To Flow or Not to Flow

Day Two of National Novel Writing Month. Creativity breaks down and weeps. The pledge I’ve taken to write a 50,000 word novel in the thirty days of November is the same as binding my typing hands in metaphorical handcuffs, courtesy of NaNoWriMo, the perfectly condensed name to lure a graduate of Stanford, a university where all locales are shortened in similarly ridiculous ways: Hoover Tower – Hoo Tow; Memorial Auditorium – Mem Aud; Boat House – Bo Ho.

With NaNoWriMo, I feel right at home.

By Day Three, Creativity, accompanied by Shame and Fear, is curled up in the corner moaning and trying to sleep, determined to wait out the month-long sentence as if imprisoned in a cold concrete jail cell, clinging to fantasies of the day of liberation, eager to rebelliously bound back to life come December and parole.

It pains me to see Creativity suffering so, especially since I brought on the condition. To nudge Creativity out of its depression and worry, I write and write. I write anything. I write everything. I dance between two stories rather than sticking to one, combining the word count for posting at NaNoWriMo as if two stories could march towards one ending. My process focuses on numbers over content. I consider assembling and inserting shopping lists into the middle of the each tale, a definite ‘kill two birds with one stone’ approach. My writing is looking very odd.

On Day Five, Creativity comes to life, coaxed from its haze by coffee and a sugarcoated pastry. But as with any bout of energy brought on by such delicacies, Creativity plummets into low blood sugar after a short digestion period and returns to resentment over the pressure of my commitment. Stubbornly, it retreats to its corner until I offer to strike a deal.

I consider my options. Like a defendant on trial, I stand and raise my hand. Moving into the co-starring secondary role of judge as only a schizophrenic writer can, I call on myself.

Defendant blurts out in military formality, “Permission to not succeed, sir!

As judge, I nod in understated affirmation. Defendant sits down and allows a small, triumphant smile to take form. Relief. I’m released from my pledge. I can go back to life as normal.

Only the shaking off of responsibility in the way a wet dog dries its coat is new to me. Honoring my commitments, crossing the finish line, every incarnation of such behavior, is my norm. My obsession. Giving myself permission to not cross the finish line is unfamiliar.

For years I have practiced yoga intermittently. Vinyasa yoga. I didn’t choose this flowing form of yoga. It chose me. Serendipity. The proximity to my home of Sacred Movement, a friendly yoga studio, paired with my ignorance of the vast array of yoga options lands me in Brad’s class.

At first I struggle. I must absorb the classroom routine, the names of poses, learn the etiquette, face my limits. Over time Brad’s way becomes familiar. I no longer must remind myself to breathe rather than hanging onto the air inside my lungs as if I’m an inflated balloon that will shrivel and die if I exhale.

Take a vinyasa,” Brad instructs, referring to a series of flowing poses. “If you always take the vinyasa, don’t. Hold downward dog instead. If you never take a vinyasa, do.

Brad knows that breaking your routine offers new perspective. If you must always do more, try doing less. If you always do less, stretch and see what it’s like to do more.

When I consider NaNoWriMo, I examine what I gain by sitting down in the corner instead of sprinting for the finish. I see that I give myself choice. I see that the world does not end when I choose to renounce a pledge. I see what I have accomplished by simply trying.

My timid participation in NaNoWriMo has allowed me to move forward on a story that has been hovering above me for months. Some new characters introduced themselves. A story is taking shape. I am reconnecting to fiction.

I have never been a sprinter. I prefer distance running, for I embody endurance over speed. Just ask my high school cross-country coach. In November I’ve written a lot of words. Most do not count towards NaNoWriMo. But they count to me. And they count to Creativity and my someday novel. Both respect my decision to fail at NaNoWriMo. Both understand that my writing process requires some seasoning.

I'm glad that I gave NaNoMoWri a shot, but I'm mostly glad that I gave myself permission to extend the process. Maybe I can try for NaNoWriDecade. That’s more my speed.


Girlplustwo said...

I see that I give myself choice. I see that the world does not end when I choose to renounce a pledge. I see what I have accomplished by simply trying.

Beautiful. I see no failure here.


Anonymous said...

A marathon is far better than a sprint. Seems like it has been a journey for you to inspire yourself. Glad you feel the buzz now. Am so looking forward to reading everyone's words from this project.

Anonymous said...

Agree with the above comment. Goal-directed thinking is highly overrated. Write when you feel the urge to write, when you have something to say ~ when the passion hits you. It's enjoyable that way, as writing should be. :)



Anonymous said...

I love how this process came full circle for you DeeZee, especially in remembering your yoga practice. I believe that by participating, you moved closer to your own truth about what works and doesn't as you try out this new role for yourself.
I love the self reflection that you've acquired here in the process.

mist1 said...

I always thought I was a distance runner too. Until, it was pointed out to me that running in Macy's for the last pair of boots in my size is not a distance race.

Anonymous said...

Great post.

I use lessons from my yoga in my writing too.

Emily said...

I loved so many things about this. The journey, the permission to not meet the goal, creativity hunched in the corner, the yoga. Beautiful.

Voix said...

I'm glad that you've got the courage to write a post like this -- the inner perfectionist should be continually slain.

Voix said...

I've got you blogrolled, by the way.