National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is now over, but certainly not forgotten. It was a month that brought forth wonderful new ideas and the beginning of a new novel. Even though I “won” in NaNoWriMo, I am far from finished with the project I began and need to continue to its conclusion. I am forever grateful for the leaders of the organization who promote literacy, the people around the world who participate and share ideas, but most of all, the push to write with no holds barred and allow my creativity to flow instead of stunting it with constant editing. Oh, the freedom it gave me when I learned to turn off my internal editor and allow the words to flow uninhibited over the page. Instead of writing being arduous, suddenly I was on an adventure filled with surprising twists and turns I never even dreamed of. Sitting down to write is now as fascinating as sitting down to read a good book or watch a movie. Although I have the basic premise and many times an outline for the work I’m writing, I allow it the freedom to fly and explore.
I have also learned that rabbit trails can be effective, if not allowed to undermine your work. In other words, judicious use of rabbit trails can lead to more fleshed out characters (whether you use the information in the final piece or not), an additional story line to add interest to your work, or possibly turn into a far more interesting path than the one you are currently on. Rabbit trails can be edited out, either entirely or utilizing bits and pieces that build on your story. But, if you don’t allow for a certain amount of free-flowing creativity, whether writing fiction or non-fiction, then your work will be stunted and dull. I utilize free-writing in both types of writing. As you get more proficient, the less editing you have to do, as your developed sense of style will make your writing have the special flair only you can give it.
My challenge to you is to take advantage of this wonderful time of the year to stop and just observe the world around you. Writers use much of what they observe in their writing. Behaviors, relationships, giving, receiving, the good, the bad, whatever you see, whether it’s family, people-watching, or nature, take advantage to absorb it and file it away in your mental file cabinet and then write a descriptive piece of what you saw, what you felt, what the impact was for you. It is amazing how much what we see and feel finds its way into our work, and when we have stored lots of observations away, then we have a wealth to choose from. Remember, the negative is just as important as the positive. In fact, break it down even further. Ask yourself questions as you mull it over. What makes something negative? What is your reaction to it and why? How do others react? Who would react positively to it and why? These types of exercises open the door for understanding motivation and are very valuable to your writing. So, look around you. See around you. Absorb. You will grow as a writer because of it.
Happy observation and Merry Christmas.