I have attempted NaNoWriMo in the past. I thought it might be a great way to get myself in the habit of writing every day. Alas, I fell behind in the first few days and gave up completely not long after that, just like every April A to Z Blogging Challenge I’ve tried.
But I did learn a few things in these attempts. First of all, everyone has their own method of writing. Some people are plotters, using post-it notes, storyboards, outlines, etc., to create. Others are pantsers, allowing the story work itself out as they write by letting the characters lead the way. There are also writers who have their own combination of these processes.
Along those same lines, I’ve heard that writing every day is the only way to be a “real writer.” I disagree. I don’t write every day, yet I have two–soon to be three–published books. Am I not considered a real writer? However, when I’m not physically writing, I am working out how my stories progress in my head. That’s my process. I also edit as I write, which makes it near impossible for me to keep up with the daily word count required to successfully complete NaNoWriMo.
For some, NaNoWriMo is exactly the shot in the arm needed to get your first draft complete. Others, like myself, need to write one little piece at a time, which is why I adore writing for BigWorldNetwork. There is no wrong way to do it. Only your way, whatever works for you to get the job done.
So, in the spirit of encouraging anyone who may or may not be participating in NaNoWriMo, I wanted to share some of the images I use as my laptop’s screen saver to inspire me. Happy writing, my friends!
A very good friend of mine once said, “It’s better to be a big fish in a small pond, than a small fish in a big pond.” He was referring to his Maui Wowi Hawaiian business, but I think it also applies to most anything. But it’s a funny thing about fish in bowls: it isn’t necessarily true that a fish will only grow as large as the tank will allow.
Long ago, my parents once had a 40 gallon fish tank, in which – among the mollies, neon tetras, and tiger barbs – they kept the required bottom feeder, a Plecostomus. We called it the P-fish because we couldn’t pronounce plecostomus. It was tiny when we first brought it home from the pet store. Many years later, not so much. In fact, my kids were able to re-dub the monster fish it had grown into “The Whale.”
I kid you not, this thing was immense. At least a foot long. It once jumped out of the tank and fell down a flight of stairs and survived. No, it thrived. It outlived generations of fish, and probably ate quite a few of them toward the end.
When I inherited The Whale, it had to have been about 1000 years old in fish years, and it was way too big for the tank. I contacted a local pet store to see if I could sell it or even donate it just to get rid of it. They weren’t even remotely interested. They informed me that this particular type of fish will outgrow it’s tank every time, and I would be very lucky to find a new home for it. My only recourse? Release into the wild, serve it up for dinner, or wait for it to die. None of these options were very appealing.
I plead the 5th as to which route I took. However, IF I went with the first choice, I would have consoled myself with thoughts along the lines of, “It’s not like I released a python into the Everglades,” or “I certainly didn’t flush a baby alligator down the commode.” This thing was essentially a catfish that needed a bigger bowl, and IF I had it in me to do something as potentially illegal as introducing this creature into a foreign ecosystem, I would have taken precautions to be sure that its new home would be big enough to guarantee that we wouldn’t have a real whale to contend with in about 20 years time. If I had gone with the second option, I would have consoled myself by thinking, “Everything tastes good fried.” The third choice wasn’t really a choice at all.
I’m telling you this tale because, lately, I’ve begun to relate to The Whale. I’ve been feeling like a fish who has outgrown her tank, and been unexpectedly released into a much, much larger body of water (allegedly). Once I started writing, I was suddenly a minnow in an immense sea of bloggers, writers, authors, editors, and publishers.
It’s exhilarating – and scary as hell – even more so than flying had been at times. Just like the proverbial “small fish in a big pond,” I’m going to have to learn the waters, grow, and just keep swimming – or, in my case, writing – so that one day, the sea won’t seem to be such a big, scary place after all. Either that, or start eating mayonnaise so that I taste good on toast.
I have friends who tell me they’ve always wanted to write a book. To them I say: “Come on in! There’s plenty of room and the water’s fine. Just stay away from the mayo – I’m sure it’s gone bad by now.”
There is a very nice lady who regularly visits me at my home and graciously offers me brochures explaining her religious beliefs and an open invitation to attend a service at her church. Sometimes she brings her beautiful daughter or a friend with her, but she is never without her Bible. As I am cursed with a healthy curiosity about many things, I will sometimes invite this particular Jehovah’s Witness into my home for coffee and conversation.
On the most recent occasion, we talked about her religion and how she strives to live her life according to the teachings of the Bible. But problems arose when I retrieved my own Bible, which once belonged to my parents, and discovered that that words, phrases and sometimes whole verses are different or even missing from my version or hers. In light of these discrepancies, she could not convince me that the original message, the divine inspiration, had not been diluted, altered or morphed by translation and other forms of human intervention throughout the centuries like a children’s game of “telephone.” Following this encounter, she has yet to visit me and I presume she has written off my eternal soul as a loss.
The diversity of religious beliefs held by human beings is truly astounding. And yet, the similarities are even more interesting. It seems that we have a deep seated longing for our existence to have a purpose and meaning, even if that purpose must remain a mystery which can never be revealed to us in it’s entirety. To have faith that our brief, meager lives play a role in an infinitely intricate cosmic ballet choreographed by an all-powerful, all-knowing entity is an intrinsic part of a majority of religions. And regardless of our particular form of worship, divine inspiration is sought by all.
But how is this inspiration revealed to us? A feeling? A voice in our head? A burning bush? A turn of events? A dream? Would we even recognize it?
I believe we receive inspiration, divine or otherwise, all the time. It’s a glint of sunlight from broken glass swept into a storm drain. It’s a precious moment spent observing our children as they sleep. It’s a fleeting memory of disappointment, pain or fear that highlights the wonder of the gift love. It is a painting, a book, a breath. Anything and everything can provide inspiration if we are observant enough to recognize it and brave enough to use it to learn and grow and change into something more than we were before.
You never know, a cup of coffee with a stranger may be all the inspiration you need.