Look, Ma! I’m growing creatively!

snoopy

So I’m at the Panera Friday Night Write-in (what I call Friday Night Writes), and I’ve been thinking about this blog post all day. Of course I have it in Scrivener, because words are words are words in NaNoWriMo 🙂

Every year I do this, I seem to learn something new about my creative process and growth. Once all of the stresses that had previously overtaken my creative energy were gone, I’ve really gotten in touch with my creativity and the way I approach my writing.

In 2014, when I moved from PA to VA and met my local writing group, I was more ready for NaNo than I’d been in previous years. I had a solid idea, an outline, even a way I thought the story was going to end. I also had a clear mind and a calm heart, and the knowledge that this year’s project would be an adventure, not a distraction from the way the world was beating me down. Using Scrivener for the first time changed the way I wrote completely, and I tackled my 2014 idea in a non-linear way, something I’d never done before and embraced with wild abandon through the month.

And I won! I won for the first time and, let me tell you, it was a rush. I’d never written that many words on my own in a single story EVER. It’s still in the editing process and will be posted as soon as I’m satisfied. But I won.

What I learned: How to write in a non-linear way and write the “connective tissue” in the next draft.

In 2015, I was ready again! I had a fun idea, and outline, wasn’t too sure about the ending but ready to tackle it anyway. This was the first story that was written almost completely in word sprints, and was a little nerve-wracking when I was still trying to shape the story in my head. I was making notes as I went along for scenes I wanted to write, and I was doing great until a neck and shoulder strain made typing painful, and some emotional tension kept me from really taking advantage of my Thanksgiving week. I managed 32.6K words before I had to stop and focus on making sure this injury healed and I wouldn’t have to worry about the long term effects of it.

Through the next four months, however, I started posting my story, and in April of this year I posted the last chapter of it on AO3, making this 41.8K word story the longest story I’d ever finished since I started writing fanfiction back in the 1990s.

What I learned: That it’s okay. It’s okay that I “lost” NaNo because I’d written words that I’d just had in my head before. It’s okay to edit more ruthlessly and cut scenes that I’d hoped to include but didn’t serve the overall story. It’s okay to keep going until the story was finished.

This year, the ideas weren’t coming as easily, and thankfully I ended up inspired at the very last week before NaNo. I have an outline. I have a new world to build, and I’m pretty sure I know how the story is going to end.

My story is well begun, and I’m keeping up with the daily word count goals so far! This is the first year, however, that I’ve found myself actively writing crappy words when things aren’t coming to mind as easily as previous years. The past two nights I’ve been shaking my head as I type and saying to myself, “This is awful. This isn’t going to make it to the next draft and the only reason I’m not deleting it NOW is because they’re words that I need to make my word count.” Persevering through the terrible words, thankfully, has led my brain towards scenes and plot twists I wouldn’t have considered but writing through the crud has yielded ideas that will become gems.

Well, maybe not yet. But the ideas will be there.

What I’m learning: Instead of waiting for the right words to come and not writing anything until I have them in my head and fingers, it’s okay to write shitty words and scour them for nuggets of awesome later.

This is why I love NaNoWriMo. Without this deadline, the goals and stretch goals, and the community around it, these are insights I probably wouldn’t have had about my creative growth, or at least had as quickly as if I was just noodling with stories here and there.

I also can’t say enough about the people that surround me during this month and beyond. If it wasn’t for NaNo, I don’t think I ever would have met this fantastic, creative group of people who have become dear friends to share stories with, offer support and encouragement, and spend more time with outside the NaNo milieu. Attending the write-ins have taken me out of my country mouse comfort zone and introduced me to areas of Virginia Beach I might not otherwise explore (I really am a homebody that needs to be dragged out kicking and screaming sometimes). It also doesn’t hurt that these events are FAR more local than me having to drive 20-25 minutes into Center City Philadelphia, find a parking spot walk to an event where all I wanted to do was go home because I don’t like being in cities after dark. Regardless, I don’t think I could have written anything outside my back-and-forth chat writing with friends if it wasn’t for the Hampton Roads NaNo folks.

This year was the first year I saw someone on social media that was actively hostile towards NaNo, and it boggled my mind. The person was a published author who looked on the whole process with disdain. His reasoning for it was that, if NaNo was the only way to get a writer to produce that many words, they weren’t a “real” (career) writer. I may not ever choose to make writing my career, but the words I’ve written during NaNo and, as mentioned above, the things I learn every year I participate with my local writing community make all of this worth it. I love doing NaNoWriMo and hope to always be in this kind of creative mental space each year as November rolls around. Every year so far has given me a chance to learn and grow creatively, and that’s worth more to me at the moment than any professional writing career or book deal. I’ll keep plugging along at my fanfiction, with comments and kudos and recommendations as my emotional revenue stream.

To my fellow NaNo-ers, keep writing! I wish you words!

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