Admittedly, I started the project feeling confident.
I’m sitting at my desk, strumming my fingers along the keyboard as I think of a plot for my story. At this point, I’m scolding myself. I should’ve considered planning an outline first. Will this count towards the twenty-eight days? Maybe I can just finish a current work in progress. That wouldn’t be cheating.
The first day came with a first hurdle.
I’ve heard many writers discuss the pros and cons of outlines, and whether or not they’re useful. Personally, I enjoyed using them.
Of course, every time I start writing, the story escapes me. There’s ideas and scenes which I never account for – scenes which I ultimately couldn’t see the story without.
So maybe I’m a little bit on the fence. Currently, I like having outlines solely to stray from them. I consider them the bare bones, and since I’m only just starting, I have no idea what the meat and flesh looks like on this creature. I can’t predict what their final hair color will be, or what their strange scars and birth marks will look like.
Those answers come as I write, and then again as I edit.
Day one ended with nothing.
I stared at the empty word document and hung my head in shame.
I distracted myself with work around the house and going out for a quick coffee (masks and social distancing guidelines were included).
On day two, an idea struck me. I ran on the treadmill and listened to music, when I remembered a word my brother-in-law told me: hikikomori.
Hikikomori , also known as “acute social withdrawal,” is total withdrawal from society and seeking extreme degrees of social isolation and confinement. Hikikomori refers to both the phenomenon in general and the recluses themselves.
I thought about a business he mentioned, where professional cuddlers would visit with these types of people to help them reintegrate into society. These people weren’t weird or scary. They were just like you and me – the only difference was they got a little lost on their journey in life.
After using the cuddling business, some were able to lead successful and happy lives. They wanted to meet people, have friends, and start families. All they needed was a boost.
I admired the idea, and the courage it must have taken to reach out for help.
Then I realized: that is the story I want to tell.
Thus, “The Cuddle Project” began.
I opened a fresh browser to research names, jotting down notes in one of my (many, many) notebooks. The final choices only took a few revisions each, and I didn’t include this research and planning into my writing time.
Once I finished deciding who the characters were, I set an alarm for one hour and began my story. Miraculously, I didn’t hate the first draft! I wrote surprisingly fast – the words poured out with an ease I hadn’t seen since I told my first story.
When the buzzer went off, I realized I wrote twice as much as I normally would in that amount of time. I wondered if this was a fluke, or if cutting off all distraction really did help. I always thought music motivated me, but perhaps I had changed over the years.
Or I could’ve just been wrong the entire time.
I decided to test it on days three and four.
While I did reach some struggle, I still wrote more than I expected. I finished an entire chapter, and mapped an outline in less than a week. The story began writing itself, and I found immense joy in my work.
By the end of the week, I had general ideas of where I wanted to be by the middle of my story.
However, problems awaited me.
I had no idea how to write a suitable ending.
Advice for the week: figure out the first half of your story, and only the first half. The rest will come to you along the way.