The Great Canadian Novel

I used to be a writer.

Not just a technical writer, but a writer. With every fibre of my being, a Writer.

Of poetry. Of short stories. Of the Great Canadian Novel (perpetually in progress, of course).

I haven’t written poetry in almost 20 years. I thought on my way home from visiting my mother in June that if there was any time to write another poem, it was now. (My mother was my greatest and most devoted fan, as only a mother can be.) But I can’t seem to muster the inspiration to write a poem for my mother just yet. I’m still paused, and I can’t bring myself to write a poem right now knowing that she won’t be able to read it. Some day that will fade and I’ll be able to start. It might be next year or it might be next week. But not today.

So, instead, I’ve been thinking of other writing. I’ve had a number of novels under way for years — decades, even — that I always promised myself I would finish. I have a box full of old ideas, a writing program full of new ideas, a head full of ideas I haven’t even thought of yet…but I still never seem to actually do more than write a page or two, maybe a scene.

Part of the problem is good old procrastination. I start out with good intentions but then something else — everything else — becomes more important than what I should be doing. And I suddenly become narcoleptic, unable to stay awake for love or money (Mr. Procrastination’s version of a roofie.)

Part of the problem is that I am too critical of my own writing. I have problems writing a true rough draft because I keep trying to go back and edit what I’ve already written until it is perfect in my eyes. So much energy is wasted on that that I have little left for writing new words to copy-edit. And by the time I’m ready to move on, I’m so sick of the story that I just can’t stand to write any more and the story gets released into the wilds of my head to go rogue.

Still, I remain ever hopeful. And so I find myself thinking again of the 3-Day Novel Contest, a writing contest in which you attempt to write a novel over the Labour Day long weekend. I’ve taken part in the contest four times since 2005, but I’ve yet to have a complete (even a crappy-but-complete) novel to send in. (Who am I kidding? I haven’t written more than a half dozen pages for any of them, let alone a complete novel.) That doesn’t stop me from giving it as much of a try as Mr. P’s wily ways will allow me, though.

3-day novel contestI didn’t take part in last year’s contest because I was working, but I think I’d like to try it again this year. It’s mad, but it’s also fun in a really twisted kind of way. Most of the ideas I came up with for previous years are still calling out to me so perhaps I’ll pick one of them back up and start it over, give it a fresh shot at life. I think I might even know which one that will be.

I have until September 3 to decide whether or not to take part. Time enough to let the idea percolate for a bit. (Say, I can’t tempt any of you to join in, can I? Misery loves company. You’d have a great time.)

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