“A ship that’s in the harbor/Is still and safe from harm/But it was not built to be there/It was made for wind and storm.” NaNoWriMo 2021: make sail.
So go the lyrics of one of my favorite songs. And writing is like a living ship for me, straining for the rushing waves. When I write sometimes that is all I want to do. It is all-consuming, both beautiful and terrifying.
Most times, this is not the case.
Many days, the ship springs leaks. The Promised Land you swear you saw gleaming now lies behind a stormy veil.
Do I dare to stay the course?
Every person who writes a novel is crazy. We are the captains of leaky ships who believe the rigging will be mended, the crew will not mutiny, the sky will return. There is something inside us that demands we make sail, that points us directly into the hurricane.
I write because I believed I could write – and do it better than Stephen King.
It happened while I was working at summer camp, collapsed on my bed, reading The Stand. Nine months before, I had started a novel, wisely devoting my efforts at college to the lucrative study of Creative Writing. In my prestigious novel-writing class I wrote two chapters and a prologue. I was a class prodigy (I thought). I’m good.
But I wasn’t good. Far from it. Ideas percolated post-university, and now I was disgusted by the book in my hands. It was visceral and terrible. Apocalyptic. Horrific. I didn’t like it. I couldn’t “stand” it.
“I can do better,” I thought to myself.
And so over that summer I brainstormed and planned. I made a map and stuffed it full. After camp, I tried to look for jobs, but my heart was stolen away. I scraped by however I had to and wrote, with no course plotted by curriculum. No course to cross uncharted seas.
I wish I could say I finished in a month – properly, over a month like November – but the voyage demanded more. My one goal at first was 50,000 words. Just write 50k and you’re there.
I made it to 50k. Not done. Fifty thousand more words. Nope. Finally at 200,000 words I reached a conclusion I believed was perfect that still needed years of edits.
Why do I write? Why does anyone write? Why do we torture ourselves for our visions? Perhaps because the old adage is true: Without pain, there really is no gain. Not for NaNoWriMo 2021 or for any worthy pursuit.
So, if you believe like I do – even irrationally, even foolishly – that a story swells inside you, take that risk and cast off daily.
What lies beyond the hurricane? Find out.