November is National Novel Writing Month (aka NaNoWriMo). People all over the world commit to writing every single day of November in an attempt to finish a 50,000 word novel by the end of the month. If nothing else, this helps get people in the habit of writing daily. My brother is too busy in November, what with two children, a wife, school, and a teaching job, to commit so he started JulyNoWriMo a few years ago. He attempts his 50,000 words in the month of July. I didn’t participate this year so I wanted to do NaNoWriMo. Then on November 1st I learned about National Blog Posting Month (aka NaBloPoMo) in which people all over the world commit to posting on their blogs every single day in the month of November. I am participating, too. Instead of trying to do both (which I seriously considered for about a day) I have decided to just do the daily blog posts, but also to read all those writing books I’ve bought over the years. A friend loaned me Bird by Bird, by Anne Lamott so that is the book to start my November.
Like every other writing advice I have read or heard, Anne Lamott suggests sitting down at the same time every day for an hour to just write. Shut out the rest of the world, forget about that pile of laundry that needs folding, that walk you wouldn’t have otherwise taken can wait an hour, put your phone on silent or better yet turn it off completely, just sit at your computer or typewriter or notepad and write. Or just stare at that blank screen for an hour. Whatever you do, that time is for writing, nothing else. Now, I have not put this bit of advice into practice yet, but I think maybe I should since it is advice given by many great writers. But what do I write about? Ms. Lamott has that covered in her first chapter, as well. “Flannery O’Connor said that anyone who survived childhood has enough material to write for the rest of his or her life.” She suggests thinking about your earliest memory and writing it down, just start writing everything you remember from your first memory ever to your first day of kindergarten through your first few years in school. Just let it all flow out. Don’t worry about punctuation or vivid descriptions or even accuracy. Just write and don’t stop. Then maybe the next day you’ll review what you’ve written and find just one sentence that you can expound and turn into something more. I’ve only read the first chapter of this book so far, but within the first four pages of Chapter One I was flooded with so many memories, both good and bad, I chuckled and sighed at my early childhood and wondered if my memories are accurate.
Sometime before I was five, we lived in a house in Whittier, California with train tracks running behind the backyard. One day our family took a walk along the train tracks, in my memory this was not the first time. As children do, my older brother and I would bend down every few steps to pick up a rock or other interesting object that caught our eye. On this particular walk we found a tiny dinosaur toy. It was green with four legs, a long tail, and a fin-type thing on its back. I think it was a dimetrodon (oh how I love the internet. A quick search of “dinosaur with a fin on it’s back” yields the image of my memory.) This dinosaur toy was no larger than my hand, probably about 2 inches long. This is where the memory ends. It is so clear in mind that I really hope it isn’t a fabrication.
Another memory from the same house was of a boy who lived across the street. He and Sean, my older brother, were friends. I can’t think of his name, but I’m pretty sure he was the younger brother of a girl named Jessica that used to babysit us. I don’t remember Jessica, I just remember stories of her. Like that Sean would say, “No Jessicup!” when we were told she would be watching us that evening. This boy came over to our house and the three of us were playing in the backyard. I had a baton that was clear plastic with liquid and shiny confetti on the inside so when you tipped it all the shiny bits inside would move around and create a pretty, sparkling effect. It had white rubber ends that used to hold streamers, but those were gone. It was just a stick now, but the pretty insides were still working. I would twirl and throw my baton and have so much fun. Then one day when this friend of Sean’s was over at our house in the backyard, he picked up my baton and hit it against the brick wall. My baton broke and all the sparkles fell out. It was a sad day. I wonder if that boy, now in his thirties, remembers breaking a little girl’s baton.
I will be posting here every day of November so I hope you enjoy my posts, and maybe you’ll take up writing this month, too! Check out NaNoWriMo or NaBloPoMo and write your own novel or hone your writing skills with the rest of us.