Thursday, December 01, 2016

The Year I Reclaimed Being a Writer

November has just passed by and December is just at the doorstep. While everyone's wrapping up their Nanowrimo novels, for those of us who did not participate or did but could not hit the word count target, it's important that we that we think and talk about it and inspire ourselves for the next November. 
Here's my dearest blogger buddy from Writerly Yours, Jorie of Jorie Loves A Story, sharing her experiences of participating in Nanowrimo and of overcoming writer's block.

Jorie Loves A Story

Nanowrimo 2008 : The Year I Reclaimed Being a Writer

~ Jorie | Jorie Loves A Story | @joriestory

I walked into Nanowrimo with a full heart of adventure, as I knew November would mark a month of being on sabbatical from my life whilst I attempted what I felt at the time would be nearly impossible to recapture: the words fused inside the stories my writerly soul was wanting to compose. The words had taken a holiday 10 years prior to 2008, leaving me with an un-explainable reason for being a writer stuck inside a vacuum of writer’s block. 

Not that the words left me for too long – mind you, they’d re-emerge through a few poems here or there, sprinkled throughout the years, arriving as they please and disappearing lightning quick, too! The words were dancing around my head, but without a clear guidance of how to fuse to paper and to the thoughts behind the stories I was germinating inside my mind’s eye – the words were what became lost, not the ability to write or the inspiration to be the writer I knew I was.

I vaguely knew about this 30 day challenge for writers, but it wasn’t until a larkspur suggestion of a friend of mine to suggest I participate that I went ‘all-in’. Meaning, if I truly was going to give myself to the adventure of being a Wrimo, I was going to take my parents advice: if you ever find yourself in a position to experience something that could radically change your life or change your perception of a part of your life, you owe it to yourself to give freely to that experience; good or bad, high or low. Without knowing what I would expect to find, I embarked on a journey into the unknown – giving myself the full freedom to re-map my path as a writer, seek out the mysteriously absent words, and settle inside my head for a bit of ‘play’ to see if the stories which I knew were percolating could be brought back to the surface where ink meets paper.

I joined a neighbouring Wrimo group, selected a soundtrack for Nano (i.e. the Celtic Tales CD albums), packed up a backpack of writing supplies complete with said CDs and discman with headphones; wherein I walked into my first ‘Nano meet-up’ without any expectations except the surprise of what I might write. I only had five (potential) plot points which arrived on the whispered fragments of dreams, a notebook computer and a cheerfully bubbly personality where I was curious about whom the other writers might be in regards to where they were on their own path.

I never outline nor do I plan what I am going to write – I write organically from the moment a seed of a story takes root inside me to the final page. Thus, I had no idea I would be the winner of the ‘timed’ jumpstart to your Nano month where you had a half hour to write your heart out and then hit the ‘word count’ on your computer. This marked the first time I was introduced to the insanity of ‘word counts’ and I never did quite find it fit my own interests nor did anything positive in my own writing goals. I like flying by the seat of my intuition when it comes to writing; each day is different from the next, I’m spontaneous to my core and write as the inspiration strikes me rather than at a set pace of structured discipline. Yet, I hadn’t had clarity of thought to compose anything even remotely close to a manuscript in 10 years. Nothing would have prepared me for those first 1,500 words, or the realisation that my dormant life as a writer was re-defining itself into a multi-layered multigenerational saga spanning well over 400 years of living history with two key narrative directions and character arcs, with a supporting cast that lifted my soul to new heights. I wasn’t expecting such a well of depth, I thought for once in my life I might end up writing a bit of ‘fluff’. A simpler story but told with a fresh voice I might not have considered to write before I stopped writing. Instead, my NanoNovel was contemporary as much as it was historical, a true genre-bender before I ever learnt the term as a book blogger – mind you, I became a book blogger a mere 5 years after I won Nanowrimo. Another milestone achievement of mine – where I write on deadline and find that the words are hardly ever lost or missing; fleshing out my thoughts and impressions on stories is as joyfully stimulating to me as a writer as creating my own characters and worlds. I truly am a girl who loves stories!

