(For the month of November 2011, I am embarking on a 30-Day Challenge to finish a final rewrite of my young adult novel. To do so, I am taking a hiatus from posting my Tuesday morning flyingnotscreaming essays. Essays will resume the first week of December, 2011. In the meantime, I am posting a weekly Hiatus Report on my progress during my 30-Day Challenge. See the essay “My New 30-Day Challenge” for more information.)
Ray Bradbury, in his introduction to Fahrenheit 451, writes, “I am a passionate, not an intellectual, writer, which means my characters must plunge ahead of me to live the story. If my intellect caught up with me too swiftly, the whole adventure might mire down in self-doubt and endless mindplays.”
I know exactly what Bradbury means. When seized with an idea, I write the rough draft with intense speed. I see the scenes in my head faster than I can get them down on paper, the whole of the story presenting itself to me at once. I wrote the first draft of my young adult novel in about 4 weeks, stealing a couple of hours from each morning. During that time I became so attached to my main character, New Brock, that I found myself looking for him as I ran errands downtown, where my story is set.
Bradbury recalls writing the first draft of Faherneheit 451 on a rented typewriter in the basement of the UCLA library. “I cannot possibly tell you what an exciting adventure it was, day after day, attacking that rentable machine, shoving in dimes, pounding away like a crazed chimp, rushing upstairs to fetch more dimes.” Drawing on ideas that had been percolating in his mind for years, Bradbury wrote Faherneheit 451 in nine eight-hour days.
In the ensuing years since I first wrote my novel, I have become “mired down in self-doubt and endless mindplay” during the rewriting process. This 30-Day Challenge is about rekindling the passion I once had for New’s story, and finding a vein of confidence in which I can travel the distance from rough draft to final draft.
I have also come to realize during this process that regardless of whether my novel ends up publishable or painfully misses the mark, what I desire more than a book with my name on the cover is a life, a daily life, with projects and work that give me great passion. Challenges and goals, like this 30-day quest to finish my story, give me a sense of purpose and adventure. John Steinbeck said, “The writer must believe that what he is doing is the most important thing in the world. And he must hold to this illusion even when he knows it is not true.”
I think this concept can apply not only to writers, but to everyone. No matter what we are doing–nursing a sick child or parent, learning multiplication tables, making dinner, or building a new hospital–believing each moment is important and approaching it with passion, makes a full life. A well-lived life. A life full of meaning. I believe living passionately rubs off on everything and everyone around us, and the world becomes a brighter, more creative place.
I’m following Bradbury’s lead and am using our local public library as my office, which is fitting because it is there that I wrote the first few lines of New’s story well over two years ago. I don’t need to feed dimes into my laptop, but I am hoping to attack my keyboard with the same frenzied pleasure as Bradbury once did.
For the next 30-Days how can you spark your passion and live as if what you are doing is the “most important thing in the whole world?” Can you find your own adventure?
Leave me a comment below letting me know. I’ll be at the library.