on being ten ferrets

It’s November – the month when many members of the creative writing community take on the amazing/crazy/awe-inspiring/ridiculous challenge known as NaNoWriMo – or National Novel Writing Month. Yes, people write a whole novel in a month. A whole one. In thirty days.

Ferrets (wait for it... all will become clear.)

Ferrets (wait for it… all will become clear.)

For the past three years I’ve eyed the approach of November with a vague sense of ‘maybe I should be doing that’. You see I do have a novel I’m working on. No, wait two novels I’m working on… or rather – let’s be honest now – two novels I’ve left at random stages of incompletion (in one my main protagonist has just made an exciting discovery, in the other she is in grave danger). NaNoWriMo could be the perfect way to get one or the other of them finished couldn’t it?

But I’ve never been willing to take the plunge. “I can’t just write that book, I want to write these other things!” I argue to myself “Well, quite. Not to mention that I need to do this (non-writing) stuff over here!” I agree with myself, “And then what about the kids? How do I pay any attention to them while writing a book and doing everything else?!” I exclaim to hammer the point home.

People do it though, they really do, and they manage to juggle all those things – I’m just not so sure it would work for me. And today I read a post that explained why. It was by the awesomely hilarious writer Chuck Wendig (if you’ve never read his blog just do – especially if you’re a writer. And if you like intelligent sweary rants and are a fan of tangents.) who was listing reasons for and against doing NaNoWriMo. There, in the list of ‘reasons not to’, was the one that made it all clear to me – not just my feelings about NaNo, everything:

“Writers are not particularly good at following orders, I find. In fact, every writer is basically ten ferrets. You can’t control one ferret, much less ten. Ferrets will not be commanded. FERRETS CARE LITTLE FOR YOUR NATIONAL FERRET WRANGLING MONTH (NaFerWraMo).”

That’s it! I thought, That’s exactly it! I’m ten ferrets! I KNEW it!

It’s obvious when you think about it – that’s why I feel dragged in so many directions, that’s why I struggle to do one thing, why my brain is always leaping off and thinking about so many other things at the same time. It’s why I can’t stick to writing one thing (poetry, picture books, flash fiction, short stories, and novels in different genres have all been at the ends of my typing fingers these past few years). It’s why my (long-suffering) husband is always saying “Are you listening to me? Because I feel like you just asked me a question then switched off” and “Didn’t I just say that five minutes ago? Why are you asking me again?” Well no, I’m quite possibly not and yes, he probably did but my ten ferrets are running all over the place so what do you expect?

But it’s ok you see, because the whole process I’ve been going through with my writing over the past three years has basically been ferret training. I’ve bought the leads. I’ve taught them how to sit in a row, how to run in a straight line without getting the leads tangled, how to do tricks.

Because, ferrets are very tameable it turns out. They may not take commands well, but they do respond to reasoning. They’re thoughtful and loyal and ok, they still run all over the place with wild abandon given half a chance but they can be very productive. Sometimes ferrets even write manuscripts and send them to agents.

All writers should nurture their inner ferrets – they’ll pave the way to our success.

Writing Bubble

*disclaimer* I wrote this post far too late at night for my rational brain to be fully functioning. Please excuse the constant references to ferrets.

16 thoughts on “on being ten ferrets

  1. Mummy Tries

    LOL Maddy, great to get an insight into the workings of your mind! I couldn’t agree more btw, NaNo just does not appeal to me at the moment… fair play to those who do it and use it to win though, much respect! Crossing fingers for agent type news from you soon honey xxx

  2. Rebecca Ann Smith

    Haha! Love the image of the bunch of tame ferrets doing tricks and trying not to get their leads tangled. I’ve never done NaNoWriMo though I’d like to – I usually bash out first drafts pretty quickly (though not in 30 days admittedly). It’s the editing and shaping afterwards I find painful. Good luck with your submissions.

  3. Marija Smits

    Oh goodness, I hear you Maddy. I’ve been thinking a lot about this too. As you know I have various different projects (in different genres) on the go and it’s hard to know what to focus on. I was thinking of giving my all to NaNoWriMo too but a while ago I formulated a plan (to finish some poems, 2 short stories and then to return to my fantasy novel) so I’m working hard on sticking to the plan. (Although today, after a big fat rejection I kind of wobbled and thought about going off on a completely different tangent – a children’s book…) So I’m going to mull things over and maybe *try* to stick to the original plan. Anyway, whatever happens, as more time goes by and more writing gets done, stuff will get finished and we will eventually get there! Let’s hang on in there!

    1. Maddy Post author

      Absolutely! We will get there in the end, in fact we are doing, bit by bit, projects get finished and we turn our attention to finishing other ones. Sorry to hear about the rejection – don’t let it put you off track or get you down – it’s all part of the process remember. xx

  4. Emily Organ

    I love it! And it’s great you’re part of the way there to reasoning with them. I think ten ferrets describes me well about three years ago, now I’m very much one focussed ferret. Although I’m still very distracted most of the time and my husband gets annoyed when I haven’t been listening to a conversation. Oops.

    1. Maddy Post author

      Now I’m imagining one very serious ferret – probably with glasses on and a sensible haircut, sitting at a computer writing your books! Well done you. Glad you’re refining your ferret team. xx

  5. El

    10 ferrets-what a great description! and so true of my mind as well. I tend to get distracted half way and then I start something else. I have about ten ideas on hold and how many starts but writing I guess it’s a discipline which should be nurtured, like you say. Thank goodness, ferrets are tameable and quite fun!

  6. Sophie Lovett

    Love this post! I’m having to suppress my giggles for risk of waking Arthur up from his nap… The 10 ferrets analogy is a strikingly appropriate one. I’m certainly not sure I’ve got mine under control quite yet though… xx

  7. Susie Fiddes

    Haha. Ferrets! Brilliant analogy – and it explains EVERYTHING. I, like you, have pondered NaNo, but there’s always something more pressing and I’m just not sure it’s methodology is how I actually approach things in writing well. Although I do think just jumping in the sea is sometimes a worthwhile experiment. Loved your mention of hubby’s “are you listening?” Yup – guilty of playing out that same scene too! Did I mention how much I’m loving this linky and all the lovely likeminded supporters within? Well, I have now! Great post x

  8. Alice @ The Filling Glass

    Maddy, this post is priceless (although I still have to go read the original inspiration which may turn out to be too). I am always trying to explain how my brain has a life of its own and is basically going crazy all by itself, but failing miserably. You have just handed me the vocabulary to describe it finally. I have a suspicion I have more than 10 ferrets though! xx
    P.S. thanks for hosting this linky, I hope my post fits the bill.

  9. Yvette @ Big Trouble in Little Nappies

    Haha, I love this – constant ferret referencing and all! I just started writing my novel, last month (gulp) and this NaNoWriMo – which my friend told me about – scared the crap out of me. I am really awful at writing to order, and have already broken the targets I set myself so far for how many words / chapters I wanted to do by now. The task of writing a book is so huge to me, if I think about it too much I just feel overwhelmed and want to retreat to putting together a tidy, neatly edited blog post or similar – something I can feel proud of, compared to the mess of a novel which is yet to take shape.

    This has made me feel so much better – I am ten ferrets and that is okay. I will do what I can, if not what I’m told – the ferrets are still very wild over this way!


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