A funny thing happened on the way to NaNoWriMo…

A couple of weeks ago, I decided that I was going to do NaNoWriMo… National Novel Writing Month… a program by which participants are challenged to write 50,000 words in a months. time. I thought it would stretch me. I thought it would give me a regular writing discipline. I thought it would improve my writing to do something outside of my normal genre… whatever that is. I thought I had a story inside that needed to be told.

So, I started writing. I actually started a story that I like. I think it’s interesting. I think it could develop into something. You know… if I could ever get around to writing it.

I’m good at writing short form, blog posts, articles. I write episodically. Sustaining the energy it takes to keep a story going is something that I truly long to do, but I’m not sure I have it in me right now.

But here’s the really funny thing… I’ve procrastinated on working on my novel by writing other things. I had been in a little bit of dry spell in terms of my other writing, but starting the novel loosened something up for me. If nothing else, NaNoWriMo got me writing again, and for that I’m thankful.

Writing is a part of my therapy, anyone who has read what I’ve posted since the beginning of last year has picked up on that. I use this space to process. I also now have a private blog where I don’t publish what I write, but this act of creating and sharing what I create has been incredibly cathartic in this chaotic season of life.

I’ve been incredibly grateful to write “Recovering Reverend”, my ongoing spot on the Presbyterians Today Magazine blog. It has allowed me to keep some of my practical theology muscles in shape and it’s helped remind me that ultimately where I want to be, whether in a congregation or otherwise, is in service to the church. Somehow writing has brought me home to that realization and refocused me on my goals.

I like my novel. The main character is interesting… well, he’s basically a more resourceful version of me. The world I’m setting up intrigues me. I’m totally sure where things are going, but I’m having fun dreaming about it. One of the things that has slowed me has been the realization that I don’t read much fiction. I read tons of articles and blog posts and so it is easy to write those. I’ve never been big into fiction writing. I prefer my fiction on a screen. That said, world-building, myth-making is tantalizing stuff. I don’t think I’ll let go of this endeavor. I love writing and I want to be able to do all kinds of it. I want to stretch and push myself. I want to grow and get better. I want to take full advantage of the ways that words can heal;  from being inspirational, to creating laughter, to expressing grief.

I am friends with many great writers. It is a gift and a curse. I often feel like I shouldn’t be writing because someone else has already said what I want to say but in a far more eloquent way. I feel like an amateur, which I guess technically I am. I write how I speak. I am a preacher, after all. He won’t admit it, but I think my style gives the editor at Presbyterians Today fits! There are times when I have to overcome all of my insecurities in the process of writing and just write. On my more depressed days, that’s not so easy. I often feel like a fraud.

I listened to Amy Poehler’s book “Yes, Please” on my trip to and from Pittsburgh this weekend. I love her dissection of her writing process. “Writing is hard”. It’s stressful and pressure-filled and you have to free yourself from responses of others and be true to yourself in the process. It’s not glamorous. It’s not romantic. It’s messy and technical and I often feel completely exhausted afterwards. Still, I love writing. It is my passion. It is my therapy. It is my challenge. I’m grateful for the gift of words that allows me to build a bridge to others. I’m glad that I can be raw in this space even when I don’t know how to be vulnerable in other arenas. I’m grateful that sometimes people read what I write and it touches them. That’s a gift.

I hope and pray that one day I’ll have the luxury of extended writing time, instead of the 15-20 minutes that I carve out throughout the week. I’d love to really concentrate on a project. I’d love to live with a thought for awhile, play with it like a kitten with a ball of yarn, and bat it around til I’m ready to move on to the next thing. Some day, I hope. Maybe then I’ll get back to my novel. Or a dissertation. Or a screenplay. Who knows? Maybe I’ll just do this forever. That’s fine too. I just love to write.

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