Friday, November 21, 2008

If you found your way here via my National Novel Writing Month pep talk, welcome! I hope your month of novel writing has been a fruitful one indeed. My experiences with NaNoWriMo have been so crucial to my life as a writer--both liberating and affirming. NaNoWriMo got me back into my own writing flow a few years ago, during a time when I was feeling completely frozen by expectation (mostly my own, but also what I perceived to be external expectation, as well). I found that when I churned out words that quickly, there was no time to worry about whether what I was writing was perfect and beautiful; it shut my inner editor right down. Giving yourself permission to make a big old mess on the page is incredibly freeing. I hope you're giving yourself that permission and having lots of fun with the process!

For those who aren't taking part in NaNoWriMo, here is my pep talk that went out to all the intrepid November novelists today:
Dear NaNoWriMo writer,

The metaphor of writing-as-birth is not a new one—perhaps it may even be a bit overused—but I can’t help but think about it this month. It doesn’t matter if you’re a woman or a man; you’re pregnant with a novel—congratulations!

Of course, one month is a pretty short gestation period, but hey, that’s all the time rabbits need, and NaNo certainly requires a “no time to say hello, goodbye” White Rabbit breakneck pace.

I remember how amazing it was when I was pregnant with my kids—each day, my body had transformed into something new. This month, you have transformed, too, moving from aspiring writer to novelist, from someone who has wanted to write to someone who actually is doing the hard, juicy work of getting words onto the page. You have learned new things about the creative process, about the depths of your imagination, about the themes and images central to your subconscious life. And even if you are way behind on your word count, even if you’ve only written the first scene of your novel, you have taken a profound leap. You are a writer now. How awesome is that?!

If your experience is anything my like NaNo experiences have been, this has been a time of exhilaration and frustration, inspiration and despair (and, hopefully, big slices of pumpkin pie!) A journey from that first thrill of conception, through moments when the story feels heavy and unwieldy, to times when it kicks inside you and fills you with awe. And now the end, your due-date, is in sight—at least as far as the calendar is concerned. Now you’re not just pregnant—you’re in labor.

In fact, you’re probably at what midwives call the transition stage—the point where the contractions are coming fast and furious, and you’re almost ready to start pushing your book baby, whole, out into the world. Some people get a rush of energy of at this stage, a super human surge that propels them through the birth—a mad flurry of words, a tumbling of scenes that seem to write themselves toward their own climax. Other people, when they get to this stage, suddenly feel as if they’re going to die. As if they can’t go on. As if they don’t know why they ever wanted to have a baby/sign up for NaNoWriMo in the first place. If you can breathe through this transitional period, if you can find a way to quiet those nagging critical voices and keep moving forward, your story will ultimately find its way into the bright oxygenated air (even if it’s long after November 30th.)

See if you can use this final stretch of time to stretch yourself creatively, to try something new and playful with language, to let your characters surprise you, to let yourself surprise yourself. Never let yourself forget what a profound thing you’re doing. As Margaret Atwood says “A word after a word/after a word is power.” You have that creative force inside you. You are poised to give birth to a whole new world.

Congratulations again!
Gayle Brandeis


Lydia said...


Thank you so much for your encouraging NaNo pep talk. Most of all, I'm thankful that it led me to your Web site. I read the synopsis, excerpt, and evolution of The Book of Dead Birds with awe. As a white American writing about an abused Filipina housekeeper and her half-Arab daughter, I too battle the same fears you gracefully overcame in the writing of your novel. Thank you for sharing the journey of this story. I'm looking forward to reading it.

Joy said...

Thank you for your excellent Nano pep talk and blog, you're a wonderful writer!

radiantfitness said...

I love, well, links. NaNo brought me to you, brings me to FruitFlesh, which I will buy for my Yoga specialist who is also birthing herself as a writer. Looking forward to reading more from you--thanks for the pep talk.

BTW--transition has slowed down! That happened with my 2nd son, so now I'm less dismayed that it's happening with the novel. I've been here before and can accept it now.

Keri Stevens

Leah/ Texas/ United States said...

Gayle, thank you for your encouragement and wit in your NaNoWriMo weekly email. I checked out your website and you have accomplished so much - you are very inspiring. Thank you for sharing yourself and your accomplishments with the rest of us so we can have dream material and hope for our own artistic endeavors. Keep on writing! I'm going out today (after I write 2,000 words of course) to look for Self Storage - it looks very mysterious!

gayle said...

Thank you so much for your kind words, Lydia, Joy, Keri and Leah--I am so glad to know that my pep talk served its purpose. :) I wish all of you joyful days of writing!