The Novelist’s Ocean Breeze

I’m writing this at my boyfriend’s house while he is at work, most likely cleaning up after a long day of burrito-wrapping and thinking, “I bet she hasn’t done her homework.”

And he would be right, except that the above word choice implies that I haven’t begun my homework, which I most certainly have, and that small stretch of a technicality makes him wrong. :p

It is true, however, that I did not get very far this evening, and one of the reasons for this is that I’ve been enjoying the novelist’s equivalent of a fresh ocean breeze. Say you’ve been working on a novel for a long time — eight years or so. You now know the story and characters so intimately that it’s just stifling. Every day, every time you enter your writing zone, it’s the same people, the same places, and the same events happening over and over until it feels like you can’t breathe this stale setting anymore without going insane (or just falling asleep from boredom).

But then this new breeze blows in. It sweeps away the sweat, fills your lungs, and showers you with particles from the sea, little shards of ideas that fall right into your palms for the sole purpose of being able to roll off your fingertips. It carries the sound of unknown voices and the scent of unexplored lands. It wraps around you and fills you with warmth, with the thrill of a new adventure.

Many writers agree that there is nothing more exciting than starting a new novel. Be it creating the characters, the world, or the plot, it’s an adventure that belongs to no one but the author. It’s the stage in which you have nothing but possibilities, and anything goes as long as the ideas keep coming. Then, either slowly or all at once, pieces start fitting together. With hardly any effort, things start to make sense. You realize that this grain of sand here and that one over there really belong to the same shell. Characters whisper, then mumble, then finally are speaking so clearly and eagerly that your fingers have to rush over the keyboard or across the page before their words are lost forever.

And then, with your hands and eyes and ears and chest full of this euphoric breeze, you are ready to write a novel.

That, friends, is why James will get home tonight and sigh at me in exasperation for my neglected homework. It’s also why I know that I am, above all else, a writer. You can’t feel something like this — about anything — and still be able to doubt its hold on you. Even if writing isn’t it, I hope that everyone is able to experience this kind of passion for something in their lives. And if you can’t, I hope you find it soon. Don’t settle; it may not be obvious now, but if you keep searching, eventually you’ll notice that there’s one thing you always go back to. One thing that no one can change your mind about, that makes you feel happier and more fulfilled than anything else. Believe in it, and never give up.

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