November 6th, 2011

Ugh, that title—transitions—sounds so ominous, like I’m going to talk about death, or my new career as the owner of a chain of Baskin Robbins franchises (wait, that doesn’t sound so bad).

Actually, I’m talking about transitions like moving out of our apartment, which I am, imminently, and into another apartment, in the hopes of landing in our final resting place—no, not THAT one; why are you all so fixated on death (asks the lady who wrote the two books all about death)?

Anyhow, we’re packing up to move, to a temporary apartment before we move into a house. It’s not fun, but you do what you gotta do.

Well, one thing I’m not gonna do is blog. So my apologies for the total lack of activity in these parts. Hello…hello…hello. Good god, you can hear an echo in here. And has no one dusted in here? It’s like a haunted house. Or one of those half-constructed Florida subdivisions. Very creepy

Another thing I’m not gonna do is visit the post office, so if you’re in that second or third tier of people waiting for TEAM ADAM buttons or signed books—and your tier has to do with when you requested your stuff/sent in your address, not any kind of creepy velvet-rope judgement—then you must grant me a little more time and a little more patience. I have your goodies set aside.

One thing I’m apparently gonna do is keep writing. Like in every spare second I have. After torturing me for the first 100 pages—it’s STILL torturing me for the first 100 pages but I have left those behind, like a day-old milkshake—I have sprung ahead and now I am writing this new book as though my life depended on it. As though it were due in February.  As though it were my primary happy distraction from packing boxes and fretting about where we will ultimately live. As though I myself were participating in NaNoWriMo.

There’s something about writing intensely, like you’re racing for a finish line—or racing from the Cannibal Moving Boxes—that is satisfying. Hopefully those of you participating in NaNoWriMo are getting into that groove. And those of you in need of a bit of help, I hereby present you with my peptalk for this year’s NaNoWriMo. (I do so enjoy writing NaNoWriMo. It reminds me of Nanaimo is British Columbia and a Mecca Normal song, but I digress.)  It feels more true now than when I wrote it several months ago, perhaps because since then I have junked the entire book I thought would be my next one and have started something new.

Anyhow, transitions, it’s not just about moving to new apartments or starting a new book or finding a way to segue from one sentence or idea to another. It’s basically all life is. And with that reach of a transition, I sign off.

Dear Writers,

Every time I sit down to start a new book, I stare at that fresh blank computer screen and wonder: Will it happen again? Will the seed of an idea or character I have begin to sprout, planting roots in the form of backstories, shooting up a strong stem of plot, flowering with more characters and plot twists? In other words, how is it possible that this germ of an idea will grow into an actual fully realized book—and that I will be the one making that happen?

And yet, it happens. Every time I take that leap of faith, it pays off. The story opens up, that alchemical process begins, the new world unfolds, and I get lost in it.

By participating in NaNoWriMo, you are taking that ultimate leap of faith. You are telling yourself that your idea will become a fully realized story, and that you will get a draft down in a month, no less.

This requires an enormous amount of faith. In yourself, and in the writing process. So congratulations on getting this far. Many people never have the guts to do what you’re about to do.

But when it comes to writing, faith can get you started, but it won’t necessarily keep you going. The faith that you need to write a novel is constantly tested—and reinvigorated—by the act of writing one. You’ll be sitting at your computer one morning, with no clear of idea of where a character is going or what she’s going to do. And then she’ll show you. And you will follow. And your excitement in the process will be redoubled, and along with it, your faith.

But that can only happen if you’re writing. If you’re sitting in a café talking about your story for hours on end or taking long walks in a meadow waiting for the muse to strike, I’m afraid you’ll soon run out of steam, and out of faith. When it comes to writing a novel, inertia breeds inertia, and momentum breeds momentum.

In my experience, that fickle muse, she visits when you’re sitting in your chair, hard at work. Which isn’t to say there isn’t a time and a place to talk out trouble spots with a friend in a café or to linger in a field (taking walks is actually a great writer’s trick for finding solutions to knotty problems, but we’re talking about brief breaks that lead to inspired sprints back to the computer). But you have a month. Spend that month wisely. If you do, I bet you will experience that magical moment of staring hard at what seems like a brick wall in your story, only to suddenly see windows, doors—options—you never saw before. That’s your book revealing itself to you. That’s your faith at work.

So, keep at it. Trust in the process. Trust that your story will come. Which isn’t to say that every book you write will wind up a published book. I’ve written several novels that will never leave my hard drive. I’ve come to understand that even the misfires are all part of the process—that they’ve honed my craft or led me to the book I was supposed to be writing.

If you can come away from this month with a finished draft, congratulations! If you come away from this month with a completed draft, a burgeoning trust in the process, and maybe even a love of that process, then you are on your way to a fulfilling writer’s life.

Ready to take that leap?

Peptalk over. If any of you have any moving-related peptalks, please post in comments. Or send Starburst. I believe they have mood-bosting powers psychopharmacolosits are only just now beginning to understand. And I’m out of the Reds and Pinks, down to the Yellows and Oranges (God, I sound like a Valley of the Dolls character).

This is my apartment. Or what once was my apartment. Now it is a museum of ugly boxes. The boxes seem to swallow things—things that were not packed in them. Everything is packed or missing.


And this is my desk drawer, once so full of life, and well,you know, crap. Now, an empty shell with a weird homeless cable and some tissues that may be from the first Bush era.

Send Starbursts!

  1. Fabulous reminder for all us writers! And here’s to transitions. I’ll raise a glass of wine to that! Best of luck with the move to the temp apt and the HOUSE! :D

  2. Hey Gayle! Just a note to say thanks for the great #NaNo advice (I’m participating for the first time), and extra good luck for the move. It’s not easy. Especially with kids and memories and all that. But congrats on your finale (not THAT kind of final) destination: a house! Bravo! I’m wishing for that too (someday?)

    Hope to see you next I’m in NYC.


  3. Nanaimo bars!!!

    I always eat the orange Starbursts first ’cause they’re my least favourite, then yellow, pink and red last. I’m a bit weird that way.

  4. If you *do* decide to start that Baskin & Robbins biz, can you PLEASE make sure to carry the chocolate fudge flavor. NOT just plain chocolate: chocolate FUDGE. I’ve only ever seen it available on the west coast, and it is SOOOOOO good. Sometimes I sit here in NYC and think about how much I miss it.

  5. Man, some Starbursts do sound great right about now. I wish I had some to send to you!

    I have the same packet of tissue. I didn’t know there were Walgreens in New York.

    Good luck with moving and writing!!!

  6. Hi Gayle!

    Thanks for taking time, in the midst of your hecticness, to offer up this great and encouraging bunch of words!!

    May you have continued & glorious success with your books!

  7. Thank you so much for my signed book and buttons! They came a couple weeks ago and I love them!

  8. I needed to read this–thank you! And if you want some lunch and box-sitting partners while you pack one day, June and I are your girls. x

  9. Hey Gayle.
    I’m not participating in NanoWriMo, but I enjoy being near the buzz of it all. I just Googled you and was happy to see that you have a blog, and you use it. You’re one of my favorite authors and I just reread IIS and WSW

  10. (oops. Submitted comment too soon!)
    As I was saying–I just reread your books, and I cried again, and I’m in the process of getting my boyfriend and brother to read them too. We’ll see how that goes.
    So. That’s about it for now. Thanks for being an inspiration. I’ll check back often!

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