Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Flooding out

Upstate New York isn't known for it's weather. Sure, we have crazy-cold winters, but there are states that boast colder temperatures and deeper snows. We have the leaves in the fall, but Vermont's the place everyone flocks to when the colors come out in the trees. We don't have baking heat in summer like Texas, or tornadoes (usually) like Alabama.

Still, living in the valley as my husband and I do, Spring sometimes brings showers of blessing... which occasionally overwhelm us.

Normally our little creek meanders lazily past the house, content to offer minnows and crawfish for the kids to catch as they splash happily through its gentle depth. It's a quiet neighbor, peaceful... until it rains. Then it turns into the guy neighbors talk about years later, "He was always such a quiet man. I never would've known he had 20 bodies buried in the back yard..."
Our quiet, peaceful little creek can turn into a rampaging river in minutes, and in hours it can become a flood.

NaNo, during the first heady days, seems like a challenge, but doable. "I can handle this," the Writer thinks, as the heady euphoria of having written takes hold. "I'm prepared, it's only 30 days after all. I can do this!"

Like a kayaker approaching the rapids for the first time, the first-time NaNo writer is often full of confidence, certain they are ready. If they've put in the time training, if they've made a real commitment, if they've planned and conditioned themselves for the long haul, they're right. If not... well, let's just say you can't go through the rapids without getting wet.

I started NaNo's first week on goal, meeting my daily word counts with ease, even exceeding them some days. I was right on... and then came The Call. The one every parent dreads: "Come pick up your son." And my heart sank.

For various reasons, my son has had trouble in school these past two years. A LOT of trouble in school. Trouble that led to his being suspended for a full calendar year last January. That's right. The school saw fit to kick my fourth grader out for an entire year. We had a home-tutor, appointments with a counselor... Let's just say it was a long, difficult process. But, in their benevolence, the school decided to allow him to come back in September. A fresh start. A new year, in a new building (he moved up a grade, and so out of the elementary he was attending), new staff. For the first three months, he was like a rocket, flaring toward the skies, dazzling us all with his success. The outcome was sure, we were already patting him, and each other, on the back, the champagne was approaching the ice... and then I got The Call.

Fellow NaNo-ite, sometimes life derails us. As writers, we walk a delicate line between Life and Writing. We long to write... we would happily immerse ourselves deep into the glory of the page, reveling in the creative process, lost to all else around us, but if we do not occasionally come up for air, we find ourselves drowning. We are odd creatures, you and I, like air-breathing water dwellers. We live in writing, we must, it is our sustenance, necessary to our very being, and yet without coming out of the writing sometimes, without surfacing, we would not survive.

Because my son has suffered through two years of the worst public school has to offer, my protagonist will come into contact with a school counselor who will change the course of her life, driving the plot in a new direction and wrapping up several of the conflicts I was uncertain could be resolved.

Life fuels writing. We write because we must, but if we would continue writing, we must also live. Dear writer, do not despair when life drags you to the surface. Take a deep breath, live at the top for as long as it takes, before diving back in. You will find your energy renewed, your writing freshened, your muse inspired. Be a dolphin. Don't just surface for air, leap up, race to the surface and grab hold of life, immersing yourself in the experience of air and light and sound. Revel in your experiences, live them fully and without reservation. When you return to the deep, dark places writing takes you, the oxygen you take in will sustain you and breathe life into your words.

When the floods come, ride them out and see where the waters take you.

Happy writing!

Rejoicing in the day,


"God is our refuge and our strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging."
-The Psalms of David, 46:1-3

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