NaNoWriMo: Losing Your Faith in the Word

Sorry, sorry… I’m late.  I know.  Today’s 11/19 and you should be 31,666.6666667 words into your NaNo project.  Whether you are or you aren’t, if you’re still writing 19 days into this thing, the chances that you’re starting to lose faith in the English language or the art of storytelling, or both, are pretty good.

I know that feeling.  I get it in my work, Hell, I got it in college on a regular basis.  When you wake up and think about your book, are you getting disgusted?  Are you feeling like it doesn’t matter?  Are all the words running together?

The Secret to Writing Anything Worth Writing

If you’re looking to famous authors for inspiration, you may find quotes about bleeding on the page or pouring your soul into your work or other noble-sounding quips, but the truth of it all is that is that writing is sweating.  That’s all it is.  It’s not inventing the light bulb, it’s more like building a house.  Each piece has a certain order it goes in, it has a certain pace that has to be maintained in order to keep it moving.

The secret to writing is writing.  Write when the words hurt, write when the words don’t look like words, write when your fingers sting, write through the tears and the gut-tearing emotions that come with creating anything worth creating.  Don’t forget to rest when necessary, but if you’re on a tear, go with it.  Run with it.  Run so, so far.

Catching Alice’s Rabbit

This isn’t intended to be a long post, but it will be meaningful to someone.  We all lose faith in the word sometimes.  The word, that thing we spend our lives chasing, sometimes it gets away from us — or worse, we actually find it.  I remember when I found it the first time.  I felt like a fraud, like a fake, like if someone knew what I knew about writing everyone would be doing it because there was nothing to it.

I was in college, I was recovering from the loss of someone I loved deeply and I wanted to light the whole world on fire.  I looked at my future as a writer and I screamed into the heavens in frustration — “There’s no magic here!”  I tore the pages out of a copy of Strunk & White’s Elements of Style in anger, I set my dictionaries ablaze, I cried until I couldn’t cry anymore.

I lost faith in the word because, for once, I saw behind the curtain.  I wouldn’t write another word outside of term papers for almost 10 years.  It’s true.  And I’m here to try to make sure you don’t.

There’s No Magic Behind the Word

Words and writing and all of it — it seems so mysterious when you start.  It’s like a secret club and you’re like a wizard, weaving worlds out of nothing.  It’s spectacular and awful and perfect all at once.  It’s everything you wanted in a world that lacked the stories you needed to be told.

But it’s a world of smoke and mirrors.  What you imagine writing to be isn’t what it is — but it’s still something so dramatic and special that you shouldn’t throw it away.  Even once you’ve accepted the truth of it, you’ll doubt yourself, you’ll rise and fall and you’ll weave incredible things out of thin air.  It’s the nature of the thing.

Writing is telling stories, even if you’re a copywriter or a reporter or a jingle writer.  You’re a mystical being, a God to some, and it’s not for nothing.  Just because Story has a formula is no reason to give up on it, it’s not a reason to weep into your pillow each and every night because you believe you were a fool to think it was something special.

Your goal now isn’t to believe mystical things happen sometimes when you try to write, but to understand how to make those magical things happen each and every time you put pen to paper.  What we once believed to be born of something unique, you’ll have to accept as a thing that’s more science than magic.  But without science, we’d not have the computers we’re using to weave stories that could have never been conceived a generation ago.

It’s hard, I know, to lose faith in the word.  That’s why I recommend you don’t.  It tastes like bitter defeat, like you’ve wasted your life, like the loss of a soulmate.  It tastes awful, so please… don’t let this NaNo experience snuff your flame for writing.  Embrace the knowledge you’ve earned, hold on to that experience and realize that others will still consider you an immortal for writing a novel, even if you know you’re really just a practiced craftsman.