Hey guys! I was asked to write a pep talk for writers in my region who are doing NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). I thought I'd share it with you, too. Even if you're not in the midst of a novel, it might motivate you to engage in any creative project... and it will definitely give you a sense of what goes on inside me as I write my books. Here goes:
Hello fellow novelists,
Two weeks down and two to go… congrats! Right about now you might be feeling crazy and desperate, maybe craving a pep talk that goes beyond “Butt. To. Chair.”
I give myself pep talks almost daily. I have twenty years’ worth of journal pages filled with variations of the same self-pep-talk: Yes, Laura, you can finish this book. No, Laura, it will not suck. And where would I be without the inspirational quotes plastered all over my writing space? My latest ones are from Einstein, whom I’ll quote in this particular pep talk (for you science-minded types who might roll your eyes at my Rumi quotes.)
Einstein Quote #1: “The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious.”
Writing a book is mysterious. Even after seven published books, I feel this way. Just when I think I have the process all figured out, I fall flat on my face. We writers yearn for step-by-step instructions on how to realize our dazzling and intricate visions. The mysterious can be exasperating.
Here’s my take on it: Writing a story is a dance between your mysterious-deep-huge mind and your small-rational-ego mind... with the mysterious-deep-huge mind leading. My small mind comes up with thousands of ever-shifting reasons why I shouldn’t delve into the depths, thousands of reasons why I should give up on my story. My small mind is scared of relinquishing control. It wants to quit.
What I’ve learned is this: Embrace the mysterious. This is your source. Know that it is fearsome but beautiful. Know that as a writer you must swim down into its darkness, explore it, and then return to the sunlit surface, laden with treasure. Figure out your own metaphor for this. Figure out your own way of humbly connecting with your source and showing gratitude. (To do so, sometimes I put a vase of flowers on my desk or light a candle or get on my knees and give thanks.) (Am I getting too mystical? Sorry. I tend to do that, which is why I started all this by quoting a scientist.)
Okay, back on track.
Einstein Quote #2: “A human being is part of a whole, called by us “universe,” a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest… a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness.”
Why do you write stories? I write stories because I have a strong urge to do so. I hesitate to use the word “calling,” but honestly, that’s what fits best. Writing stories makes me feel alive and purposeful in this vast universe. (Also, I get grumpy and head-achey if I don’t write.)
All of you who have embarked on NaNoWriMo have this calling, too. Maybe your reason for writing stories is different from my own… but to sacrifice sleep, a social life, and possibly basic hygiene for a month, you must feel a calling.
Over space and time, certain humans have had this irresistible urge to tell stories and the courage to do it. You are part of this sea of story-teller souls. This is an incredible gift. Humans need stories, and you – you-- have the calling to give them these stories.
Offering and receiving stories breaks down that “optical delusion of consciousness” that Einstein mentioned. Stories let us exist in other skin, other minds, other lives. They give us a sense of oneness with people—real and invented-- who might be, on the surface, vastly different from ourselves. Isn’t that a miracle of sorts? And you’re a key part of it.
Einstein quote # 3: “There are two ways to live your life—one is as though nothing is a miracle, the other is as though everything is a miracle.”
During this month, your small-rational-ego mind has probably found hundreds of reasons why you shouldn’t finish, why your book sucks, why you suck. Your duty as a storyteller in this universe is to ignore that jabbering, and dive down deep, courageously, into the mysterious. This month, you’re practicing the dance between the small mind and the big mind. Honor this miracle.
Einstein quote #4: “The distinction between past, present, and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion.”
I wrote one of my favorite self-pep-talks in the early nineties, over a decade before my first book was published. In my journal, I told myself, “Laura [um, yes, I often address myself by name in my journals], your book already exists, somewhere, in a future time. All you have to do now is write it.”
Your book already exists. Trust this. All you need to do is write. Now.
(Well, and then revise for a few years… but that’s the topic of another pep talk.)
For the next two weeks, as your butt is in the chair and your fingers on the keyboard, may your insides thrum with wonder and gratitude and courage.
Warm writing wishes,
*Also, quick reminder: for those of you interested in participating in a live online chat with me about The Queen of Water on Nov 28 2012 as part of Global Reads, please go here for more details. This is a really cool, free program, and everyone is welcome!*