Yesterday was my first full day as a self-identified writer and let me tell you, it was rough. After battling my way out of my own mental prison and choosing to wholeheartedly pursue my passion for writing, I immediately hit a wall.
I received AMAZING support from you all for my decision to drop out of grad school and I cannot begin to express how much it meant to me. But for every 10 or 15 comments of overwhelming praise and encouragement, I received one of skepticism or critique. It was always veiled as concern, but it was barbed nonetheless. For some reason, those criticisms echoed so much louder in my spirit and resolve than the praise did and I was faced with the reality that from here on out, I’ll have to defend my career choices to the world and (maybe a little more terrifying) to myself. It’s not an easy, clear, obvious, or even necessarily lucrative path. But it’s my path now and the full weight of what that was going to mean was starting to sink in.
Here I was, day one — a writer, and (by the delightful odds of God’s timing) just in time to start NaNoWriMo (national novel writing month). I set myself a goal of 2,000 words a day and (as this confession is about to detail) IMMEDIATELY failed to meet it.
Yesterday morning, for the first time, I was faced with the total liberty to spend my time writing and I was suddenly overwhelmed by my freedom. I pursued other projects (I worked on some drawing techniques — technically still productive, but not what I was supposed to be doing), I called my mom, I looked for jobs, I cleaned my room (kind of.. we all know my room has never been/will never be clean. I just rearrange the mess until I get bored or it looks more presentable. It is one of my greatest flaws).
Finally, I opened my novel file and read through a little of what I had written so far. It wasn’t terrible. Now it was time to add to it. I couldn’t.
So I dug a book off my bookshelf that my sister had lent me AGES ago and that I had neglected to read. It’s one of her absolute favorites (Serafina and the Black Cloak by Robert Beatty for anyone who is interested). I decided to run myself a bath and read for a bit to try to find inspiration. The tub filled about 4 inches before my teaspoon-sized water heater ran out of hot water. I turned the tap off and sat there, my butt crack barely covered by the tepid bath water, and read.
The book is about a little girl who secretly lives in the basement of the Biltmore during its heyday. She encounters a force of great evil (the man in the black cloak), a ghoulish figure who preys on children staying at the Estate. Through a series of plot twists and unlikely friendships, Serafina sets out to stop him (at least, that is my assessment so far. I’m only about 150 pages deep). It’s honestly a very engaging read, but unexpectedly terrifying. It’s full of vivid descriptions and is very action driven. I was so engrossed I nearly jumped out of my skin (you know, since it was the only thing I was wearing) when my phone buzzed on my bathroom counter. I sent my little sister a strongly worded text about recommending scary books without warning.
At that point I was so high strung that I couldn’t read anymore (I’m an absolute baby when it comes to scary things), so I climbed out of the tub and told myself that’s it, Sierra. Now you HAVE to write. 2,000 words aren’t just going to appear out of thin air.
I then proceeded to find other things to do for the next three or four hours. At that point, it was 11:30pm. November first was almost over and I hadn’t even started writing. What was wrong with me? My room was hot. I couldn’t focus. I was thirsty. I felt daunted by the realization of my decision.
But I was determined to not fail the very first day!
That’s when it finally occurred to me that I was not properly dressed for the task. I remembered back to a few weeks ago when Bryce had been helping me go through my clothes (yes, I only unpacked most of my clothes from my August move a few weeks ago. Bite me) and we had been trying to pare down some of the excess. He held up a brightly colored, floral, tank top housecoat between two fingers:
Him: Sierra, what is this? Can we please get rid of it?
Me: NO! *snatches it out of his hands* that’s my inspiration smock. I wear it when I write.
Him: *sighs* okay, I’ll put it in the keep pile.
Where had we put it! I dug through a few piles and found it! Ah-ha! Now I was ready to write. I donned my smock, grabbed my laptop, and crawled into my (now drained) bathtub to write. I’m not exactly sure why I felt like I could be my most productive while sitting fully clothed in an empty tub, but my instincts weren’t wrong. The writing was slow going, I wasn’t exactly sure where I was going with it, but I was writing. At 1:58am I became so tired I was falling asleep as I typed. I actually wrote the following sentence (I found it this morning):
“But if he means to make his business here a production one, well, he’d be a good not to except.”
Um, what? I was done. There was no point in writing anything else. It was nonsense.
I checked my word count: 1,774.
I hadn’t made it. I hadn’t written 2,000 words. I was so disappointed in myself as I crawled into bed and fell asleep. Day one as a writer had not gone to plan.
But you know what? Life goes on. This morning I woke up — Day two of officially being a writer and in much better spirits. I had received more praise, and also more push back, but today the critique felt a little smaller. My resolve felt a little stronger.
Word count goal of the day: 2,226. I’m ready.
Until next time,
P.S. in case you’d like to see it, I’ve included a picture of me wearing my inspiration smock. I expect it will become a regular staple of my wardrobe again.