It’s the whole creative scope of being a writer – during Nano, I listened to WrimoRadio, participated as actively on their forums as you find me tweeting my readerly life on Twitter; whilst attending every meet-up my team could put together on the fly and finding myself forsaking sleep for nearly all of November! I almost burnt out by the time Twilight was released in theatres – my one saving grace is my family was not only my sounding board but they impacted my experience by helping me out in so many integral and important ways to survive being a Wrimo. For instance, rather than see me crash and burn, Mum took me to see Twilight knowing I was not a girl into vampires* but the fact it was the ONLY film out at the time I knew would provide me with a complete and total distraction from my NanoNovel. I took away a few key scenes of that film which staid with me due to their beauty and their allure of the natural world – most importantly, I learnt once again how much I would love to be in the upper boughs of a tree line and seeing every inch of the world my own eyes could drink in!

November 2008 had a few pitfalls ahead of me – I slept through Christmas and New Year’s; I crashed so hard from intellectual fatigue and physical exhaustion of pushing myself past the limits of a 24 hour day* (when I said I ‘went all-in’ I wasn’t being cheeky!) to where it took me to almost Spring 2009 to fully recover. This isn’t something often discussed or mentioned, but I did not pace myself for Nano. How could I? I didn’t even know what to expect whilst participating nor did I fully grasp how important that month would be for me as a woman and as a writer.

I gained back far more than my writing voice and so much more than a new manuscript with a story that still gives my heart a pulse-beat of happiness when I think about where I want to still take the story knitting together the fullness of its heart. I gained a moment in time where I could truly find out for myself if the adversities in my life had overshadowed my joy to write or if by removing myself from my writing for a block of 10 years had enabled me to grow as a writer. The latter ended up being the (hidden) truth, as previously I had struggled with the concept of conversations or I had trouble moving between the three portions of a story I tend to focus on the most: the opening chapters, the middle of the journey for the character and the finishing second half. I was moving through my NanoNovel with the ease of a seasoned writer, which was quite curious as I had only grown 10 years in age but as a writer? It felt like time had elapsed with newfound resilience and taking up a residency of ideas I was only beginning to discover within myself. I lost my path as a writer at the age of eighteen, but by the age of twenty-eight, I sprouted wings within the craft whilst giving myself full license to write down the bones of where I wanted to go next. 

I cheered on my fellow participants and engaged myself into the heart of their own research and ideas. I grieved the loss of a mixed media artist, who meant so much to me personally. I felt physically overwhelmed after Twilight, yet fell back in love with cinematography. I found I achieved the best Zen as a writer by listening to musical soundscapes (i.e. ambient electronica) or Celtic ballards. I formed this nexus of Wrimos celebrating the moment of Nano as it arrived in the forums, of who created a beautiful circle of writerly support for me. My Mum and Dad sent me little surprises, such as the official Nanowrimo 2008 soundtrack created by Errol; you could say this was a tome of musical theatre genius for writers! 

Sidenote: The album is available on BandCamp and I hope to purchase the accompanying Nanowrimo: the Musical from 2012 at some point down the road. I was hoping it was in CD format, but I’ll concede to digital if it means hearing the ‘next brilliant musical’ for writers!

And, I entered December with over 50,000 words closer to a manuscript I could honesty say I was proud of as it read more like a final draft than a first attempt at creating a story out of the ethers of life.

I knew I was a writer when I was fourteen, but the tides of life shifted to such a difficult pinnacle by eighteen, I thought I had lost the light of joy writing had given to me. The realisation the light was there within me awaiting me to tip my eyes towards the lantern and renew the energy of the lighthouse took a crazy adventure in November with the grace of strangers to help me heal the past. Never to carry the weight of guilt about what I hadn’t accomplished or been able to write but rather, to look back on the years I spent focusing on myself and on where I truly wanted to be as an adult. I fused my dreams to my reality in such a way as to give myself permission to discover where my true passions lie and start to make inroads towards living them.

Every Nanowrimo is different for each writer who embraces the whole journey of what being a Wrimo will give back to them. There is no blueprint to follow. No idealistic goal to breach nor right or wrong exit at the end of November. Even the word counts don’t count much if you personally did not arrive at a place that touched your own soul and raised your own personal joy of being a creator of words and worlds.

