All night, every night, I sit at my two laptops and work on pulling words together to make sense out of things that I never paid much attention to before departing on this research trip. It’s hard sometimes, to do the same thing every night and still try and find a fresh way to write something that I must have written at least 80 times already. My life here is the model of redundancy, but every night when I turn in my first draft, my boss requires fewer and fewer changes.
I wish I could show you all the things I’ve written. Some are things I’ve been very proud of. Some, not so much. I’m not writing about demons right now, kanimas, gladiator battles, hopeless romances, galaxy exploration, or alien wars. I kind of wish I was because the real world continues to pull at me, making me colder and more desensitized every day.
I’m writing about the world we live in. Stuck out in a forgotten part of the world, trying to make the best out of a writing situation that drains all my creative power and gives me nothing to show for it. I can’t even correctly say how many words I’ve actually managed to put on paper at this point. If you figure about 1200 words times 78 days, that’s something like 93,000 words. My thesis manuscript and first “completed” novel isn’t even that long. I still have the majority of this trip left to go and I’m not sure I can keep putting that many words on the page per night.
I’ve seen other writers who have daily word count goals or other similar ways to keep themselves writing. I don’t have a choice. I have to write. I sometimes imagine myself with an old-fashioned metal slave-chain hooked around my ankle and attached to my desk. It drags at me.
But you know what? I’ve learned more about sentence structure and active and passive voice and keeping people entertained than I really thought I would. I’m building a lovely selection of calluses on my fingertips, which can only help improve my already speedy typing. I’m writing for something like 2 million people. This might be the largest audience I ever have and none of them will ever know who I am.
Another interesting side note that I’ve noticed is that I wind up having to teach the particulars of English every night, which is even more interesting since apparently I don’t know the correct terminology for the majority of the English rules I know. The discussion tonight was on the usage of words like “the”, “a”, and “an” and how I didn’t even know what they’re called, and I’m apparently not very good at explaining why “The apple fell off the tree” is proper English and “Apple fell off tree” is not. Other than it sounds very cave-woman-ish, I have no terminology to explain my inherent knowledge of why one is correct and one is not. I suppose I could look it up, but I can’t think of how I would find the time for that kind of in-depth study of my own language. And then I feel slightly stupid because those to whom English is not a native language can recite to me the proper technical terms, but still can’t create correct sentences.
But then, maybe I can’t form correct sentences either. Especially not so late at night / early in the morning. And for that, I say, practice writing. That way, proper grammar, spelling, and punctuation becomes a matter of muscle memory and not an excercise in futile memorization of technical rules. Language should be alive, as should the story the words are used to tell.