Today you will write 1000 words. Because you have respect for those words. You have an understanding of what the words can accomplish and how hard it is to put them all together in a row and have them be meaningful in whatever way you want or need them to be. This experience is fun and playful and creative and about innovation and taking yourself to a new place. But also? Those words are no joke. It’s day 12, and you bow to the words, and you honor their worth, and now you will write the hell out of them.
I find that I not only respect the words, but am humbled by them daily. Especially right now, working on fiction for the first time in two years. A thing I did for so long and then had to walk away from it. I could until I couldn’t. And now I can again - I saw this these past few weeks. Those were the stakes with me for this project. Did I still have that ability? And I’ve found I’ve successfully tapped into the vein but I’m also keenly aware that the words I’ve written are raw and earthy and nascent and whatever I am starting with now will have a long journey toward being finished.
It is the most humbling experience to start from scratch when you’ve done it so many times before. But I’d rather be humbled than not. I’d rather be reminded that I’m only human every day of my life. That’s where the inspiration lies. And that’s where the growth lies.
Today’s guest writer is son of New Orleans, Maurice Ruffin, author of PEN/Faulkner finalist We Cast a Shadow and The Ones Who Don’t Say They Love You, which will be published in August. He has chosen VONA as the donation for the day, and he is talking to us about flexibility in his writing.
“For me, getting the writing done comes down to the two Fs: fun and flexibility. The other day I was talking to a class of 6th grade writers. One of the students asked me, ‘Do you ever throw away any writing?’ I told her of course I do because that's a sign that I'm doing something right. Every time I write something lengthy, say, over 25 pages I get lost like I'm in a maze. I wander around typing random words. I have that where-did-I-put-my-keys feeling. But I've figured out that I only get lost when I'm not enjoying what I'm writing. Eventually, I ask myself, ‘What would I rather be writing if I wasn't afraid to switch over to a new idea or approach?’ That's when I switch over.
It's a heart-wrenching moment to put down something I was invested in for something I haven't even started. Like swinging from a trapeze and hoping your partner catches you. Yet, they usually catch me. It often turns out that the initial project was just throat-clearing. The writing gods were scoping me out to see if I was serious about wanting to write something special. The new thing always feels like a jail break. I'm free free free to drop my tools and run for freedom. I have all new characters, new settings, new ideas, and in this phase I tend to write two or three times faster than before. The getaway car is driving itself and I just try to hang on. It's so dangerous and so crazy, but it's so fun, which is the main reason I write anyway.”
You’re so close, everybody. Hang on to that getaway car.