Singing Off Key In A Cell Of My Own Creation

My attitude has sucked, recently, and I have made absolutely no forward movement on the project I’ve been trying to work on. And no matter how hard I tried to jab my accusatory pointing finger in a convenient direction, I’ve found it rigidly glaring back at me.

I’ve had a couple really good excuses, although looking at them in the light of day they’ve grown pretty thin. I’ve recently been assigned to supervise the detachment cell block for my watch (only for a month, thank the gods), so I spend twelve hours a day dealing with very angry people who don’t want to be in jail and do extremely ridiculous things with the ample free time they have on their hands while staring at the walls of their cells (I won’t go into too many details, but just think of the words “Poop Murals”). While this posting has afforded me the opportunity to refer to myself as “The Dungeon Master”, it is no fun showing up to work in the dark and dwelling in an artificially lit tomb while listening to the drunken man in cell E4 belt out what I can only guess is a liquor altered rendition of “Thunderstruck” by AC/DC, and then emerge from my cave to find it is once more dark.

I also signed up for NaNoWriMo, which has so far been a horrific failure. We’re half way through the month and I’ve written a grand total of about 3000 words. I’m thinking it highly unlikely that I’m going to meet the 50,000 word goal, and this fact irks me to no end. I had some pretty ambitious goals set for myself for the next year, most of which hinged on me getting the majority of the first draft of this new project done this month.

The problem, in a general sense, is the words are not flowing. I’ve had more than one writing session where I glare morosely at the screen of the computer I just bought, staring at the mocking little bastard of a cursor blinking merrily away while I think of absolutely nothing to put down on the page. Then, if I do manage to come up with something that resembles a sentence, I looks so stupid when it appears on the screen that I delete it in a huff and then go and see what’s happening on Twitter.

In short, my story sucks, and I hate it.

In my fury of hating my story, thinking I was a failure, convincing myself that I would never write anything that anyone ever wanted to read ever again, ever, I got out my blaming finger and began jabbing it enthusiastically at all the outside influences that might be remotely blamed for my lack of progress: the pressure of NaNoWriMo, the move to the cell block that I was “volun-told” to take on, the drunk attempting to sing “Bohemian Rhapsody” to the tune of “Jingle Bells”.

But, much as an angry man who smashes his head into the steel door of his cell, thinking he’s going to teach me a lesson, I found myself sitting on my ass, trying to catch the blinking spots before my eyes, and I realized that I had no one to blame but myself.

At the end of my last night shift this morning, I climbed from my cave and finally got a bit of a look at the sky. I got to breathe a little fresh air, and the slurred, mangled tunes of Twisted Sister finally faded behind me. Then, as though I’d been set free of a cell constructed only by my own foolishness, I saw the world clearly for a moment.

Like my new, vocally challenged friend in the cell block, I was singing the wrong tune and it was no one’s fault but my own.

As I drove home, I thought about the story I’m working on, and realized that I’ve been going about it all wrong. In my rush to try and get some words down, I was thinking more of what I wanted my story to end up as, and not how I was going to get there. I had tired to force my character into a role he was not able to fulfill, I had tried to make my writing too wordy and had lost my individual voice, and I had been so worried over my word count that I had forgotten to enjoy the story and make it for me and not for someone else. I was belting out a horrible song, off key, and no one was going to like it.

In re-examining the portion of the story that I’ve completed, I see that most of it is crap and will have to be heavily rewritten, if not deleted entirely. So, while I am very mildly sad that the hours I’ve put in have been mostly useless, I am very happy that I will be able to move forward with a firm plan in place, a character that I can get behind, and I story I want to read (which means I have to write it first).

We all have the ability to lock ourselves into our own personal little cell, where all we can hear is the ridiculousness of our own terrible, drunken, misguided voices bouncing back to our ears. But we all have the ability to set ourselves free; we just have to stop our caterwauling long enough to find the door.

As always, thanks for reading.




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3 responses to “Singing Off Key In A Cell Of My Own Creation

  1. Awesome post, as always. I love the glimpses you provide into your world–a world most of us will never experience.

    I’ve been paddling around in the same boat lately–hating NaNo with a passion. When I sit down to write, I can write, but this is the third day I haven’t been able to even look at that story. I want to write everyday, but I don’t want anyone to tell me I have to.

    I also find the focus on word count demoralizing. I know it’s not a competition, but when most of your writing buddies are kicking your butt, it’s hard not to feel inadequate.

    Thanks for sharing. I hope the rest of the month goes better for you.

  2. A great post I will share. I think the whole concept of NaNo and all its varied counterparts is a bit ridiculous honestly. I understand the momentum motivation of the masses but trying to squeeze the creation process into a mold of monthly word goals diminishes the process a bit and discourages those who don’t or can’t work at this kind of pace. Write. Write because you love it and as you intimated, because it sets you free.

  3. I participated in NaNo for the first time this year and it’s one of the most challenging things I’ve ever had to do! The main thing I’ve learned is that every word counts, and the hardest part is starting. Even if I write a few crappy sentences, usually once I get into my characters head the words start flowing and it’s less crappy from there. I know I’ll have a lot of editing to do at the end of it, but at least I have the ideas on the page now 🙂 Hope your month has progressed better!!

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