I’ve long been a proponent of cranking out words and upping your word count. That’s what writers do, right? Keep writing, and you’re bound to come up with something good among all those keystrokes.
This approach definitely works sometimes and for some writers, but there are other approaches too, and these can be refreshing. I was talking with a writer friend recently who reminded me that some writers have a limited number of stories inside them. Indeed, many authors like Harper Lee of To Kill a Mockingbird fame only published one book, and found success.
It was a relief to me to consider the idea that a writer has a limited number of stories to tell. After my first NaNoWriMo success, I’ve been disappointed with my other attempts partly because I see myself telling the same story all over again. But perhaps this isn’t a bad thing. Maybe it’s good. Maybe it’s because that one story is my story. Maybe it’s my only story. And that’s all right.
Lesson of the day: don’t force it. Sometimes, forcing a story or word count is helpful, but in the end, writing has to feel natural to read natural. You don’t need to write a billion words to be a successful writer, unless that’s your thing. Only one story told well, in a way that pleases you, is enough.
Two legs, three arms, at least one head, and it’s making noise! What is that thing? We can’t tell. We don’t know. We’re running away!
Chickens are scared of guitars. They’re not too smart.
Wait, what’s that chattery sound? What’s that jar? The monster has corn! Oh! Oh! What do we do? How do we get the corn?
Chickens are crazy about corn. Even when it’s near a guitar.
Eek, run, the monster’s close! It’s opening the door! Quick, scoot out when it’s not looking. There. Wait, it’s throwing corn! GET THE CORN! This has got to be a safe distance, right? Now that it’s giving us corn…
The one thing that never fails to pull me out of a writing rut is the magic of a favorite story. These stories have a life of their own—they pick me up and make me forget and make me care, and remind me why I tell stories. Books, movies, plays, even music can do it. And once all that greatness has seeped into my thoughts, it’s bound to come out in my writing.
Shouldn’t you be worried about originality?
No. You’ve heard that all the great stories have already been told. Take Star Wars, the original Star Wars. That was far from original. George Lucas took a good helping of his storytelling from ancient mythology and The Hero’s journey. C. S. Lewis did that too. These authors were inspired by classics, and created new classics that really aren’t new.
“Don’t worry about originality, worry about authenticity.”
The point is, if you’re a writer, you need something to aspire to. That’s inspiring. Stories to remind you why you love stories, that pick you up and blow you away and leave you changed. You’ll absorb elements from them, and I think that’s great. What more could you ask for than having the quality of your writing approach that of your heros?