There will be actual writing advice at the end of this post.
Last Tuesday night I huddled in my London living room with my housemates to watch the US election (among our group we represented Italy, England, Germany, Canada, and Uganda). It was a party at first, with popcorn and rum and coke. We flipped around between different news streams: NBC when we needed shiny graphics to stay awake, BBC when we wanted actual information, FOX when we wanted to be entertained by the reporters’ bluster. But early on there was an uneasiness as Hillary’s lead never seemed comfortingly strong, then as the hours ticked by it grew smaller. Then Trump over took her and she never came back. We kept watching, making up new endpoints: we’ll go to sleep when they call Florida. We’ll go to sleep when they call Michigan. Despite the mounting urgency we started nodding off, though it seemed as though at any given time one of us would stay awake, watching the news feeds like a someone keeping watch around a campfire. Five AM was when I called it a night and climbed into bed.
And to be honest, it almost feels like I’ll never catch up on the sleep I lost that night, like I’ll always be this wrung out, this tired, this on edge. This morning I woke-up feeling like you do after sleeping on an airplane, dehydrated and sore. I have so many American friends. Just typing that made me stop and pause as I thought about them. Some will be more effected than others, but all will be effected. And what about the rest of the world? What about my home, Canada? What effect will it have there?
So it’s been tough working on my NaNoNovel while all this is going on (my inner critic has been having a go at me over this: “Oh, look at you, not writing because you’re stressing out about the potential end of Western civilization. You’ll use any excuse not to write, won’t you?”). It’s also hard to have faith in yourself and your projects when world events so thoroughly dwarf them. There are things I can do to make myself feel better (like taping a note to my laptop that says ‘THIS MACHINE KILLS FASCISTS” and making the photo below my desktop background) but it doesn’t do anything at all besides making me feel better (and perhaps get me odd looks at the NaNo Write-Ins).
We’ll I’m uploading pics, here are a couple that actually made me chuckle:
Aww, remember how much of a clusterfuck the Republican National Convention was? Good times, good times (aka, any time before last Tuesday). Someone with more photoshop skills needs to update that picture to make it look like the Babadook has been offered the position of HUD within Trump’s administration.
(I know, I know, if I really want to make the joke work I should be the change I want to see in the world and have just gone and done it, but I have no photoshop skills).
So what have I done since election night that might actually benefit the wider world? I have donated to causes I believe in and worry will suffer under Trump and tried to find other ways to donate (for example, asked a friend who asked me to do some editing work to give my fee to Planned Parenthood). I am trying, through my words and actions, to be a visible ally to marginalized people (I feel this is especially important after seeing the polls showing how the majority of white female voters threw their lot in with Trump- white woman might not have voted with their vagina, but they seemed to have voted with their skin). Trump’s election has also spurred me to do something that scares me, which is to reach out to the UK non-profit Lifelines and inquire about writing a death row inmate in the states. This isn’t some kind of prisoner dating service, but rather a charity that puts prisoners in touch with people on the outside so they can become penfriends (or, as we say in North America, pen pals). It is scary because I worry about being able to relate to someone who has committed a seriously violent crime and taken the life of another human being; I am also scared about communicating with someone facing something as heavy as a death sentence and being unable to offer them any insight or comfort. But I feel if we are to survive as a species we have to be able to reach out and empathize with the people that scare us the most (rather than massively deporting them, or requiring them to join a registry because of their religion, or denying them control over their own body, or the right to things like being able to marry their partner).
The Wednesday after election Tuesday I had a introductory session for a different charity, Good Company (they are a non-profit that puts volunteers in contact with isolated senior citizens in the hope that the two of you will become friends and that the elderly person will feel a little less isolated [hmm, maybe I could get the senior citizens to write the death row inmates...]). This wasn’t in response to Trump’s win- it was something I had signed up for months ago, forgot about, had to submit the paperwork again, etc. We were all still a bit shell shocked from the election results the night before. But just being in that small portable classroom with people who were trying to do something to make the world a better place, even if it was just easing another human being’s loneliness, made me feel somewhat better. And I think it’s that spark that I’ve been holding on to this past week.
Okay, but how about that novel? Well, I am at 17571 words, which is about 9,000 words behind where I should be. If I had to sum up how I felt about this…I guess I would say I wish I could care. Like, I wish this was the biggest concern I had in my life right now. I am still very much enjoying the Write Ins and last Saturday we had our mid-month social (in a pub, of course, because this is London). This Saturday is the all-night lock-in, which will probably be the nerdiest thing I do all year and I can’t wait. But for all the excitement I had leading up to NaNo, this month has just been taking it’s toll on my from day 1.
All right, writing advice: on the few days I have managed to hit my word count and earn a kitty-cat sticker, what helped was writing a brief outline of the scenes I would write that day. Here’s an example scrawled in my notebook:
Paul chats with Thomas. Landlady says there is a phone call. It’s a girl. Paul elbows Thomas out of the way. But it’s not Tonya- it’s Lady Fife! Shit!
From those few seemingly disjointed sentences I wrote almost 2k in a couple of hours. So if you are just staring at a blank page, try just jotting down the barebones of what you want to write and go from there.