Category Archives: creative process

The Night Circus: An Example of a NanoWrimo Triumph

The Night Circus

The Night Circus

On December 1, I heaved a sigh of relief. National Novel Writing Month was over, and I had written about 46,000 words. I still hadn’t reached the very end of my book (that ending is something I’ve been tinkering with, but it shall be complete within the next week, I vow). But given that NanoWrimo was over, I was now allowed to read an actual novel, something I hadn’t let myself do in November, in case the writer’s tone carried over into my work.

The book I chose was The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, one of many sitting in piles on my bedroom floor, waiting to be read. I am one of those bookworms who enjoys browsing bookstores and acquiring more and more interesting books to read, even though I have piles aplenty at home. From what I had gathered from reading reviews, The Night Circus sounded like it had an interesting spin on the premise of a magicians’ contest.

And indeed this is the case. Morgenstern’s The Night Circus is an engaging account of a circus which is actually a showcase for two magicians’ talents. Morgenstern’s prose is so lyrical that you can see every tent containing wonders in this circus, like an ice garden or a wishing tree covered in lit candles.

But as I read this book, I also kept in mind that it had begun as a NanoWrimo project. Given the chaotic mess that I myself created in the month of November, I couldn’t help marveling at how beautifully written, how polished and precise The Night Circus is. But there are hints in Morgenstern’s Acknowledgements of her NanoWrimo experience. First she thanks her agent, “who saw potential in something that was once truly a god-awful mess…” Morgenstern also writes, “I am grateful to all who gave their time and insight to revision after revision…”

Whew. Thank you, Erin Morgenstern. I know I have revision after revision to go through before my mess becomes the polished novel I know it can be – but with your beautiful book, you’ve given me some hope that it can be done.

If anyone has any lingering thoughts on NanoWrimo, or the creative process, I’d love to hear them!

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NanoWrimo Has Taken Over My Life

National Novel Writing Month

National Novel Writing Month

Yes, I know – I was supposed to give you a run-down on my recommended horror titles from all the movies I watched in October. Well, that’s going to have to wait. You see, I am deep, deep into the Nanowrimo challenge, and I can think of little else in my free time.

What is Nanowrimo, you may ask? Well, every November crazed writers take on the challenge of writing 50,000 words during this 30-day month. Which also contains a major holiday. Which will entail some travel (for me personally).

Some years back I attempted this challenge but gave up quite early. I didn’t have the sense of community that I do now. For instance, I went to my local Nanowrimo kick-off meeting and received a key hand-out containing the number of words I should strive to get down on paper every day of November in order to meet that 50,000-word goal. This way, I know how behind I am – like, always. There’s also a Nanowrimo website where I can input the number of words I’ve written so far, and it is creating a handy graph of my productivity for November. And if I feel the need, there are write-in’s, gatherings of writers who are all working toward that same wondrous word-count goal.

Nanowrimo

Nanowrimo

I’ve never been a very prolific writer. I have managed to write hundreds of pages on a project I’ve been working on, but it’s been a sloooow process. I’ve never pushed myself this hard before – usually, if I manage to write two pages in a day, I clap myself on the back and stop. But now I know that I can produce page after page after page. No, not all of these words I’m setting on paper are golden, but I may just finally have that first draft of my book I’ve been working on so long. Or at the very least, most of it. And that, my friends, will be sweet, sweet victory, no matter how many words I ultimately produce.

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Feeding the Fire Within – Creative Inspiration

 

I’ve been working on a writing project for a while now, a book. This book idea has taken a very long journey – it started when I (finally!) finished my thesis for my Master’s in English and got my degree. Now, I figured, at long last I had the time to write short stories, work on getting them published, and eventually work up to writing books.

Well, it didn’t work out that way. Instead, I got an idea about a girl with what I term wacky powers, and a family to which she’s suddenly introduced when she’s sixteen. This idea, about this girl and these family members, who are all lost or twisted in some way, kept growing, and growing, and growing. It clearly wasn’t a short story idea, but a book. I was overwhelmed by my own idea back then and couldn’t nurture it, so I put it aside.

Then I moved across the country to San Francisco, took writing classes, and found an incredibly supportive writing group (I’m talking about you, Madeline, Daisy, and Rebecca). I excavated my book idea, worked hard on it, and it grew and flourished.

And then I went through some major life changes, and I had to put the book aside for another interlude.

Oh, how many permutations this idea has gone through. But – I am working on it once again. And part of my motivation process to finish it and polish it, I’ve decided, will be this blog. Why? Well –

The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron

In the process of motivating myself to write on a regular basis and stare down the blank page, I’ve read a few books on writing and the creative process. The most useful to me so far has been Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Guide to Higher Creativity. I stayed away from this book for a while because it seemed suspiciously cheesy, vaguely reeking of yoga (which until recently I spurned) and pseudo-spirituality. Still, the interactivity model that I glimpsed as I flipped through the pages was somewhat enticing, and eventually I decided to read the book and attempt the exercises.

Here’s one of the things that struck me the most about this truly useful book. Cameron talks about how the artist needs to fill the well – “…think magic. Think delight. Think fun. Do not think duty. Do not do what you should do….Do what intrigues you, explore what interests you; think mystery, not mastery.” Cameron is speaking here about artistic inspiration – the fuel that feeds the fire of determination to be true to your creative self and get out what is inside you, whether it’s playing the cello or painting a portrait or writing a book.

Since I’ve read Cameron’s book, I’ve noticed that seeking out interesting and intriguing experiences, whether it’s going to an art museum or the park or even a movie, often resonates for me into creative ideas. It’s a constant process, seeking out inspiration, or at least remembering to be open to it. The inspiration in turn motivates me to turn a blank page into a page of almost indecipherable scribbling. And as I write, I discover more about what I’m creating.

So I thought, why not chronicle on a (somewhat) weekly basis both what inspires me, and what thoughts result? A truly meandering chronicle, mind you, leaping from a song one week, to a book I can’t put down the next, to a movie with striking imagery, to the wonder of a leaf I saw lying on the ground. Perhaps this chronicle will be of some use or interest to others – and it will another motivational tool for me, to stay on the creative path.

There’s a phrase in Cameron’s book: “As I create and listen, I will be led.” As I carefully create and listen, I’ll do my best to share my process – and perhaps I’ll learn from you in this process as well.

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