one hundred days

by Sandra

Chances are, if you read this blog with any regularity, you know that I attended the Napa Valley Writers’ Conference last week.

You may have also encouraged the telling of tales from the week, or the showing of photographs, the conveying of information—you want me to share, dang it!

Well, alright.

Confession:  I didn’t take one single photograph while in Napa Valley. That’s a shame, isn’t it? I intended to. I took along two cameras, even, but there was just no time for it. Maybe there was physical time to snap a photo, alright that’s true, but I lacked the space in my brain to try and cram one more thing, one more responsibility in, to be able to take any photos.

Besides, that’s what words are for. Put simply, the vines were green, and multitudinous in number. Often, they stretched from the roadside all way to the edge of the gently rolling brown hills, row after sentinel row of curling branches and purple-red fruit. The sky in the morning was gray and heavy, socking in all that green until the latter part of the morning, when the sun would burn through and the sky turned blue and then it got hot in the high noon of the day until the sun went behind the hills again, where its light would linger long into the evening, mellowing out the sky to a nice yellow and then back to black as the moon would rise against the other horizon and illuminate those vines long into the night.

So, it was beautiful, for sure. The conference itself was a lot of fun, and very useful, as well as exhausting and intense and other things as well. There were a lot of writers talking about writerly things, like craft and structure and empathy and “staying in the room” and other things, like potatoes and vodka and really, trust me, you don’t want me to get into it. You’ll be bored, possibly, and confused, certainly. Just know that it was a long week focused on one sole purpose:  writing.

Funny then, that I didn’t do any writing while I was there. I journaled, actually, so I guess that’s a lie—I did write, but more succinctly, I didn’t do any work on my “fiction manuscript” or any of my plays, not any creative writing. From day one, our fearless workshop leader voiced his concern that conferences of this nature have a shelf life of four days and that if we have any hope at all of making it as writers out there in the real world, that we needed to commit to writing every day.

So he challenged us. He challenged us to write at least one sentence, everyday, for one hundred days. “You’re not allowed to stop writing until Guy Fawkes Day,” he said, even though technically Guy Fawkes Day is November 5th, and to reach a hundred days, we have to write until November 7th … but I won’t quibble.

Anyway, so a sentence a day for one hundred days. I thought about this last Wednesday as I took the afternoon to myself and hiked around the Napa/Bothe State Park, and realized that my 14-week half-marathon training regiment last 98 days. Surely, if I can run for (approximately) 98 days, I can write for 100. And so far so good:  I got over that four-day hump this morning and am trying to write about 1,000 words a day, which only takes a half-an-hour, surprisingly. I probably won’t end up using half of what I’m writing, but I’m getting it all down on the page, which is the main thing.

I know, too, that it won’t always be so easy and that there will be days where I will not feel like looking at that manuscript again or put my fingers to my keyboard at all. But Ron told us that there are days when even he needs to get back up out of bed to write his sentence before he can successfully end his day. Get back up out of bed—as in, already probably sleeping, or close to it. That’s dedication. “Those are the days you’re a writer,” he said, “any other day, just forget it.”