[blog post] drawing counts as writing, right?

Camp NaNoWriMo July 2015 is underway and I … am already behind.

While I could whip up excuses about how I’m tired and it’s hard balancing a full-time job, an online store, an exercise routine and house work but the fact of the matter is I’m just not focused.

I’m in the middle of a long chapter. A long, important chapter at that. It introduces a key character who has otherwise been absent from the action (referenced, but not seen) and, despite his apparent significance to the story, remains woefully underdeveloped. That makes me a little apprehensive to write. And so, like all mature twenty-something-year-old’s I did what I do best: I procrastinated.

I have no lack of interests so finding something to do other than what I should be doing is delightfully simple: I read, I game, I craft, I annoy my cat. I also draw. Far and far less frequent nowadays, I admit, but I still count it amongst my hobbies and carry a sketchbook with me most of the time.

And so, while I was enjoying a break at work, staring with great frustration at my blank notebook, I exchanged my pen for a pencil and started sketching the character I was having difficulty with: his hair, his face, his clothes … Suddenly, a whole back story came to me. Not just for him but for his people; the culture, the diet, the history–it all became very clear.

At first I was baffled. How could drawing what I saw in my mind clarify all these important details I hadn’t even thought about? It wasn’t as if I sat there drawing, thinking to myself “Right, I’m going to think about this guy’s story now!” It really just came to me. Finally, I realised why.

IMG_20150703_120527

Character sketches from my current WIP novel.
Character sketches from my current WIP novel.

I’ve loved to draw ever since I was little, just like how I’ve always loved to write. Really, I just like creating things. When I was younger I used to sketch on printer paper in front of the TV. Not pictures of flowers or animals (though I did enjoy drawing dolphins for a good while) but girl groups. For some reason I had this real obsession with sketching girl groups and not because I was a huge Spice Girls fan–I was strictly a Backstreet Boys girl–but because I got a thrill out of designing people. I was creating characters. Each one of these girls I drew had a story that I would script in my head the whole time my pencil was scratching away on the page: her name, what she liked, where she came from, what kind of childhood she had.

And so, through this innocuous childhood practice I’ve equipped myself with a rather helpful tool for completing my project. It always explains why I have such a big focus on character. I just have to remember to record the ideas I concoct while drawing so they are not forgotten.

At the end of four days, my NaNo word count might only sit at a pathetic 1000 words, but I’m happy to at least have something down on the page. It may not be words, but it counts, right?

(Yeah, I’m totally counting it.)

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