Archive for November, 2010


An Update On My NaNo Writing — And Me

   Posted by: Michael Bernier   in Today's Reality

It is almost mid-month, and as I expected I am not on track to complete the annual NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) goal of writing 50,000 words in 30 days. Instead of being 50% of the way (25,000 words), I am at about 15% (7,400 words). The fact that I am so far behind does not bother me; the subject I selected, writing about Stephen, was destined from the outset to be a labor of love rather than a labor of typing.

I tackled the most difficult piece first, which was the day of his accident and the following day when funeral arrangements were made and I attended a remembrance event at the school’s band hall. I haven’t made it completely through the rest of the days leading up to the funeral yet, but I have outlines of what I plan to write. The reason I have not finished that piece is because my mind began to wander, and I found myself looking back at the day Stephen was born. I recently found a set of pictures taken in the hospital that day, and as I looked through them the memories came flooding back…and I felt compelled to stop where I was and start writing about his birth instead.

As I was writing that section, I discovered something about writing itself that I had never considered before. I have been a technical writer for many years, and the thought process that a technical writer goes through is linear in nature – step 2 always follows step 1, A always comes before B, and so on. Technical writing focuses on the technical aspects of putting words on paper – namely, accuracy and orderly precision – and leaves no room for compromise. In contrast, the creative writing process is not linear at all, but instead is somewhat random in nature. Creative writers focus on feelings and emotions, which like all of human nature are constantly changing shape, flowing and ebbing with the events going on in a person’s life. Accuracy and orderly precision are mostly set aside in favor of expressing what is on the mind or in the heart of the writer. As the writer searches for the right combination of words to use, compromise becomes the rule rather than the exception.

This was a real eye-opener for me. Until now, I had been trying to develop creative writing skills but following the path of a technical writer; the result has been writing that expresses feelings and emotions, but does so in a very stiff and regimented manner. In order to be more successful as a creative writer, I have to follow a different path – one that is more random in its choice of direction, is peppered with spontaneity, and which molds itself to the feelings and emotions I am experiencing at the moment. The result should be writing that flows rather than stutters.

I can think of no better opportunity to put this to work than writing Stephen’s story. It may take longer to produce a finished product, but it will have a heightened level of expression over my previous writings.

And with that, I will now go off and continue working on the story. I do not know exactly what part of Stephen’s life I will be writing about next, but I do know the words will be more meaningful to me and to anyone else who reads them.