Sunday, October 29, 2017

Reflecting and Rediscovering Your Reasons

I had a busy summer this year. 

Back in March I had an idea for a new manuscript. It was one of those moments several writers have experienced, just walking around and living life when the brain goes off on one of its semi-frequent divergent meanderings and BAM!, you stumble on one of those golden “What if” questions that sets off an avalanche of possibilities. Before long, you start to realize that, yes, there is a legitimately viable story idea coming together. 

It was exciting to have something new come on so strong. I decided immediately I wanted to do it right. I was going to have tons of writing time available in the summer, so I gave the idea the rest of the spring to percolate. I filled the whiteboard in my office with comp titles coming from other books, movies, television shows, video games, and even podcasts. I began tapping idea fragments into a massive list on my phone. I sought out middle grade titles that felt similar to my idea in one way or another, to measure what the boundaries were for the story I was planning and figure out how I might be able to push them.

Once the work started, it came fast. I wrote chronologically with only a rough outline in my head, something I’ve never done before. When the draft was finished, I stepped away for a few weeks, giving my head some time to clear while waiting for feedback. When I got back to it, I powered through the revisions at a challenging pace with an approximate deadline in mind. There was a day or two of sweet relief when I finally reached that goal, but then I started feeling an itch….

I knew NaNoWrimo 2017 would be starting in less than a week. I've been a semi-regular participant over time, but have sat out the past two years due to other writing projects and different commitments. I thought about giving it a try this year, and came up with a number of reasons why it seemed like a good idea: I’ve always enjoyed participating; it would be an amazing feather in my cap if I could lay claim to drafting two complete manuscripts inside of the same calendar year; I had been hit with another idea — not exactly a new idea but one from the vault I wanted to try someday, and the time was feeling right. Since I thought it could be at least a few weeks until I was in a position to do any other revisions on the new manuscript, I decided to sign up.

The thing was, as much as I love this new idea, there is little reason for me to think it will ever see the light of day. I’m a writer of middle grade fiction. This new project would be a memoir, based around one particular area of my life, and not really directed at a middle grade audience. I have no nonfiction platform in this area, so as far as publishing aspirations go, it seems like it’d be a tremendous long shot. Really the only reason I would have for taking on this project is because I want to write it so much.

I felt just as passionate about my middle grade story earlier in the year when I was working on it. The big difference is I wrote that knowing it had a decent chance of eventually being ready for submission, and hopefully would get as far as publication someday. This new one might end up only being something for me and, hopefully, friends and family to enjoy.

It has me thinking:
*Why do we write?
*Is it for the love of it? 
*Do we let goals dictate or influence which projects we commit to?
*Would we still throw ourselves into the work as completely, even if we knew nobody else would ever read it?
*What benefits are there for jumping outside of the box and exploring new areas, just for the sake of exploring?

Not everyone would have the same answers to these questions. Maybe it’s not such a bad thing to occasionally consider the reasons we have for choosing this life. It might reveal something about our choices, or it could provide us with a renewed focus. 

All I know is that right now, with literally hours until NaNoWriMo begins, I’m looking forward to whatever self-discovery comes along with this new project, both personally and from the perspective of pure writing. I think it’s going to be a good month. 

To anyone else out there about to take on NaNo this year, or just entering a new stage of a current work-in-progress, I’d encourage you to reflect on it. You might discover some interesting things.


WendyMcLeodMacKnight said...

Great post, Tom! Sometimes, we just have to write what wants to be written, don’t we?

Mirka Breen said...

Good for you, Tom.
I've never NaNoWriMoed, because I have no reason to write on cue, or ride-write with the rest of the crowd. I have done well with my inner cues, thank you.
Seems you did well this summer, too. Pat-on-the-back.