NaNoWriMo Wannabe

It's insane. I have no business even thinking about it. Not for an instant. Not even in an insomniac, slightly flu-ridden (hard to tell, but my face hurts) state. I can't tell stories. I don't think in stories. I have nothing to say.

Oh, but I want to. I love novels. Well, sort of. I don't really think of myself as a reader of, ahem, Literature. I like fairy stories and some sci-fi. Mysteries mostly. I know I should like more historical fiction than I do, but it's so hard to get the voice right. I like novels that make you think, but not too hard. Mainly, I want to be Lewis or Tolkien, writing deep theology in story form. But I'm more or less certain I could never pull it off.

Really, it would come off all stilted and silly, pontificating about the Trinity and how to understand the relationship between the Three Persons as drama. Now that would make an interesting story: what does the Trinity talk about? Other than love. Maybe there isn't anything other than love. How would one narrate that? See? It would just be too pompous. Me, wannabe Augustine.

It's a genre difficulty. Do I want to write essays or fiction? Scholarly articles or popular non-fiction? Spiritual advice or learned analyses of texts? For the moment, all I seem to be able to write is letters of reference. No, don't go there. I wish my face didn't hurt. I wish that I were not awake in the middle of the night before a tournament. I wish that I could write easily in something other than the first person.

I have a title for my novel that wants to be: "The Anchoret Falconer." It's from a Facebook game: what's the longest word you can make out of the letters of your name? I can also make "outlearn" and "eulachon" and "loculate" and "turnhall," but I'm not sure whether most of those are actually words. Oh, okay, I checked the OED: Tennyson used "outlearn," so that counts. And "eulachon" is a candle-fish. "Loculate" is the same as "locular," which means "having loculi" or little chambers. And according to a video I found on YouTube, "turnhall" seems to have something to do with flinging oneself off of trampolines onto beds of foam. But I like "The Anchoret Falconer."

There's a germ of a story there, isn't there? There's this anchoret, see, and she lives in a castle. No, anchoresses lived in cells next to a church. And she spends all of her days contemplating God, waiting for the touch of the Holy Spirit. Her soul is the falcon and she is the falconer because she is trying to fly it. Or capture something with it. Maybe God is the falconer and her soul is His prey. And then one day....

This all seemed much more promising before I started trying to write about it. I'm hopeless. My son now, he thinks in stories. Well, not so much stories as scenarios: he is already a Dungeon Master of some renown, at least among his classmates. For his birthday party this year, he designed a space "dungeon" on the model of the interior planets of the solar system. Try as I might, it's usually beyond me to follow the stories that he sets up. But they just come to him. I wish stories came to me in that way.

Oh, it is painful enjoying art so much and not being able to make it. Drawings and music and stories. It's cruel of God (or Fate or genetics or luck) to have given me such longings without the wherewithal to fulfill them. You've seen a few of my adolescent sketches: they're not that bad, are they? But somehow they never matured into something that really seemed to count. I love singing and music, but I can't really hold a tune to save my life. And I default into diary entries (or blogposts) whenever I try to write. Perhaps I could write something in the first person as a novel.

Let's see. "I'm cold here in the cell. It has been three days since my last visitor and my servant is starting to get on my nerves. I should be more patient, I know, but she whines about wanting a puppy and I can't convince her that it would be cruel to bring a dog in with us, more so to the dog than to anyone else. But she says that other anchorets have pets, she knows of some nuns at Caen who keep larks. Archbishop Rigaud tried to make them give them up, but they knew that the birds would come back if they pretended to let them go."

Not bad as a start, but where will it go? The anchoret and the servant quarrel over what kind of dog to get. One day, a young man comes asking for her prayers and she falls in love. It could happen. Or maybe the anchoret simply sits in her cell, listening to other people's stories. Or telling them stories, like Scheherazade. She could tell them miracle stories. Stories about the saints. Or she could have visions. Write prayers. Experience temptations. Read theology. Gradually reveal the deep secrets of her past, about the things that she did in her youth before she was walled up. Maybe she was a noblewoman famed for her hunting birds.

Now you know that I'm dreaming--who wouldn't be?--of somehow translating all of this into something that would (impossible to think!) sell. My sister has gotten sick of my whining about how I'm not as successful as I'd like to be. "Work harder," she says. "If you want to have more money, work harder." If only my muse would let me. Oddly enough, when I'm writing, like this, there really is no effort. My best writing (not to say this is my best) comes when I'm not really trying. "Try harder" usually means that everything comes out stilted and dead. Also, I'm pretty sure that writing simply in order to make money would be wrong. At least for me.

It's a test: if you really want to write, you'll do it anyway, whether there is the prospect of making any money or not. So why not start another blog for the Anchoret and let her write? No, I'm not thinking of giving up on Fencing Bear, but she's me. She can only know what I know. What does the Anchoret know? We've already established (thanks to the above vignette) that she lives in the thirteenth century. That's a start. So we want to know more about the thirteenth century and how women became anchoresses. Why an anchoret rather than a nun? Because I know better what it is like to live by oneself than I do in community. Plus I've been reading the Ancrene Wisse and I know what her prayer life would be like.

But could I really create a character other than myself? Maybe novelists have a different way of thinking about themselves than I do that makes it easier for them to imagine other people's thoughts and emotions. Maybe that could be her problem: needing to learn to connect. "The Falconer Anchoret" sounds better, scans better. Oh, great, look, we've got a name for the band! Now all we need is some music to play.

I'm hungry. I can't believe I'm awake. Keeping vigil. I was so good yesterday (mere hours of sleep ago) getting my grading for the weekend done. I even managed to stop watching videos of the Queen and her corgis long enough to fold the laundry. Sunday was going to be a relaxing (ha!) day at the tournament. And now I'm going to be too tired to fence. But there you go: I've written just over 1300 words.


  1. Hi FB. I just wanted you to know that I have been enjoying your blogs from time to time. It is a great day here in Connecticut (October's bright blue weather strikes again), but I'm thinking about the long trek in December out to Indianer. The adventure is made much easier by the thoughts of all the friends out there; one in particular shares love of dogs and of mystics, of writing, and of the medieval liturgy.

    See you soon!

    And now back to my writing block writing; it's coming it really is, and I have a week after all.

    Fass the Cantor

  2. Hi, Fass, looking forward to having you in the neighborhood! Let me know when you've made the journey west and would like to get together for a chat about dogs, mystics and other things!


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