There are endless ways to stand in the path of your own creativity. I find it harder over the years to trust my own instincts and simply write with reckless abandon. For those of you who don’t know, November is National Novel Writing Month and it was seemingly created for people like me who struggle to find the words and then let them go—out into the public to be seen and yes, often scrutinized.
I’ve come up with every excuse in the book as to why I can’t participate in this writing challenge. Every year it’s the same and I wonder if it really is because I don’t think I have the time, the patience, and the discipline, or if maybe I’m slightly terrified that the ideas won’t come and I’ll end up with a pile of dreck instead.
I imagine that, like all writers, I am plagued by fears that it’s all been done before; that my words won’t resonate and that I am a complete and total failure. But that fear gets in the way of my artistic license and the ability to say fuck it, because I have a story to tell, too.
“It was a dark and stormy night.”
Just because I can’t ever start a novel in this way, doesn’t make my own storytelling any less valid.
In Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear, Elizabeth Gilbert writes about the dilemma that every writer faces—namely, the unrealistic expectations we place on ourselves and the constant fear that we’ll never top our best work. It’s the main reason I don’t post as frequently as I’d like or start that book that’s been living in my head all these years.
“In the end, creativity is a gift to the creator, not just a gift to the audience,” she says.
Isn’t that a beautiful, inspiring quote?
What if we could let it all go for just a moment? Write for the sake of writing. Create for the art of creating. Dance for the love of movement. Wouldn’t our words and actions speak loudly in the face of our critics (and often, our inner critics)?
For some reason, M. Night Shyamalan always comes to mind (or “Shamalamadingdong” as my friend calls him). Imagine if he’d ended his career after Sixth Sense. I know what you’re thinking. Perhaps he should have. But there were so many other movies that introduced us to mystery and enchantment, where we believed in a world he created for us. Isn’t that the entire purpose of movie making?
Why does each work have to outdo the next? And what does that do to our confidence, and more importantly, our passion in our craft?
Whether or not I participate in NaNoWriMo is still up in the air. But I refuse to use the excuse that it’s all been done before. As Elizabeth Gilbert says it has never been written by me, and sometimes, that’s good enough.