When I first learned about the program, I was lured by the commitment which gives new writers a means to develop the discipline of regular writing—not an easy task for many reasons.
Admittedly, I’ve never done NaNoWriMo. The year I discovered it, when the buzz filled the writing world air, I didn’t have enough time to prepare. Year two, embroiled in another writing project, I watched cautiously as a friend participated. Weeks went by and she became much less friendly. I wondered how her family managed to remain understanding of her personal need during Thanksgiving. But, she survived and even seemed to grow as a writer, which piqued my interest.
Last year, I faced a situation where I needed to finish a manuscript fast. Making an appointment to pitch an unfinished novel forced me to write at the same speed required during NaNoWriMo. I learned how to let the words flow without deliberation. I’m truly thankful to know the free feeling of that type of writing and often use the skill just to relax into my story and enjoy the characters. Now, that immediate flow is a treat I look forward to and a skill I employ from my bag of writing techniques.
Unfortunately, that endeavor took me up to the third week of October and prevented me from preparing for NaNoWriMo 2010. I don’t think I would have held up to two months at that pace with only a week between.
This year, NaNoWriMo 2011 wasn’t even a consideration since I’m faced with being the primary family care-giver for my mother who suffers from severe dementia. Without question, that comes first, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. But, not faced with a personal debate of whether or not to do NaNo, I was left with time to consider another aspect of the process.
Last week, I read a fascinating post by Dan Goodwin on his blog A Big Creative Yes, entitled BeautifulWhite Space and the Demise of Expectation. The topic was about the need for white space—having blocks of time in your life specifically for doing nothing pre-planned. He compared the use of white space for a writer to a food-taster needing to cleanse his/her palate between dishes. If you don’t stop to enjoy the visual aesthetic of the presentation, smell the aromas, chew properly, or savor each mouthful—with your only goal to get to that next dish—how can you appreciate any of the flavors?
What might you discover if you allowed time for subtle tastes to echo on your taste buds?
Embracing the white space during the writing process is the same, allowing your mind to engage the nuances of the characters, plot, and language. Writing at the pace expected for NaNoWriMo doesn’t allow time for such reflection, unless you have few other responsibilities in your life.
Those of you who are at the midpoint of NaNoWriMo, are you able to embrace any white space? Or do you feel crunched, as though you need time to let ideas settle in your mind? Is white space important to your creative process?