30 Days of NaNoWriMo – Day 5: Not According to Plan

LS-NaNoWriMoProgress-11.5.14Where I Wrote: Just a crawl of bad writing spots (not intentionally, of course). I began on the Central Park side of the water fountain on the northeast corner of 59th and Central Park West. Then Whole Foods in the Time Warner Center.

How I Feel About What I Wrote: I did make the tough writing decision from the end of yesterday’s session, but I didn’t get far beyond that. I am honestly bummed by how little I got done today and the honest fact that Memory definitely isn’t going to be 50,000 words (I always planned for it to be a roughly 100 page novella, written as a break between bigger projects) isn’t much comfort. I really want to be up to par on my daily words–even if it means finishing Memory before NaNoWriMo ends.

The Mood I Brought to the Table: Victorious; before leaving my place, I settled a nagging financial issue and I came up with an awesome answer to the above-mentioned plot question.

And yet…

The Experience:

???: “Hi there.” <sits down directly across the table from Louis>

Louis: <if his eyes aren’t wide with surprise on the outside, they absolutely are on the inside. across from him sits a completely normal person, who whips out a tablet and chats amiably and comfortably about it. and about how he’s a writer and blogger. he works in a joke that genuinely makes Louis laugh. and Louis, being Louis, struggles not to wail a Lemongrab-esque, “UNCOMFORTABLEEEEE!!” in his face, out of nowhere>

Confession–I am really, really bad at talking. Very, very bad at it. Not bad enough that I completely ignored this fellow blogger when he approached, but bad enough that I could not, for the life of me, think of anything to say to him. In case I haven’t made it clear yet, it was not the stranger’s fault–he really seemed like a nice guy. But being sociable is not on my set of skills. Not with strangers, at least; with my friends, of course, I’m least likely to stop talking. Maybe there are situations when I go public-mute because I’m trying to figure out an uncertain social element, but during hang outs with friends, the jokes come easy. Maybe even too easy.

But the thing is those public-mute moments; I require an observation period to figure out if I like someone/something or not (I’m weird–have I ever clarified that I’m really weird?). Otherwise, I’ll just assume someone’s a great person, an assumption that’s burned me enough times that there’s no comfortable side of a random “Hi there.”

To make matters worse, my entire day was oddly… weighted, I suppose you could say. Scripted, maybe? I woke up trying desperately to fix a financial issue and come up with a major plot choice, which meant instant pressure all morning. Those issues were resolved before I even left the apartment, thankfully.

But then I headed to Bouchon Bakery in the Time Warner Center, my original choice for the day’s writing session (the entire intent to be coming somewhere familiar and easy so I wouldn’t have to look for a place to write). Only… I’ve worked in the Time Warner Center, which made going there to write feel exactly like going to a job that used to really stress me out. Bouchon was also packed when I got there, so I walked out to the fountain on the southwestern side of Central Park (not the Columbus Circle fountain–the one across the street, to the northeast of it). Only it turns out, the spot on the fountain where I used to have lunch wasn’t any better on my old man back than the rough rock steps in Bronx Park. I stood at the fountain just long enough to implement that big writing decision I’d made earlier.

But then I had to stretch my legs and move inside to another old lunch spot–the cafeteria in Whole Foods, the bowels of the Time Warner Center. And that’s when Paul sat down–after maybe a half hour more of writing.

I was determined to not be completely anti-social. Really I was. I tried to chat back because he genuinely didn’t seem like a bad person. But, in the end, clamming up won the day; I eventually drifted off into a silent stare at my tablet, determined, at least, to actually keep writing (“Be comfortable, damn you!”). I only succeeded in getting out another line or two.

Again, I don’t want to make it sound like it was his fault (even now, hours later, I don’t want to be the dick who’s all, “I can’t write with you being all friendly, bro.”). I honestly also hit the end of my initial outline, meaning I had to actually plan what was coming up, something that I was incredibly reluctant to just free write.

So I waited until I was at least in the mindset to write again and certain that, no, I’m not just leaving because I’m afraid of talking to someone (serious progress, for me). When I was sure that I couldn’t write more because I just didn’t want to force the next few pages (which always goes poorly for me), I packed up, bid Paul farewell, and walked outside.

And determined, instantly, to try and be better about my plans. Obviously, that meant planning my story more actively (I already have my idea for the next plot point and I’m going to continue polishing it up for tomorrow). But, more acutely for me, it meant being able to deal with a break in my personal plans; I could never possibly have planned for someone to just sit down and talk to me. In all honesty, I’m weird enough that I forget I’m in public when I’m in public–that people can engage me (a solid year of sedentary work-from-home can change a man). But I want to be able, specifically, to deal with random social engagements when they happen. To invite them, even.

The next time someone engages me, I will–probably very awkwardly–engage them right back. I swear I will.

And the next time I know I’m reaching the end of what I have planned for a book, I’ll make sure to plot out the next part of it ahead of time.

And, of course, never again will I choose a writing spot associated with “stress” and “work.” I’m sure I could’ve prevailed anyway… but why? I’ve already chosen to be a writer; why make my life harder?

Why not make the first step of every writing session, “Find a comfortable seat in a place you love?”

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Louis Santiago

I'm a fantasy writer based in New York. One of my short stories, "Aixa the Hexcaster," was published at Mirror Dance Fantasy. You can read it here: http://www.mirrordancefantasy.com/2016/09/aixa-hexcaster.html.

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