Finding Writing Time in the Margins

The past month has been a difficult one for me, as it’s been with so many people, and for different ways. But one unexpected gift I’ve received from this month is a seeming new dedication to regular writing, such that I might aspire to the supposed title of the blog part of this site, “Writing in the Margins.” I’ve always aspired to a regular writing practice, in the way that people aspire in the new year to be regular gym-goers, or something like that: honest intentions, maybe some good fits and starts, but hard to keep up in the long run. And maybe this will be like that, too, but I’m hoping not. I always hope not, and then we’ll see.

I started NaNoWriMo, the National Novel Writing Month, with all good intentions. The goal was to write 50,000 words in November, and I was off to a good start. Seven days in, and I was ahead of the curve at 11,667 words. Eight days in, I spent the night on the couch, watching the election results pour in disastrously. I went to bed when I started shaking and couldn’t warm up. Tiredness, or shock, I wasn’t sure.

I spent the next few days writing about the election: here, on Facebook, for Killing the Buddha.  I got a post up about “Celebrating Holidays in a Post-Election December” for my semi-regular contributions to the InterfaithFamily Network’s parenting blog. And I have some other scribbles here and there that are searching for a home.

After Nov. 8/9, I tried to get back into the NaNoWriMo project, but couldn’t find the focus, even if the ultimate impetus behind that project connects, in a roundabout way, to being present in the current world we’re in. I dibbled and dabbled, but by 2 weeks in, I was desperately behind, to the tune of 5,000 words. I’d been at a conference, busy all day with meetings, attending sessions, networking, and generally doing anything except write. I squeezed in a few hours in the margins of the conference, but it wasn’t enough to keep up.

I returned from the conference to the week before Thanksgiving and a house with guests, and cooking replaced writing for a few days. By the time Thanksgiving wrapped up, it was almost the end of November, and my word count hadn’t changed since Nov. 22, hovering around 24,000 words, less than half of the ultimate goal.

So I just stopped, refocused. Started writing other things. And I kept finding time to write. I wrote during lunch breaks and for a half-hour or an hour or two after the kids are in bed. I can feel the difference in my mind, how thoughts shape themselves into sentences that I try to remember to scribble down with pen or keyboard.

I accepted that I don’t actually know where the NaNoWriMo project is going, and that was part of the problem. I needed to abandon any hope of a concrete narrative, and just keep pantsing through until I see what’s there.

And, since I wasn’t the only one side-tracked from NaNoWriMo by the election, some of my writing buddies are now in an accountability group, and I think that will make quite a bit of difference.

Writing in the margins always feels slightly subversive, an act of interjection and speaking out, and I’m glad to find a way to make the margins a central part of my life right now.

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