I found out today that I didn’t get a big grant I was hoping for. I wanted to use the money to travel to Laos for two weeks to do research for a book I’m working on. I knew I didn’t get it by the first line of the e-mail: “Thank you for applying….” Thank you for playing, but you lose. I shouldn’t be surprised. Fifteen hundred people applied, and it’s a large grant. But it’s still a bummer. So it’s on to Plan B.
Which is to get my ass in a chair and start writing again. In a way, I’m relieved. I know that sounds Pollyanna, and I’m sure there are folks out there who would put me in that category. But the truth is, I would rather be working on the book than working on a trip about the book. And one of my source books, The Ravens by Christopher Robbins, was written without any benefit of travel to Laos. Just lots of interviews and reading and research and hard work. Good model for me.
Brian was encouraging and sweet. He brought me flowers. He said we’ll make the trip happen, anyway, eventually. And I believe that. But I’ve been trying every trick in my little book to avoid sitting my ass down and just writing. Flailing, you might say. You know you’re desperate when you wail on Facebook, “What do I do with my life???” I got some wonderful, thoughtful answers to that question. But really, I already knew the answer. It was burning inside of me. It reminds me of a complaint from the writer Richard Bach, who says that he only writes when the thing that needs to be written busts through the walls of his house and forces the issue. Amen.
November 1 marks the beginning of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). The goal for the program, according to their website, is to write 50,000 words in 30 days. That’s 1,667 per day. I’m scaling back the goal for me to 500 words a day, which is still a lot of damn words. But being on the website, logging my word count, going to weekly “write-ins,” will keep me honest, I hope, and moving forward. I’ve also started volunteering at a local elementary school, doing writing conferences with fifth graders who are working on stories and essays. I’m glad to have my own project moving along, so I can feel honest about the advice I give to the students I work with. Writing is hard. It’s good to have company.