I spent most of my life believing that I didn’t have the creativity necessary for writing fiction. I envied the writers I admired, and even some that I didn’t admire. How in the world did they think up those intricate plots, with all their twists and conflicts? When I discovered National Novel Writing Month, the first couple of years seemed to be proof that I’d been right. Then something clicked and I’ve been scribbling ever since.
I still have a problem with thinking of myself as truly creative, though. I still wonder how some writers manage to turn out those intricate plots at a speed that looks like lightning compared to my slow plodding. But something happened today that maybe creativity doesn’t have to be fast and agile. Maybe it can be slow. Think of the tortoise and the hare. What’s important is that you get there.
I’ve been working on The New Serfdom for what sometimes seems like forever, but it’s actually been just under a year since I wrote it. It was my winner for last year’s NaNoWriMo, but there was an air of discouragement hanging over the month, and I barely made it to 50,000 words. For the first time, I finished NaNo feeling that I had an awful mess on my hands.
Over the last year, the book has turned into something completely different from the original concept. It’s better than it was, but it’s been lacking something important. I figured out that it needed conflict, but even then, something was still missing. I knew there was one question I wanted to be able to answer, but I didn’t know if it was really important to the novel. I also wanted a larger role for one of the secondary characters, but didn’t know what that role should be.
A little while back, I did give that character more importance, but it wasn’t enough. I have to think that it was percolating in the back of my mind along with the unanswered question, because they came together today, and I know that now I can fill in that vague hole that’s been bothering me. The question is: who was Nolan’s mother? It turns out that the secondary character knows who she was and also knows something vital about Gil, the other primary character. When Gil learns all that, the whole balance of the novel changes.
So maybe there’s creativity that just has to be allowed to unfold at its own speed. I still wish it could have chosen better timing. Now that I finally have the key to last year’s NaNo novel, it’s making it hard to keep my mind on this year’s planning.