Where Am I Going, Where Have I Been?

How was your Labor Day weekend? Mine was intense. I participated in the 3-Day Novel Contest, the most insane literary event in the history of the universe. As the name implies, you write a novel (novella, really) between midnight Friday and midnight Monday, and then send it off to be judged.

It’s a crazy-wonderful ride.

I first participated in the contest in 2004. It was my first foray into the writing life. I always knew I wanted to be a writer (I know, everyone says that) and this contest seemed like a great way to jump in with both feet. Sink or swim.

It was a crazy mad dash coaster ride to the finish. When I wrote the last sentence, I broke down in tears.

The 3-Day Novel Contest showed me I could keep my head above water with this writing thing. That year, I won third place.

In her book Supplies, Julia Cameron talks about the Alice in Wonderland syndrome artists experience as they gain traction in their creative journey. One moment you’re big. The next you’re small. She talks about this as a good (albeit dizzying) sign. That it proves you’re doing the right things, making the right choices, walking the right path.

Since the 2004 contest, I’ve had high moments and low moments. I’ve worked in fits and starts. Somehow, I’ve written three novels, the most recent of which I’ve sent out into the world in hopes of landing an agent.

When I sat down to write this year’s 3-Day Novel, I had a keen sense of the mileage I’ve accrued. Of the skills I’ve acquired. I didn’t have the panicky stress of a newbie; I had a quiet anticipation of the adrenaline rush ahead. This contest is fun. I set up my weekend workstation and said to myself, “Let’s do this.”

And I wrote. And wrote. And sometimes I paced, and other times I jumped up and down or played fetch with my dog. Scene after scene, I worked, never once doubting I’d get to The End.

At 11pm, Monday night, I sent off my novel (novella, really) and went to sleep, confident I’ve learned not just how to keep my head above water, but to swim.

Right now I feel like Alice, ten-stories tall with my arms and legs sticking out of the windows and doors of the too-small house. Tomorrow, I’ll probably be back to mushroom-height. Whether I increase or decrease, I’m holding onto this confidence. This knowing that regardless of contest results and rejection letters, I can do this.

If you’ve participated in the 3-Day Novel Contest, I’d love to hear about your experience. If you’re on the Alice Big and Small ride, I’d love to hear about that, too.

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