Yesterday I had an experience I thought worth sharing. I had my first major day of classes yesterday, but during the day I had a three hour empty stretch. Since classes hadn’t started yet, there wasn’t any homework to do while waiting for my next class so I instead opened my laptop and started writing. I was working on my pirate novel and moved past a part that I had been struggling with for some time.
Interestingly enough, the experience of moving forward in a story I hadn’t worked on in quite some time brought me an immense sense of relief and joy. There was something so uplifting about writing just for myself knowing people wouldn’t see this story for many years to come.
Not only that, I found the fears I had been harbouring about the story’s structure melted away as I wrote too. I have been worried that this novel hasn’t even gotten to the opening part of the plot that I had planned for it and spent April Camp NaNo preparing. But during my little writing session, I was just writing, and I was having fun. I felt immersed in a world of which I had stepped away in recent months. I couldn’t help but smile at my characters as they went along doing life amidst the trials I put before them.
I found I wasn’t concerned about form or structure or how what I was writing would fit into the plot. Instead, I emphasized the fears and accomplishments that my main character was currently facing, rather than trying to fit in the fears of the plot that had yet to start.
However, despite my disregard of form and style, the things that I’ve been learning about storytelling and structure have been internalized and were brought out in the couple thousand words I wrote. It was fun writing, but it was also purpose-driven writing and I think that’s important to distinguish.
Just because what I wrote doesn’t fit in with my future plot doesn’t mean it doesn’t fit with the current plot. Today, looking back on what I wrote yesterday, I think that I was prematurely setting into stone the plot I had created during NaNo and trying to squeeze the characters and their motivations into the box I had created. Now I think I should let the characters as they have been developed change the shape and delivery of the plot. The story will mostly stay the same, but the way it is being told will shift dramatically to being character-based rather than plot-based.
All of this to say, write for you sometimes. Sometimes it doesn’t have to be about producing the best story you can create and develop. There is a time and place for that kind of writing, and just because it is producing doesn’t mean there is no joy in that kind of writing. But today I am talking about that personal writing that rejuvenates your writer’s soul. The kind of writing that reminds you of why you write. The kind of writing that reminds you to focus on the beauty of storytelling rather than the mechanics of it. The kind of writing that you approach with no pretenses and no expectations.
So instead of always writing to produce the most developed and carefully crafted plot you can, write for your soul. Because writing for your soul is the kind of writing that produces joy for your story, and ultimately produces joy for writing itself.