And just like that, we’re at the end of the month. And what a month, huh?
The lesson I keep coming back to in these blogs, and on my instagram posts, is that NaNoWriMo isn’t really about writing a novel. It is, of course. It’s National Novel Writing Month. The idea is to write a novel, but you learn a whole lot while writing the novel that is applicable outside of the novel.
It’s cliché, (though clichés are clichés for a reason), but, yes, it is about life.
And, no, it’s not just novel writing, either. I’m learning that Creativity itself is something so intimately connected to life that in learning about being creative, you can’t help but learn about living.
It’s very Big Magic. Another reason why that book is a must read.
And I’ve known that for years. I’ve known that NaNo was about a lot more than writing a book, probably since my first year. But, like so many of the great lessons of life, it is something I am continually taught. Every year.
This year, though, felt different. I recently confided to a friend that this year the stakes felt, somehow, higher. It might be #Nanolounge, the campaign I’m doing with #CreateLounge for NaNoWriMo. I’ve always been a bit of a Nano evangelist, but going into it this year I knew there were a lot more eyes on me. This wasn’t just a fun project that I’m doing by myself. I’m actively inviting people to watch me do it, possibly, in the hope that they will be inspired to do it themselves.
But that means if I fail, there will be a whole lot more people who know about it, who would be disappointed in my efforts, though that might be giving myself too much credit.
Only, I don’t think it was just that. I don’t know what it is, though, but something felt bigger this year. The state of the world certainly lived up to that. This has been a long, hard, hurtful month for a lot of people, and it’s not over yet. The future feels uncertain, even dark at times, and that can’t help but affect our creativity. It might even call out creativity into question.
But even that doesn’t feel like all of it. It feels like something is being set up, and, excuse me for getting a little self-focused, but it feels like I’m setting myself up for something. Only I don’t know what.
There are many different ways to approach the actual writing of the novel. Some stories themselves start in the middle of things, but, even if they don’t, you, as the writer, can. You can start writing a scene right in the middle of the book. You can write the ending before the beginning. You can write all the dialogue first and then fill in the descriptive text. There’s no real rule. And I’ve done most of that depending on the story I was writing.
But this year I started at the beginning. I started at the beginning and then I wrote the story in order. And, while a terribly normal way to approach a story, it had some surprising results.
Because I didn’t always know what I was going to write next. I knew where the story was going to go. I had a basic outline. I even know how it’s going to end, though I haven’t gotten there yet. But day-to-day, I didn’t always know what the very next scene was going to be, and yet, I always seemed to be able to write it.
There have been days when I knew “oh, yeah, I have to write the training scene next” or “this is where the big reveal has to go.” And there have been days when I sat down and didn’t really know what was next. Yet, somehow, it always ended up getting written.
I had an idea of what this book was about. I know, more or less, how it ends, and yet it has still surprised me. Only last week, I wrote a scene, one I didn’t know I was going to write, that ended up telling me what the book was about, really about. And that’s nothing knew, that’s the process. Book writing has always felt partially outside of myself, like I was discovering something rather than making it up as I go. But this year has felt different. This year has felt bigger.
It’s felt like it’s trying to teach me something about my life. Something specific and immediate. In writing this book I’ve had to trust in the process, and I did that by just focusing on writing the next scene, even if I didn’t know what it was going to be. And the result has been that it works. I’ve written 50,000 words, and, while I know I will eventually have to edit it down, none of it feels outside the realm of the story. It all supports the narrative.
And the reason this year feels bigger, is that I think it applies to my life right now. I think I’m setting myself up for something. What, I can’t say, only that I can feel it. I can feel something big. In the same way that I can feel when a turn in my story is coming.
It’s cliché to say life imitates art, but, as I said, I think life and art are on the same team. So it might not be imitation as much as strategizing.
I don’t know when. All I have is the feeling. But I know how I’m going to get there. The same way I got here. The same way I got this far in my novel. The same way I’m going to finish the story.
Focus on writing the next scene. Focus on doing the work that is before me, on taking the next step, trusting that it’s a step that will connect me to the next and the next and eventually lead me to where I’m supposed to go.
That’s all I can do. I think that’s all any of us can do.
But if I can figure out how to do that…
Yeah, you know the rest.
I’m so glad to have been a part of Nanolounge this year. It’s been great to see everyone’s progress and cheer all of you on. The month isn’t over, of course, and whether you got to your goal or not, you have made progress. That will always mean something.
I’m so proud of you, Nano’s. I can’t wait to see what this November has given birth to.