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Listen to Your Story

with 5 comments

What I Learned from NaNoWriMo 2015


Just do this to write a novel.

How much different is writing from life?

In both we make decisions that carry us forward. Sometimes those choices work out well. Sometimes they drop us in a dead end. Mostly it is not clear where the choice leads, and so we carry on.

Writing 1667 words a day through November’s National Novel Writing Month forced me to look at every scene and imagine how it might move the story forward. Within the first few days, every scene, every action, nearly every word seemed full of, well, pivot. The story could turn 180 degrees—except the commitments my characters held worked time and again as a rudder, pulling their choices along a true direction.

Choice after choice makes the story. Along the way we interact with characters who enter the story because of our choices. And these characters bring with them yet more choices. Our commitments impact how we choose, drawing us like a lodestar consistently one way or another. But even those long-term commitments enter the choice-making machinery of writing and life.

Do you agree that writing and life move forward in a similar way? One difference is that with writing you get to go back and change the story.

You can’t do that with life.

Or can you?

Producing my story brought to mind Parker Palmer’s book Let Your Life Speak, a book I’ve recommended to many friends. Palmer’s advice gets at the nub of both writing and living: peering into the facts so far and taking a courageous view on where those facts could lead. Palmer realized, in looking back over his life, that a particular commitment had been leading him in ways that did not fit with what was happening and where he was meant to be.

In writing you lop off a sentence (or paragraph or chapter) to move the story forward. In life you make tough but wise choices that put you on a better trajectory.



Dumb Sketch: Kirk Livingston

Written by kirkistan

December 1, 2015 at 8:55 am

5 Responses

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  1. I’m just reading a book where the protagonist (a child) goes back in her mind and changes her bad dreams when she wakes up so they won’t continue to bother her…of course it doesn’t work 100%. That seems about right, for both writing and life. (K)


    December 1, 2015 at 9:38 am

    • I agree, Kerfe. That sounds about right. Thanks for the comment.


      December 1, 2015 at 9:49 am

  2. We can try to direct our writing and our livings in a specific direction, and we can be very successful doing so, but it’s also nice to allow for serendipity to intervene – or divine intervention, take your pick – for that’s where the magical and supernatural can happen, too.

    Sand Salt Moon

    December 1, 2015 at 12:36 pm

    • I’m completely with you, Cynthia. I’ve that both with writing and with the people I meet, a fair amount of serendipity is introduced with each conversation. You are making a really important point. Thanks!


      December 1, 2015 at 12:44 pm

  3. Reblogged this on Rose with Thorns and commented:
    Yes! I love this blog so much! Our lives are a story.


    December 1, 2015 at 9:13 pm

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