Just over a week ago, I finished –and won—another NaNoWriMo. I crossed the 50,000 word mark on November 29, and couldn’t bring myself to go back on the 30th. I know it’s just a down-draft, a first draft, but it still takes more effort than I’m used to to show up and write almost 1700 words a day for a month. I tell the story to myself in this draft, and to my trusted first readers, who will tell me what they love and keep enough interest for me to finish the thing. The biggest barrier to the effort, I find, is the one of trust.
There’s always some dread when I sit down to write that I’ll have a day when the story is harder to hear, to imagine, when I have to sit for longer periods than usual, cleaning my nails, waiting for the story to arrive. But those times are actually rare. It’s in the telling of the story that the next part of the story grows. The story, I believe, is already there, and I just haven’t imagined it in its fullness. For now, I’ll take what I get—the screenplay version more or less—with subsequent drafts to help me see and reveal deeper layers of meaning.
Creative work, especially long-term work like novels, requires trust. For me the lesson that always comes up in dreams and tarot readings and life is that process matters more than product. That’s a hard lesson, sometimes, when the work has gone on too long without it getting out into the world, but I hang on to the trust that the process is what matters. Sometimes it seems very clear that the internal journey, coupled with conscious action, is the only possible thing that can help sway the world in creative new ways. Other times, I just have to notice that I feel happier when I write, and that in itself is enough reason to keep writing.
Trust seems to me the mechanism that allows creative expression to flow. I have to trust that it’s worthwhile to transcribe these stories that accumulate in my head, and I have to trust that the story will be there when I listen for it. I’ve found that the trusting has led to a habit of mind that makes it easy (most of the time) to get into a writing flow. I’ve also come to trust that the story will be still be there if I take a little time away from it.
To tell the truth, I have since gone back to the NaNoWriMo story, but in the interim I had one of those epiphanies about the archetypal essence of the whole book. So it wasn’t time wasted. I guess in that sense, I have to trust that when I’m not writing fiction, that’s okay too. There are lots of ways to tell a story, after all.