Thousands of people around the world, including some of my blogging buddies, are taking a shot at writing fiction this month. November has been National Novel Writing Month – NaNoWriMo – for over a decade, and a multitude of eager writers have signed up and set themselves the goal of producing a 50,000-word novel by the end of the month, encouraging and giving feedback to one another along the way.
I’m not one of those writers. I suspect I never will be, but I do tend to revisit the question around this time every year.
I love to read, and I love to write. Also, I love to write about what I read, which is why my “primarily but not exclusively books” blog exists in the first place. I think there are some truths about life and humanity and why we are the way we are that are best explored through fiction. I think that fiction can help us identify themes in our own lives. I enjoy vicariously experiencing lives that are different from my own, and finding things that make them feel not so different. I respect the creativity and imagination that can invent characters and storylines and situations that capture my mind and my emotions.
One reason that I respect those talents is that I’m pretty sure I don’t have them.
I love the novel, and I think it deserves to be considered as one of the highest creative endeavors, but my own creative impulses just don’t go in that direction. Characters don’t speak to me and urge me to tell their stories, and while I can imagine and craft a scene or two and some dialogue every now and then, I don’t see them going anywhere or fitting into a larger story structure. (And I don’t enjoy reading short stories enough to have much interest in trying to write them, in all honesty.)
I’ve learned over the last few years that the kind of writing I most enjoy doing – and that I seem to be pretty competent at – is not novel, but nonfiction. It’s personal essays and news reports. It’s the occasional topical op-ed piece, and the frequent cultural discussions (that would be the book and movie reviews). Despite my tendency toward long-windedness at times, it’s short-form writing. It allows for creative expression, but it’s rooted in my everyday life. It gives me enough maneuvering room to satisfy me, and I think it’ll keep satisfying me for a while longer. While I love reading fiction, I just don’t feel a yearning to produce it. On the other hand, discovering that I like writing nonfiction has inspired me to read more of it.
For those of us who prefer the shorter form and quicker gratification of blogging, there’s NaBloPoMo—National Blog Posting Month–which was founded as a November event. It happens every month now, organized around a different theme, and only requires that participants post something every day during the month. I’ve done it before, and I’ve enjoyed the challenge. But considering that I’ve been lucky to manage posting three times a week lately, and that the conditions that caused that schedule change still exist, NaBloPoMo is a challenge I just can’t meet this year.