Nano Pep Talk, revisited

In the fall of 2013, I wrote a pep talk for NaNoWriMo titled Write for Your Life, and I talked about honoring your imagination and writing every day; I talked about how the words had to move through you and out into the world—that the world was at your fingertips, literally, and how when I wrote my first book, my fingers were on fire. What I didn’t say in that pep talk was that I had started a book in July of 2012 and that nothing was happening with it, that I was one of the ones who needed to hear those words. I was one of the ones who was avoiding my laptop and getting scared of it, and so I was writing that pep talk for all Wrimos, including myself.

But I still didn’t begin writing again . . .

Not until a month or so after I did that Pep Talk, when I had a dream; in my dream I was looking out the window of my bedroom, and my body temperature was low, and the end of the world was coming. My fingernails had turned blue, and they were beginning to flake off. I picked at them, and underneath the blue nails were lighter blue nails, nails that were getting a little more oxygen. This dream scared me. If I didn’t start writing again, a part of me would die; that was clear. I took this dream very seriously, and the very next day I booked a hotel room for a week to start to get my story out. And I promised myself I would write every day that I traveled on NJ Transit.

When I left the hotel, I had fifteen new pages, in a new voice, and I began to write on every train ride. I had to explain to my friends that I had committed to writing; I had to go public because I wouldn’t be talking to anyone on the train anymore, and in a way that also helped me commit. I’d read in Brainpickings that it can take fifty days to form a new habit, and it was hard at first. But then I’d remember the dream and it was easy, because I didn’t want to die.

It’s over a year later now, and I’m on the third revision of that story. I just got new notes from my agent, complete with pretty red ribbon.

I don’t know what’s going to happen to my story, and in a lot of ways it doesn’t matter. Because I have it now; I have it because I wrote every day. I have it because I was afraid and I had to be brave. And I am full of wonder when I see my pile of pages; I am full of wonder that I got the words out.

I believe in dreams, the scary ones and the not scary ones. And I believe in the magic of this world.

Holly McGhee