Do you remember last November? Do you miss that heady rush of racing through thousands of words each day, and the thrill of seeing the page count rise as you chased down the dream? Did you fall in love with your main character? Were you filled with triumph—or crestfallen—around Thanksgiving when it became glaringly apparent that you only had a few days left to win the challenge?
If you’re a writer then you already know I’m talking about NaNoWriMo. And if you completed the challenge then I’m willing to bet that you have that sloppy first draft manuscript shoved away in a drawer somewhere. You said you were going to get to it, clean it up and edit it and really make something out of it because you know it has promise…but somehow the days slipped away and now here we are at the end of March and you still haven’t touched it.
It started off innocently enough. I met him in a bookstore. He was the clerk, and I was buying the books. I talked with him for five minutes about Moby Dick and Melville’s poetry. There was something about him…he reminded me of a philosopher from ancient Greece. And yes, he said, he was interested in philosophy. He’d studied it for many years. Would I care to continue this conversation over coffee?
I wrote down his number and left the store. And everything still seemed to be innocent enough.
This is an area many writers feel weird about, and by “many writers” I mean most of the writers I’ve encountered, myself included. We’ve all giggled over what a bad sex scene looks like, and no one wants to be the one who writes something that other writers—or readers—make fun of. But how do you write a good sex scene? And what do we even mean when we say “good” in this mostly un-talked-about area?
I have a very good friend who is 83 years old. We hang out together on Saturday mornings mostly, and talk about politics and history while he tells me various stories from his long and colorful life. Usually when I tell people the age of my friend they assume he has trouble getting around, or that maybe he’s in a wheelchair or has difficulty remembering details. But nothing could be further from the truth.
I’ve noticed a trend in the last year or so among my coaching clients. Many of the writers I’ve worked with have been women writing memoirs. Whether this trend is fueled by the inspiration and success of such bestsellers as Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat Pray Love or Cheryl Strayed’s Wild, women are turning out in droves these days to write about the bigness of their lives, or even just one little narrow slice of it. I think this is partly because women feel the freedom to express themselves as never before, unconstrained by expectations about gender, intellect, sexuality and social and political choices. But also because, for the first time in our modern culture, we get the feeling that someone beyond our tiny individual circle of friends might possibly be interested in reading about our lives and the way we chose to live them.