November 14, 2014

NaNoWriMo: One Writer's Thoughts

By Bethany Taylor, Library Assistant

Writing is hard.

It sounds whiny to say this. Because it’s not hard the same way that hiking a long way is hard, or studying for a math exam is hard, or trying to figure out what you’re going to do with your life is hard. Creativity is hard work, and the time and labor put in in service to being creative is as thorny as it is valuable. The more the world becomes automated and quantified, the more I think we need to embrace our individual voices of creativity.

And that is difficult and necessary work. (Or I think so—if you’re one of those people who blissfully churns out thousands and thousands of words a minute, I do not understand you, but I will read your book. Voraciously.)

I think writing is hard because you have to trust something intangible. Creativity is not something you can control, not something—thankfully—that can be dissected, quantified, and mass produced. It is yours, and yours alone. There is no equation, no right answer, except what you find to be right and true.

I love that. It makes creative writing an escape from living within anyone else’s rules and expectations.

And that alone, living up to and within your own best wishes and personal expectations, can be rather daunting.

When I sit down to write—and I usually write nonfiction, having gone to both college and grad school as an environmental essayist—it’s because there is an idea burning me up inside and out and as I write, the connections between that idea, the wider world, and my personal emotional landscape start to come clear. I’ve started off with an idea to write an essay about climate change (almost always) and end up writing about sunrises, drunks, falling in love, ospreys, astronomy, Kurt Vonnegut, V for Vendetta, killing woodchucks, and the Berlin Wall, variously.

And, with nonfiction, I’ve learned to trust the jumps that my brain takes while writing. It’s like I—the Decision Making Writer, allegedly in charge of this operation—disappears and my brain and fingers commune directly. And part of me just watches from the sidelines, and trusts where the wild leaps will land.

It’s very odd.

What I’m finding both strange and wonderful, but also newly challenging, about writing for NaNoWriMo is that it’s a new place of imagination that gets activated. All of the sudden, I’ve got characters saying things, doing things, thinking things that are like my thoughts, but again, the part of me that organizes and plans what is happening has to just sit tight and watch the story unfold.

I’m not used to trusting strangers, particularly the ones who live in my head and flicker into something like life when I sit down and open up my novel-file.

That is what is hard, trusting yourself and your talents. This is what is scary as we each sit down in front of a blank page. In most aspects of life, we’re unaccustomed to trusting ourselves. In writing, there is no one else to trust, or worth trusting. Because if it isn’t 
right to you, it doesn’t matter who else likes it.

And this is what is so sweetly satisfying, also. Because as much as one hems and haws and deletes and re-writes and procrastinates and worries and doubts oneself, if you give up trying to control things and just give into the weird wildness of creativity, something will happen on that page.

It will.