Pep Talk from Lani Diane Rich
First of all, thank you for your generosity in donating to support NaNoWriMo this year. That was very cool of you. Because you did NaNo a solid with your donation, I’m going to let you in on a little secret.
You’re not a writer.
You’re a storyteller.
Now, I know, that sounds like semantic jiggery-pokery, and it is… a little… but it also isn’t. While it’s a tad obnoxious to go around like Bette Davis waving an elongated cigarette holder in one silk-gloved hand and your fifth dirty martini in the other saying, “I’m a storyteller, darling,” I’d still argue it’s something you should keep in mind. Writing is one thing and baby, it’s great. I love words, I love putting them together, and I love playing with language and grammar and all that, but it’s just a medium through which I tell a story. I’ve never woken up at three in the morning filled with the immediate need to form a perfect sentence.
I wake up because of stories. And I’ll bet you do, too. I mean, that’s what all this craziness is about, right? You’ve either been writing since the day you could hold a pen, or you’ve had an idea kicking around for a while and thought it would be fun to try. Or maybe a friend talked you into it. Whatever. You’re not signing up for this challenge because you want to type a lot in November.
You’re doing it because you have a story to tell, and that’s a big deal.
There are a lot of things you could be doing with your time—worthy things. You could be building a treehouse with your kid or raking the lawn or working overtime or… well, you get it. But you are choosing to put what spare time and energy you have this November into not writing, but storytelling. Storytelling, which has had a place in the human heart and hearth since we were huddling in caves. Before there were words and manuals of style and publishing houses, there were stories. Narrative is the psychological heartbeat of humankind, it’s how we find meaning and purpose. The first thing we did after getting past the basic survival stage in our evolution was to paint the story of the buffalo hunt on the wall. When you tell a story you are nothing less than the torchbearer who keeps that light alive even in the most foul darkness, who does nothing less than give meaning to human existence.
Blowing your mind, aren’t I?
There are people who will tell you that this whole endeavor is silly for a million reasons, and they’re all wrong. People will say that writing 50,000 words in thirty days is an insult to the high art of writing. That’s total crap. People will say that you could be doing more important things since the whole point of writing is to publish and no one ever gets published, so what’s the point? Nonsense. People will say it’s selfish to let the kids make their own damn dinner so you can indulge in a silly hobby. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. First of all, kids benefit greatly from a little independence, and let’s not forget: you are a flippin’ torchbearer. That’s important. It matters. And it’s a wonderful thing, whether you get published or make money or write a book that gets taught to bored high school kids for the next fifty years… or not. What you’re doing this fall is amazing, and it’s important, and your should be proud of yourself for even trying.
So that’s my pep talk. Hold your head up high, pick up that torch, and tell a story, baby.