In October, I posted on my blog that this November would be my first time participating in NaNoWriMo (“National Novel Writing Month”). However, seven days into it, I had to post again, stating my withdrawal.
Now, I’m not one to quit. For me, the drive to persevere is like an annoying fly. I have to keep trying and trying because it just won’t me leave me alone. It’s a constant buzzing around my head that I can’t quit, I have to keep going. But the fact of the matter was, I was losing the joy I had for Ashes Like Frost, a story I had begun before NaNo started.
I loved that story so much. I had spent hours poring over books on Roman culture and had scoured Pinterest for pictures. The characters were real, solid, and precious to me. Each one of them has a unique back story that, however distantly, in some small way entwined with the story of my main character. If you were that same fly finally resting on the wall, you would have heard me giggling with happiness.
And then NaNoWriMo began, and I decided to do both of my WIPs (“works in progress”) at the same time. After all, how hard could it be? My YA idea, It Started When You Saw Me, was a sweet story, easy to write. But I didn’t want to give up Ashes. I could easily work on both of my projects. And day one was awesome—I worked on both manuscripts, writing almost 1,500 words in each.
But then, day two hit. Day three. I sat at my desk, staring at my computer screen, the words for neither novel coming, and I wanted to cry and scream at the blinking cursor. What was wrong with me? I had to get the words for the YA novel in, I had to reach that goal. And I couldn’t very well work on Ashes without working on the YA first. After all I had a word count to meet, a challenge to accomplish.
And then one day at work, while making a packing list in my head for the upcoming Winter Workshop, it came to me.
Joy Makers. Last year’s Winter Workshop topic.
What I had learned came flooding back. Sessions from almost a year ago, I could hear fresh in my ears.
Mrs. S taught that a loss of joy can make you do stupid things. You start to think that you aren’t good enough, and that the words on the paper are worthless. I was doing many stupid things, like spending hours on Pinterest looking up nonsense. The words in Ashes Like Frost went from beauty to ashes in my eyes. It didn’t matter how much I knew about Rome, how much I had learned about that archaic culture, I was stupid, the story was stupid.
It’s hard to fix a story that isn’t written from joy, Mr. S. had said. Writing is forgetting yourself and focusing on the story, on the creation and discovery. That is joy, getting to experience the joy of the story world.
This was so true for me. I had a binder crammed with the history of my story world, but for the life of me, I couldn’t fix what I knew needed work. Before NaNoWriMo, I couldn’t help but be happy about the cultural references I was playing with. For example, I had a character named Marcello from Ithaca. Ithaca is the home of Odysseus; the Odyssey‘s plot is all about his delayed return to his island home. Marcello’s delayed return to his home was a key point in my story. But November rolled around, and the joy I took in those little things was no longer there.
I don’t have a label in my notes to tell me which workshop speaker said this, but God introduces Himself to us through creativity and we should enter our writing with God. God himself is creative; we have only to step into nature or look at the stars to see that. The biggest joy maker is God, and He is always there. From Him I received a joy in writing and a passion for stories, and with Him I can throw off the chains of worry and despair.
Tineke Bryson taught me to write even when the writing is bad, because that is my joy maker. When you think your writing isn’t good enough, you lose your passion and love for it—the joy of writing is sucked right out of it.
My passion for writing should not become a burden—that doesn’t come from God. When our writing becomes a burden, we stop writing from joy, but start writing only for a cause. Writing It Started When You Saw Me had become solely for a cause—to be able to say I did NaNoWriMo. It left me feeling frustrated and empty.
Nadine Brandes taught me to commit my story to God daily, and to enter into it with prayer. Philippians 1:6 says, “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” Don’t think that God doesn’t care, because He does. If He cares for the sparrow of the air, then the good work He began in you matters to Him. Jesus Himself used stories to bring hope and truth to us, don’t think your story is any different.
I think of J.R.R. Tolkien. He had an immense love for myths and legends, and he took that joy that it brought him and produced one of the greatest works of literature: a story of a powerful ring and a small hobbit that has prompted even atheists to consider whether there is a Higher Power in this world.
What if my Ashes Like Frost could do that?
As Tineke had said on that cold day so long ago, isn’t that why we write? To come out of ourselves and meet the Lord? My writing is something God gave me, and the more I enjoy it, the more I find God and get closer to Him.
So I withdrew from NaNoWriMo.
Speeches and stained notes from almost a year ago now hold more meaning, having a greater impact on my life than I would have thought. It Started When You Saw Me is a story I want to tell, but now is not that time. God gave me this Ashes Like Frost story; it is my Joy Maker, a story like a second skin, and I was slowly losing my passion and joy for it. And that was something that I didn’t want to happen. I don’t want to continue writing something that is not coming from God, but me just wanting to complete a challenge.
A day may come when I do complete NaNoWriNo, but it is not this day. This day I fight for the story that God gave me to tell, because I hold it dear, and because He gave it to me to tell in this dark world.
Have you ever had to change your writing process in order to keep your joy in the story intact?
Rebecca Morgan is a 20-something girl with a deep passion for Middle-earth and ancient tales like Beowulf. She began writing poems at the age of seven and hasn’t really stopped since. When not writing or reading, she divides her time between working, studying Medieval England and Middle-earth, and playing games with her four brothers. For more on her and her writing, check out her blog at: https://authorrebeccamorgan.com/.