Hi, my name is Kate, and I failed NaNoWriMo. (“Hello, Kate…”) National Novel Writing month and the grassroots movement to inspire people to complete a novel in a month are crazy wonderful for two particular reasons: 1) there’s no judgment (The idea is to complete the word count regardless of the words or sentences or plot or anything), and 2) the organization creates an incredibly supportive community. Really, no one fails ( but I still didn’t make the word count…).
During this novel-writing month, some bloggers are tackling questions about the reasons people try to write novels and the reasons people keep writing novels. Bob Clary, from Webucator, asked these questions:
What were your goals when you started writing?
Where I grew up, the things left unsaid were loud in our house. The people who talked were always older than I was, and they ate up all the air. Writing poetry was a quiet way for me to say the unsaid thing, the thing that needed air. I never wanted to write a novel. Other people in my family wrote novels, not me. When I realized I had a bigger story to tell, when the story burst the shell of my poetry, I sought prose, the type of prose that kept its poetic seed. I found Dangerous Writing inspired by Tom Spanbauer.
What are your goals now?
One novel has slipped into the world, Carry the Sky, published by Forest Avenue Press this year, and I’m working on a novel about the 1950s, Sylvia Plath, and McCarthyism, and the novel I started in NaNoWriMo two years ago about an all-girl African safari also in the 1950s.
What pays the bills now?
For twenty-five years I’ve had the privilege of teaching literature, creative writing, and composition at Clackamas Community College in Oregon. I still do.
Assuming writing doesn’t pay the bills, what motivates you to keep writing?
1) The stories are burning holes inside me.
2) I’m writing about issues and people and times I don’t understand. The questions compel me, gnaw at me, keep me awake at night, and by writing about them, I hope to find other questions that disturb me less.
3) Community. I have two writing groups, one for poetry, and one for fiction, and those people encourage, cajole, berate, and badger while at the same time, adore, encourage, and support in ways I never thought I’d be able to bear.
And optionally, what advice would you give young authors hoping to make a career out of writing?
Find out what ravishes you, what sticks to your bones, what repels you. Start writing there. Write because your life depends on the questions you ask, the ways you make pieces of your life fit together. Get a day job so that you can be strong enough to write what has gone unsaid. As Maya Angelou once said, “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.”