By Guest Blogger Nicolas DiDomizio
Last fall, my writing pal Steven (who writes fresh and emotionally raw YA and maintains the blog beautifulCHAOS, which you’re on right now, which … I probably didn’t have to clarify any of this, did I?) and I were chatting on IM, and then this happened:
- Steven: I’m doing NaNoWriMo! Are you?
- Nic: Awesome! [Googles NaNoWriMo, learns that it’s this whole, like, write-a-novel-in-a-month thing.] Yes! I think I’ll give it a go.
I should note that the actual transcript of the IM exchange was probably about thirty pages long and riddled with nonsensical ramblings – from both of us – and even more vulgarities, but the above is the gist.
So, NaNoWriMo is freaking awesome if you know you’re doing.
Which I didn’t.
When I impulsively committed myself to the challenge, my writing career had consisted of a handful of articles for a few magazine/websites, about sixty-something blog posts for my own site, and exactly one full manuscript for an irreverent memoir about penises. (And Mariah Carey. And football. And Dr. Seuss. And … well, just know that I basically hit all the demographics in my writing and you should probably subscribe to my e-mail list immediately if you’re a breathing human.)
When it came to fiction, however, I had never even attempted a short story – let alone a novel. But whatever, I told myself. A good writer should be able to churn out anything. This shall be my test!
Well, three days and twenty pages of insufferable crap later, I failed.
Then I lost control of myself and fell into a whole IT’S-NEVER-GOING-TO-HAPPEN-FOR-ME-BECAUSE-I’M-NOT-A-REAL-WRITER-AND-I-TOTALLY-SUCK-AND-I-SHOULD-PROBABLY-JUST-BE-AN-ADMINISTRATIVE-ASSISTANT-FOR-SOMEONE-WHO-HAS-A-LEGITIMATE-TALENT-OF-SOME-KIND spiral of madness for about a day or two.
(Did Steven add a GIF here? I feel like that’s something he would do.)
But then I got over it, because silly. As in, it was silly of me to conclude that “not being strong at one kind of writing = sucking at all kinds of writing.”
The fact of the matter is that the term “writer” is broad. It’s broad as hell. It’s broader than my intimidating Italian shoulders that on a bad day make me feel fat but on a good day make me feel hunky. It’s Broad Street. Okay, wait. Where was I going with all of this? Oh. I mean, understanding that writing is a huge umbrella profession with many subcategories of people who do it well probably shouldn’t have been as big of a revelation as it was for me, because like, hello, genres – but still, it was. And so I can’t stress enough that as a writer, you don’t have to be able to write everything.
You do, however, have to be able to write your thing– and you have to commit to it with everything you have and write pages and pages of it and play around with all the elements and continuously move towards your highest potential. It involves working your ass off, yes, but the more you’re aligned with the type of writing you do best, the less this will feel like “working your ass off” and the more it will feel like something that opens you up and makes you happy. Something that is fun, even.
And so that’s why whenever someone’s like, “writing isn’t fun, writing is hard work!” I kind of wanna be like, “Well, yeah. But if it’s never fun and it’s always hard work, then you might be doing it wrong.” (Side note: I feel like a lot of people may disagree with me on this, but whatever, because opinion.)
When I tried writing a novel, yes. That was not very fun. I would get held up about every thirty seconds, asking myself “does this make sense?” and then I would read over my last few paragraphs and be like, “Nope” and then I’d force myself to write something anyways, and then I’d finish at the end of the day and realize that at some point during the whole process my subconscious just gave up and I started writing about myself again. But when I finally put an end to the whole fiction charade and just owned my identity as someone who writes best when it’s all about me, I returned to a place of fun. (So I guess this means I’m either a self-absorbed narcissist who always needs to grab the spotlight – a literary Kanye West, if you will – or I’m just better at writing memoir than I am fiction. Probably both.)
At the end of the day – experiment with writing all you want. Try everything once.
But when it stops being fun, try something new. And when you finally get into the flow and find that you’ve landed on a genre and a style that fills you with joy and openness and endless possibility – run with it. And keep running with it. And then run with it even more.
And then when you eventually slow down enough to catch a breath, you’ll realize that at some point in the journey, you started habitually working really hard and kicking some real ass. And you didn’t even realize you were doing it.
Similar experience? Sound off in the comments below!