You owe it to yourself to fully immerse yourself in the process and take serendipity’s hand whilst you forge your own creative path to knit inside your pen the stories only you can tell the world. I reclaimed who I am as a writer and the passionate joy I have being a creator of stories. I celebrated my re-connection to my own creativity whilst laying down the foundations of where I am today as a book blogger – because it was during Nano when I realised I am a hybrid writer of American and British English. This is my living truth and I can only hope if you take this adventure seriously, you’ll discover or re-discover your own.

I might be living in the season of being a book blogger whilst my season as a writer has not yet arrived, but each blog post I conceive out of my love for stories and the craft of creating them, tips my heart a bit closer to giving readers a glimpse of who I am as a writer. I know now my blog is a writer’s blog, given in gratitude to the collective experience of feeling where stories evoke us into travelling the corridors of time. I blog to let writers know how I felt about their stories as I read them, but I also give a bit of myself to bridge the gap between who I am as a reader and writer. 

I celebrate Nanowrimo for elevating my own path to one of new heights and new horizons I might not have discovered if I hadn’t daringly taken up a challenge within 48 hours of its arrival. What do you do to inspire yourself? What challenge has given you back so much more than you felt possible to where you wondered; did you give enough of yourself to the other writers who were seeking the same as you? Did you share enough, talk enough, and cheer enough? Be the joyful spirit within the chaos and leave your mark within the words you leave behind to be found later on.

*Note: in regards to vampires and vampire fiction, not until I read Dance Until Dawn by Berni Stevens did I find an author who knows how to pen a vampire romance for a non-vampire kinda of girl! Don’t believe me? Read my review! I am now curiously curious about reading Dracula and continuing the conversation with Ms Stevens! Not to mention the fact I cannot wait to read the sequel to the story which left such a strong impression on me! You will not see me flocking to other vampires in the genre; I’m still highly particular in selecting PNR stories!

Regarding pushing the limits of a 24 hour day – the only time I’ve recanted my choice to pull an all-nighter that nearly lead to a 48 hour pursuit of a story is when I read The Clan Chronicles earlier this month during Sci Fi November. I quite literally devoured the first trilogy (Stratification) and the first book of the Trade Pact trilogy within four or five days; having staid up a solid 37 hours in order to achieve that. I knew at the time I was pushing myself past the brink once again, but Czerneda created such an enriched world for me to reside inside, how could I not continue reading her words?

This Gulf of Time and Stars

by Julie E. Czerneda
Science Fiction, Fantasy
To save their world, the most powerful of the Om’ray left their homes. They left behind all memory of their past. Calling themselves the Clan, they settled among Humanity, hiding in plain sight, using their ability to slip past normal space to travel where they wished, using their ability to control minds to ensure their place and security.
They are no longer hidden.
For the Clan face a crisis. Their reproduction is tied to individual power, and their latest generation of females, Choosers, are too strong to safely mate. Their attempt to force others to help failed until Sira di Sarc, their leader and the most powerful of their kind, successfully Joined with a human, Jason Morgan, starship captain and telepath. With Morgan, Sira forged the first peace between her kind and the Trade Pact.
But it is a peace about to shatter. Those the Clan have controlled all these years will rise against them. Her people dying around her, war about to consume the Trade Pact, Sira will be left with only one choice. She must find the way back. And take the Clan home.

Every inch of her novels are filled with such deeply conceived characters who reside in such a far off place as to feel as if it’s only a continent away not light years! Her creative vision held me in its folds and I’m dearly trying to nestle down inside the final threes stories before November closes. I ache to return and I cannot wait to share my final thoughts as after I finish This Gulf of Time and Stars the wait begins on the clock for when the last two novels will release. 

Her creative vision held me in its folds and I’m dearly trying to nestle down inside the final three stories before November closes. This is the closest I’ve come to a second November that took me unawares and left me wanton for more! What delicious world awaits you in the next book you pick up to read? What kinds of stories motivate you as a reader to give your mind and heart over to a world created to stimulate your imagination?

Thanks to Jorie for taking out the time to share her thoughts and memories of Nanowrimo through this delightful essay and I hope to see her novel published sometime soon.