Yesterday afternoon I had to take an hour and a half off of writing and other pursuits I’ve been up to this November to hold a Dungeons and Dragons session for a bunch of middlegraders. (There’s about ten of them, and the only reason it works with only one storyteller is because they still tend to do things all together, occasionally spreading into three groups, tops.)
DnD, like most other roleplaying games I’ve had the pleasure of trying out, is basically one big collaborative storytelling experiment, and the ‘collaborative’ part is one of the things I like the most about it—you can never know how a story will go until each and every participant finishes their part.
Writing, on the other hand, is mostly (and preferably, for me) a solitary adventure. Once you start doing it, once you realize you actually like it, it doesn’t take long to get used to it. Sure, from time to time, you’ll break your routine to try someting new, something exciting and scary at the same time (like writing novels), but it’s still just, you know, writing. A hobby. A (possible) profession, just like any other. A way to make yourself feel better about day to day life. Something you do.
Something you, ultimately, take completely for granted—and you might not even be aware of the fact you’re taking it as such.
So it’s not that unusual to note that it takes a mindblowing event—like making ten teenagers laugh at the same time with your character improv—to understand the importance of what’s actually happening when you tell a story, when you improvise one, or when you write it down. (No, the order of the things is not relevant.)
I often lose sight of it, but the honest truth is simple: every time you write something, you create.
Writing this post, writing the novel in November, crafting the characters and tearing them apart for plot and science—all of it is, actually, creation. It doesn’t have to be good; it doesn’t even have to been usable in any manner—at least that’s what I’ve been telling myself as this unforgivably long month had finally started winding to a close—It’s still new, and it’s still something that wasn’t previously there, so it’s something you’ve created.
The fun part about writing as creation, once you realize that that’s exactly what you’re doing, no matter how worklike or tiresome it might feel, is that there’s all manners of approaches you can take. You can do it for love, whatever that means. You can do it for money—yes, it is possible, and if you think that people are lying when they’re saying it, try googling romance series writers sometime—or for the sake of art itself. (Which I’m afraid I cannot personally say anything about because I see fiction as a tool of education and entertainment which has the beneficial side-effect of passing the time better than a lot of other diversions out there.) You can do it for fun, too, because there’s only so many way to keep these hyperactive brains of ours entertained for so long, and a little writing goes a long way to keep the writers themselves happy.
You can write, too, for the sake of creation itself, to make something new—and enjoy the realization that you have brought it about, that there’s no one else who could claim your victory, and that all those immesureable hours and innumerable days spent typing amount to something in the end. Big, important point: nobody has to read what you’ve written for it to exist, nor for it to be the result of an act of creation on your side.
But the thing which hits me the most—and the Dungeons and Dragons session yesterday made good headway into making me realize it—is that one of the major reasons, if not the main one, why I keep writing-cum-creating, is because it’s the only thing I really know how to do. There will always be other activities I find fun and pleasure and some sort of satisfaction in, not all of them ‘creative’—but writing is the absolute goddamn best. And I can’t even say why, but I’m positive one of the reasons for it is that creation, in short, is addictive.
There will come a day—maybe even December 1st—when I’ll have spent the whole day without a single new word written. It’ll be tough, but I’ll get through it. As long as nobody ever tries telling me I have to stop writing altogether, because writing—and, even more, creating—is not something I’m willing to compromise on.
So that’s it. Twenty nine days down, one to go.
Let’s go get the shit kicked out of us by writing.
Ps. The quote in the title was stolen from one of the toughest scenes to watch in the mid-naughts Battlestar Galactica series. Which somebody wrote—created—too, and for which I am forever grateful to them.
Photo by Ed Dunens.