October is almost over which means the buzz of NaNoWriMo is in the air.
As a professor, I’ve always wished that the month writers are supposed to dive in and dedicate themselves to the purpose of writing, wasn’t November. Let’s see, there’re the holidays, the whole finals coming up and the last minute grading to get done. Not to mention hosting relatives and doing that cleaning that only gets done when relatives are coming (yes, I am one of those “spring cleaning be damned” kind of people).
Writers are drawn to the wonderful possibilities of dedicating an entire month to the magic of writing. Usually it takes nine months to create a baby, and even if the novel that’s been pulsing in your soul doesn’t emerge fully in tact by the end of the month, at least you’ll have something tangible, something so close to complete that the urge to continue the frenzied writing will continue long into the dark, cold months of winter.
To be honest, I’ve never participated in Nano month. Not because I don’t absolutely love the idea of it, but because I’ve always been in the midst of working on something that I didn’t want to put aside. But I’ve considered it this year. I have a new project I’m wanting to start, something very challenging and the idea of getting a running start at it takes away at least some of the anxiety. But I’ve noticed something about writing lately,
It has to do with pacing, or should I say, my pacing. To use the old fable, I love writing like the hare, racing through the story, getting it on paper as quickly as I can and perfection be damned — that’s what rewriting is for. We’ve all heard the advice, and good advice it is, to get the story out. Once you’ve created your world and characters, you can go back and fix and polish and tweak all you’d like.
Enter the frail ego of a writer faced with the shaky first draft of a manuscript, and well, lets just say the hare curls into the fetal position and sucks his paw while questioning what made him think he could write in the first place.
We’ve all had those moments when we’re reading something and we stop, mesmerized by the beauty of the words or the image they’ve created. It’s magic. It’s eating a sandwich or a bowl of soup and suddenly finding a flavor that’s new and exquisite, and it makes you appreciate being alive just a little bit more.
My race towards the end of a first draft is slowing down. When I go back and read what I’ve written, I find myself not caring how many words are on the page, but whether or not they are the right words.
But there must be a balance. If a writer becomes too critical during that initial stage of getting the story out, it’s like taking their muse and breaking its fragile spine over your knee. The next thing you know, it’s curled up next to the rabbit who’s still sucking its paw. Tell the story, first and foremost, but keep an eye out for those moments of possible greatness.
If writing is a journey, you have to find the pace that works best for you. I’ve found that of late, I want to look around more, explore more and worry less about how quickly I reach my destination. In other words, the process matters. Spending thirty minutes staring at the computer screen hacking at the block of marble in your brain to release the right combination of words is worth it sometimes, because as wonderful as it is to stop and inhale the beautiful words of another writer, it’s even nicer when you realize they’re your own.
Every writer must find their pace, the method of writing that works best for them. In Kansas, the wind blows cold in November.
But I love the idea of winds being created by words, by stories racing from the minds of writers and onto the page. Write. Write like your life depends on it. Write like some crazed maniac is coming to nibble your fingers off so it’s now or never. But no matter how you chose to write, enjoy the journey, and remember that sometime along the way, your job is to create magic.