Anyone feeling those NaNoWriMo week 2 blues yet? It’s not unusual to use up the initial motivational kick and feel weighed down by all the words left to write. Even if you’re ahead, you might be realizing that the whole draft is going to end up being a hell of a lot longer than 50.000 words and that once November is over, the work has still barely begun. Personally, 50.000 words is not even half a draft. Sometimes remembering that makes me want to rip out my hair and just stop trying.
But this NaNoWriMo is different. This November, for some reason, everything in the world seems to suck. Except for writing. I haven’t missed the word-count goal a single day so far despite having had a really hard time at work and feeling generally crappy about life. When I am finally able to sit down and write (which is hard most days), it’s amazing. Even if it goes slow, I’m enjoying myself so much. It’s the only time of day when I forget how much I generally hate everything and lose myself to this story and these characters that I love with all my shriveled-up heart.
And because writing is hands-down the only thing that’s making me happy right now, I thought I’d take a moment to talk about why I think being a writer is so much better than being a human person who doesn’t write.
No Holding Back
In real life, a lot of us have jobs. Some of us have families, most of us have friends, acquaintances, random strangers you’re occasionally forced to talk to. How many times do you get to be completely and totally honest with them? I mean completely honest; no holding back what you’re thinking or feeling, no editing just a little to avoid offending someone or freaking them out. Even with people who know you better than anyone, there are still some things that are just for the inside of your head. But when you’re a writer, you get to express those things through your work.
I am obviously not saying that everything you write has some deeper, personal meaning and every time someone reads your story they should assume you literally mean and feel everything you’ve put into your writing. That would be ridiculous – unless you’re writing an autobiography, there are going to be things happening and said in your story that you don’t personally agree with or condone. For instance, if your antagonist slaughters a whole village of innocent people, that doesn’t mean you harbor a desire for being a mass-murderer. All I am saying is that when you write, some of the things you can’t say out loud to real people can be expressed on the page.
Art of all kinds is the most honest form of expression. You put little pieces of your soul into your art that you wouldn’t let anyone see if you were just having a conversation. And that, I think, is one of the most important things about art – it lets you open up. It lets you breathe.
I know this doesn’t sound so different from the point above, but I swear I mean something else here. Writing is cathartic. In addition to letting you express deeper, hidden parts of yourself, it’s also an amazing tool for those “surface feelings”, like anger or sadness or even joy. Feelings you’re having here and now that you really want to express but doing it in real life could get you fired or possibly arrested.
Like if you are seriously pissed off at a colleague or a friend or a neighbor and all you want to do is scream at them about how wrong they are or just kick them really hard until they go away. Things like that are generally frowned-upon in a civilized society, and with good reason.
But hands up if you’ve ever used your burning rage towards someone to write a kick-ass fight scene, or torture scene, or argument between two of your characters. Afterwards, didn’t you feel great? Like a burden had been lifted? I’m especially a fan of getting my feelings out by writing something violent because most of the time those scenes turn out pretty freaking good. My negative feelings morph into a good mood because I used the anger to produce something I’m proud of.
This can be good for positive feelings, as well. For example if you have a crush on someone you can’t actually be with. Maybe writing truly heart-wrenching, lovey-dovey scenes helps you process some of that and channel it into something that makes you feel good about yourself. Or if you are so happy about something but your friends are getting tired of you talking about it all the time. Writing an epically happy scene lets you express some of that joy.
Characters are Better than Real People (sometimes)
Non-writers and maybe a few writers might get a little freaked out by that statement and go “what the fuck is the matter with you?”, but I don’t particularly care.
You can’t know what real people are thinking. You can’t always understand their reasons for doing or saying the things they do. They can be uncomfortable to be around and sometimes you just don’t know what to say to them. With your characters, you literally have all the control. There is not one character who can do or say a single thing without you knowing exactly why. Even characters who are wildly different from you, arguing with your MC about something you strongly disagree with – you understand that character so much better than you would if you were having this argument with an actual human being.
Don’t get me wrong, there are a few real humans whose company I truly enjoy and thrive on. Some of those people aren’t even writers! But no matter how well I know them or how great they are, I am still never going to know them as well as a fictional character. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing – humans are unique and hard to define and that is beautiful and as it should be – but sometimes it is just easier spending an evening in the head of characters that aren’t real than in the company of people who are.
And those are all the reasons I’m going to write right now about why I prefer being a writer to being a person, and I haven’t even included obvious things like getting to escape into your imagination and go on epic adventures on the page. Seriously, I would probably give up most other aspects of my life if I could just keep being a writer and work on my stories. It is the core part of me and I love everything about being a writer – even the bad stuff – more than I love being anything else. Maybe that isn’t a very healthy way to think, but if you haven’t already figured it out already, I am not a particularly healthy person.
Now that I got that off my chest, I can get back to NaNoWriMo-ing. Pretty confident I’ll reach the half-way mark this weekend so YAY! I hope everyone doing NaNoWriMo is keeping their sanity, and please remember that your story is worth telling. So don’t give up even when it gets hard, okay?
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a novel to write.