Before I start this post, I must confess that I am plunged deep into the beautifully written letters of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. I am close to finishing the book, and it has renewed my love for letters in a most unexpected and extraordinary way. There is simply nothing that can replace the intimacy or joy of a well-written letter from a dear friend.
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“The best thing about the future is that it comes only one day at a time.” ~Abraham Lincoln
New Year’s Day has struck me as a rather daunting day in the past, one in which I must decide all the good I will do in the upcoming year and set out to take the first of many challenging steps. It has felt much like starting a 10-mile run at a full-on sprint. For some, I realize the first day of the New Year invokes a freeing feeling, leaving the past behind and beginning with a clean slate. Whatever your view may be of this first day of 2010, the quote above from Lincoln helps to put it all in a simpler perspective.
I was talking on the phone with a dear friend last night, and she was sharing how she really wanted to write down her family’s stories, the ones that had been told orally for generations, but may be lost soon if someone didn’t write them down. But the catch was, she didn’t consider herself a good writer. “Bologna!” I said. The sooner we let go of our own limiting self-definitions, the better. If there’s one thing I learned from NaNoWriMo last month, it was that writing is an art form, and the only way any of us get better, or “good” at it, is by practicing. Hours and hours of practice. If that doesn’t sound like a day in the park to you, you’re not alone. But wait…in the midst of all that agony, there is a reward for telling your story. You know, the one deep inside that is begging to be released from its chains…there are lots of rewards actually, for all of your long hours and hard work.
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It’s official. I am a novelist. A little before midnight on Sunday evening, I had my word count validated on my novel at 50,152 words and a bright purple bar flashed on the screen saying I am a “winner”! Wahoo!!!
So now that I’ve written my first novel (or at least the beginning of it), what’s next? I experienced the funniest feeling after passing that 50,000 word mark. An inner tingling joy filled my entire being for about 3 seconds, and then…nothing. As a born Achiever (according to StrengthsFinder, which I highly recommend), this is not a new feeling for me. I strive and strive for newer, bigger, higher, more challenging goals day after day, year after year, and then what? I achieve them, and move on. But isn’t there more to life than this incredibly temporary and elusive sense of satisfaction?
“Oh, the comfort – the inexpressible comfort of feeling SAFE with a person – having neither to weigh thoughts nor measure words, but pouring them all right out, as they are, chaff and grain together; certain that a faithful hand will take and sift them, keep what is worth keeping, and then with the breath of kindness blow the rest away.”
~Dinah Maria Mulock Craik
I read this quote often; it graces my fridge with its presence alongside several other much loved words of wisdom. Usually when I read it, I think of my husband or a dear friend that I feel that level of safety with, of trust, and I am beside myself with gratitude that they are in my life. But today when reading it, it struck me that I can be that person for myself as well. Today when I read it, I inhaled deeply and then exhaled with the “breath of kindness” Craik talks about, releasing all the crappy thoughts and words I have thought or said today.
Despite a crazy-passionate love affair with my novel-in-progress, last week I faced the ugly demon of Discouragement. He was a scary one with long horns, spikes all the way down his back, and a strangely soothing voice that was constantly saying, “You can put off writing another day. Who will really notice if you don’t reach 50,000 words? That half-empty trash can really should be emptied first…oh, and you really should do some window-shopping this time of year.” What?! How did this slimy, smooth-talking demon get in my head in the first place? And how the heck do I get rid of him?
So I’ve started my novel, and I have to say the flow of ideas is incredible. The power of letting go of outlining or planning or obsessive researching, and just plain writing is unbelievable. The characters are taking me places I never could have imagined. I’ve read that each writer’s process is different, and that some work best with outlines and others work best just going for it. I just never expected I would be a “go for it” writer. But with NaNoWriMo, that’s my only option (unless I want to spend every waking hour of my life this month on my novel, which just isn’t practical since I’m also raising a 2-year-old and running a business).
So how does one tap into that amazing flow of ideas?
Yesterday I officially signed up for NaNoWriMo. For those of you who aren’t familiar with it, it’s kind of like a marathon for writers, no training necessary. A crazed group of us writers attempt to write an entire novel in the month of November. NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month. I’m a newbie to it – this is my first year, and I am thrilled to be joining the crew – and scared out of my pants. I have dreamed of being a novelist for as long as I can remember, and when I ran across the opportunity to sign up for NaNoWriMo a few days ago, something in me lit up, and I knew now was the time. After all, what other time do we really have?
There is a fear I have as a writer that no one will want to read my work because the ideas in it aren’t original. It’s easy to fall into this mindset when I read numerous books and blogs and ask myself, “What am I offering that’s different than these other writers?“ The ideas are generally the same, and if you buy into the belief that there are no new ideas, only regurgitated ones, it can feel even more depressing. So why write?
He who binds to himself a joy
Does the winged life destroy;
But he who kisses the joy as it flies
Lives in Eternity’s sunrise.
~ William Blake
This is how I want to view writing, the way Blake views joy. I’ll be honest here. I’m not sure what this blog is really for, or why I feel compelled to share my writing. I simply know that I have an innate desire to share my creativity, and I naturally do so through words dancing on a page.