In September of 2012, two of my friends asked if I wanted to join them for a “Write Your Novel in Three Days” (tombird.com) workshop. Sure, I responded impulsively, having never attempted a novel. I had no ideas or themes, no goals, no outlines, no expectations, no experience … nothing. It sounded perfect.
I showed up on Friday with bags of protein snacks and fluids, sat down with an oversized sketchbook, a pile of pens, and turned my attention to our host. The deal was we were to write at least 25,000 words in three days.
Wait, what?! That sounds pretty much impossible!
Reality hit me fast and hard. My hands started sweating as I wiped them on my pants, while my eyes darted around the room examining the other lunatics that had signed up for this madness.
Then off we went, breathing, calming our minds. Ok, I this I can handle, I teach this daily. We were to get into our right brains—away from the critical task master, the creativity crushing, “You’ll never ever do this!” left brain, and just write. Fast. Five hundred words every fifteen minutes fast. And they timed us. We kept a log. Every. Fifteen. Minutes. Do you know how many fifteen minutes are in 9 hours? I don’t either, but it feels like a sh*it ton.
We were not to stop writing, even if nothing came. He all but promised us something would. I felt my eyebrows raise halfway up my forehead. I had known this was the deal. I wanted to dart out of the room so fast I was like a cartoon character – only that little puff of dust left in my wake. But I poised my hand like the rest of them, and started scribbling as soon as he said “Go!”
Shockingly, because of his intro, I did have something come and I did my best to stay breathing deeply and write it down as fast as I could. Then all of a sudden I had nothing. I felt my shoulders sag, threatening the —See? I told you this would happen—but I inhaled deeply, shook my left brain quiet and kept on writing. I wrote two pages of the Dora the Explorer map song, but I kept writing. And magically, the story came back online.
My hand started hurting. I wrote. The seat was hard. I wrote. I squirmed. I wrote. Moved to the floor. And wrote. Moved back to the chair. Wrote some more. Went to the bathroom. Hurried back and wrote. I’ve never sat so much in my life. I barely sit during my days. That first day sucked. I’m used to moving. And at the same time, I loved it. I was hooked.
In the end, I finished my story mid-day Sunday. Then I sobbed … because the story was a godd*mn series. I had no idea about that as the story was tumbling out. I’m glad I didn’t know. It would have overwhelmed me.
So I finished the story in three days, but I spent a little over two years editing. It’s been such an education, this whole adventure. I don’t even want to tell you how much I didn’t know. You may even be able to tell. That’s ok. I’m following something. And it feels good.
View the video right after I finished my first draft here