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Surrendering To Your Story

“I sometimes wonder whether the act of surrender is not one of the greatest of all...You see it's so immensely complicated. It needs real humility and at the same time, an absolute belief in one's own essential freedom. It is an act of faith. At the last moments, like all great acts, it is pure risk. This is true for me as a human being and as a writer. Dear Heaven, how hard it is to let go - to step into the blue. And yet one's creative life depends on it and one desires to do nothing else.” - KATHERINE MANSFIELD -


(This entry is cross-posted with Brown Beagle Books)

It's already December, which means another NaNoWriMo has come and gone, and I...

have failed.

Except, failure doesn't look the way I thought it would.

I'm proud of everyone who managed to write through November and produce a new 50,000 word novel. It's not an easy feat to write a book, nevermind write one in its entirety in only 30 days. It takes dedication and perseverance and, most importantly, a letting go of expectation.

To be completely honest, I didn't have high expectations for myself. I know my limitations going into it, and while I set the same goal in the beginning of November as every other NaNoWriMo writer, I knew the likelihood of walking away at the end of the month with a completed draft of my next book was slim to none. Instead, I had more humble intentions -- to write every day.

I still haven't completed my manuscript, but I've written creatively, in some capacity, since the beginning of November. Sometimes the writing comes in short bursts of inspiration; sometimes, it emerges as a piece of dialogue jotted onto the back of a receipt or a problem to solve sent as an email to myself.

Other times, it becomes less about the physical act of writing and more about the marinating of ideas.

For the past year, I constantly reprimanded myself for not physically writing. I have a number of projects in the works, with a half-written historical piece that is especially close to my heart and never far from my mind -- which is why I couldn't understand why I kept sabotaging myself when it came to the act of just sitting down at my desk and finishing the words.

But what I discovered these past few weeks is that, for me, the beauty of writing lies in its creation -- it's living with these characters and watching them evolve and become something that I never might have known had I not taken the time to let them develop on their own. So, bit by bit, I stopped being so hard on myself. I allowed myself the time to immerse myself in the research. I gave myself permission to take my time and let it grow on its own. I began to push back the fear and let myself take risks in its writing -- to let the story become what I know it deserves to be.

And then, a new character emerged and became a part of that fictional world, adding layer after layer and pushing me out of my comfort zone and into something creatively exciting. By not forcing the words, I was able to surrender to the story and let it grow organically, as it wanted to.

Sharing your work with the world and publishing your books is what you do. But being a writer? That's who you are. And whether there's a pen in your hand or you're simply walking through the woods, a writer is always writing.

When it comes to writing, sometimes half the battle is learning to establish healthy, creative habits for yourself. Sometimes it means chipping away at that psychological block and ridding yourself of preconceived notions of what it means to be a writer.

Sometimes, writing means giving yourself the time you need to grow so that your writing -- and your story -- can grow with you.

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