Ann Linquist posted an interesting writing prompt on her blog, and I thought about how I would respond to her question: What is one of the worst lies you ever told?
A better question for me today — and the one I’m gonna answer — is: What is one of the worst lies you were ready and willing to tell?
So here it is. I signed up for National Novel Writing Month last year and the goal of writing at least 50,000 words of somewhat connected discourse/narrative during November. Now, I have always written a lot – meaning I’ve spent a lot of time writing, not that I’ve produced a lot of writing. I’m generally a slow writer, and 50,000 words in a month felt like an insurmountable goal.
Still, I told people I cared about that I was doing this, and I didn’t want them to think less of me if and when I couldn’t reach this goal (I know, I know — your friends don’t really care and will love you regardless of your NaNo word count).
SO: My big lie is that when I signed up for NaNo I decided that if I had written fewer than 50,000 words in my NaNo novel by November 30, I would dig into my huge storehouse of Abandoned Drafts and pull out enough paragraphs or pages or whatever to tack onto the end of my NaNo novel to cross the 50,000 word finish line. I would be the only one who knew what I’d done.
Yuck. I wanted to reach some mythical goal enough that I was willing to lie to myself to do it! What an awful self-realization to make. On the other hand, it was also a wonderful self-realization to make. It served as powerful butt glue every day to keep me in the chair and writing so I wouldn’t have to (barf) betray myself.
As it turned out, my characters — thank you, Libby, Reed, Buddy, Becca and the rest — worked hard enough to keep me writing that I hit 50,000 words well before the end of November. If they hadn’t, I don’t know whether or not I would have ended up lying to myself. But even thinking I could or might is a sobering recognition.
Self-knowledge is not always easy or comfortable.