On writing

It’s been a while since I’ve written about my literary writing pursuits, and the sad fact is that there’s nothing really to write about. November is coming ’round the bend, as is NaNoWriMo, and I’ll admit to a little envy at those who are participating this year. I’m not; I’m not ready, and I have a couple of things on my plate that would make writing 1,700 words a day difficult, when those words need to be in some form of coherence and cohesion for a novel.

But the fact is, I’ve been keeping an eye on my “natural” writing habits, and reflecting on and off on patterns that I’m seeing. A lot of this is connected to some of the “revelations” (if you will) from my 5:30 AM exercise (which I wasn’t able to do for very long, but long enough). To quote the exercise again (emphasis mine):

So if you are to have the full benefit of the richness of the unconscious you must learn to write easily and smoothly when the unconscious is in the ascendant.

The best way to do this is to rise half an hour, or a full hour, earlier than you customarily rise. Just as soon as you can–and without talking, without reading the morning’s paper, without picking up the book you laid aside the night before–begin to write. Write anything that comes into your head: last night’s dream, if you are able to remember it; the activities of the day before; a conversation, real or imaginary; an examination of conscience. Write any sort of morning reverie, rapidly and uncritically.

I’ve gone through my morning writing, and my “unconscious” writing could probably be categorized into three groups:

  1. Journal-esque; things that happened to me, and written in a journal style instead of in a literary vein (i.e. fictionalized). Roughly 27% of my writing fall under this category.
  2. Essay; musings, ideas, speculation, no real story behind them. Slightly less in number than journal-style writing!
  3. Literary; quite obviously fiction! A number of them were fictionalized versions of a few real-life events, but most of them were “original” scenes and sketches. Around half of my writing was in this category.

Actually going through them was a bit of a revelation in itself; I’d expected the general numbers, but didn’t really expect essay-style writing to be almost up on par with journal writing. I only had a smallish number to work on, but the results actually mirror some of the “impulse” writing I’ve done (for example, for One Word, for One Sentence) in the past, and continues up to now.

From these, I have both an affirmation, and a somewhat disheartening revelation.

I’ve always known that my writing and literary interests tend toward the fantastical, the lyrical, the heights of emotions. Most of my snippet writing revolves around the latter: joy, love, passion, hurt, anger, despondence. More than half of my writing have a fantasy element to them: if not outright fantasy, then hints of it. So from what I’ve seen, this is really the area that I should be working with when I write stories, because it is here where my subconscious gravitates to when freewriting.

As for the disheartening revelation: I (currently) don’t have the longevity to write a novel.

I’ve realized this (from the aforementioned exercises) quite a while ago. But I’ve honestly tried to ignore it, because I want to write a novel. Trying to come to terms with the revelation that I don’t have the capacity to write a novel was difficult to stomach. Goodness knows how many times I’ve joined NaNoWriMo, both “officially” and “in secret”. I still have files upon files of half-baked “novels”, all abandoned in the middle (or, more precisely, all over the place–I’ve never written “in order”).

The longevity can be worked on, certainly. But it isn’t something that will come easily, not anymore after I’ve neglected it since college. I don’t think it’s truly lost; but it’s buried too deep for me to dredge out in, say, a month of frenzied writing, or continuous false starts on writing a novel.

So instead I will go back to my “roots”, ease up on the pressure, and do what my habits seem to point me towards: short story writing. Certainly not as glamorous as a novel (“hey, I’m writing a novel”) but, baby steps! And I do enjoy the quick sketches that I do. Graduating from short shorts to a short story looks to be quite sound, eh?

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