I dropped out of NaNoWriMo after only three days into it. The truth is I don’t write that way.
For those who don’t know about NaNoWriMo — it’s a creative writing marathon, a word-a-thon, if you like. All around the world, thousands of writers are sprinting to each complete a 50,000 word novel by the end of November. That’s roughly 1700 words a day. And although I can and have spilled out a lot more than 1700 words in a single day, that’s not the way I write. And the first thing a writer needs to do is understand how he or she writes. And the second thing is understand why. Let’s start with second things first.
There are lots of reason I write. For instance — it’s an old saw (but that doesn’t make it any less true) — I write to find out what I think. Writing is a way of knowing. When I write, I discover ideas I didn’t think I had. I find new ways to think about things. I build layers of understanding as well as layers of misunderstanding. And I sometimes look for and sometimes stumble over connections that create sentences that take on meaning.
I also write because I want to be a part of a conversation. When I write I’m conversing with my readers. But I’m also doing more than that. I’m entering into a larger dialogue. Just take the blogosphere as an example. Sure there’s a lot of drivel. But there’s also a lot of genius. And in between those two extremes, there are people commenting on, questioning, exploring, critiquing, reconstructing the world they are a part of. Just like I’m doing. And I like hearing what those people have to say. I like considering what it means. And I like making a response, with the hope that others will be doing the same with what I put out there.
There are a lot of other reasons I write, but I’ll just mention one more. When I write creatively, whether it be fiction, nonfiction, or poetry, I get great satisfaction out of creating a work of art. And when it’s good, it usually comes at the end of a long struggle. While the struggle can be short, it can also go on for days, weeks, even years. And short or long, it’s always the same thing. There’s always that feeling that I can’t do it. But when it’s over, I don’t feel relief that it’s done. Instead, what I experience is always surprise — surprise that there it is. And I have no memory of the struggle other than the awareness that’s there’s been a passage of time. What is out there, whether it’s on the screen in front of me or on the page in front of me (or, in the case of music, in the notes I just played), has always been there. All I did was make it palpable.
I’ll save how I write for tomorrow.