Monday, November 5, 2012

My fictional alter ego is the bad ass I always wanted to be

I just finished my words for the day and then, after the very satisfying task of updating my word count on the Nanowrimo site, read the "pep talk" waiting for me.  I usually don't read the emails from Nanowrimo (deep dark confessions).  Actually, I treat them the way my students have told me they treat voicemail messages from their parents -- they ignore and then delete them.  But today I felt like dipping into that untapped pool, and I'm glad that I did.

The message was from Kate DeCamillo, the author of The Tale of Despereaux, (no, I haven't read it, but I suspect it's good, because it's a Newberry winner and it's been converted into a 3 star film).  In any case, Kate writes about her first job in what sounds like an warehouse, getting books down from acres of dusty warehouse shelving, and dealing with a mean coworker she names "Bob," who acts as her inner critic, telling her that her two pages per day are not going to make her famous.  "What's your Plan B?" he keeps asking.

Instead of getting into her head and deranging her, as inner critics are wont to do, she used her anger at Bob to further fuel her 2 pages per day.  She set her alarm for 4:30 in the morning and wrote 2 pages every day -- pages to SPITE Bob.  And we all know how the story goes:  she is now famous and Bob is probably slowly killing himself with resentment and booze.

So, Kate tells us, write for yourself.  Write for revenge against all of the naysayers in your life, the resentful and jealous Bobs who see you actually doing something with your life and who want to destroy that.

I think that's pretty good advice, both parts of it.  We should write for ourselves.  We should write because, like talking to a good friend over coffee, it makes us feel good ... and sometimes like the star of our own show, rather than the pathetic side kick.  We should write because, for those two pages, we're not stuck in our stupid "real" lives, being our own stupid selves.  We can become anyone we want. (Like a woman who can see and talk with the Dead, ride a Harley, and tell people who piss her off to get stuffed ... and not feel a lick of guilt over it.)  And we should also write to kick our emotional enemies -- those frigging vampires, the ones who suck the joy and action right out us, if given a sliver of a chance (and we have to invite them in, remember) -- in their metaphorical nuts.

There's a certain happy violence to writing that I want to wallow in for a while.

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