the couch and watch old episodes of Law and Order instead of write. I know I will spend hours chasing random information down internet rabbit holes and call it “research.” I know this month will find me once again in an under heated coffee shop, listening to horrible music, eating olives and feta and getting hummus on the keyboard.
And I know I will emerge exhausted, a bit thrilled, a bit underwhelmed, crappy novel in hand, knowing I can out dance Resistance.