DeNo-What-Bre?!: The Painful Process of Creative Writing

By February 1, 2013Writing about Writing

typewriterI’ve always wanted to participate in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo); there’s something romantic and adventurous about a group of over-caffeinated writers typing furiously to beat their self-imposed deadline. For the uninformed, NaNoWriMo is a nation-wide celebration of literacy – for the month of November, writers, aspiring novelists, and crazy people work to pump out 50,000 words before December rolls around. NaNoWriMo groups and online communities give people a place to share and critique their work with like-minded individuals.

Throughout the years, though, there was always an obstacle preventing me from participating in this national exercise in novel writing/procrastination. The impassable problem that prevented my participation was DePaul’s quarter system. For the past four years, the beginning of NaNoWriMo has been marred and desecrated by the cold, inhuman power of Finals Week. It’s difficult to work up the gumption to write a research paper during the finals frenzy, let alone a full-length novel. Every year, I would attempt to start a novel, abandon it to focus on finals, and then feel bad. It was an awful cycle.

But a conversation with other writers at DePaul showed that they faced the same problem. Whether they were professors, students, or both, they all faced the Sophie’s Choice of finals or novels. Our collective frustration led to a solution: rather than force ourselves to follow the largely arbitrary rules of NaNoWriMo, we created our own set of largely arbitrary rules. Together, we formed DeNoWriBre, which stands for DePaul’s Novel Writing Break. During DePaul’s six week break, we vowed to write 50,000 words. A full novel.

The reason for the self-imposed deadline was simple: we needed a reason to finish. Laziness and busy schedules had prevented us from writing in the past. But with the motivation of both the January deadline and the support of other writers, we would have the encouragement we needed to finish our novels, get them published, and all win Pulitizers.

This didn’t happen. No one was able to crank out 50,000 words. Some got close (One inspired writer hit 30,000 words) and another participant got a publishing deal for a short story collection. But none of us hit the magic number of 50,000. The experience, though, was worth it. The nature of the group made me excited to write – even though I didn’t come close to 50,000 words, I was constantly thinking of my writing in a new way, and proud of the progress I had accomplished.

DeNoWriBre reinforced two commonly known, but rarely discussed, points. First, that creative writing is one of the most difficult processes known to man. Hemingway said, “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at typewriter and bleed.” He’s pretty accurate, except that he neglects to mention that the pain is self-inflicted. The deadline made the creative writing process even more stressful.

Second, and perhaps more importantly, it showed me that creative writing is worth it. Every word that I wrestled onto the page was a triumph. Having a community of writers to share my work with was intimidating at first, but ended up being one of the most rewarding experiences of DeNoWriBre. The fact that other people were suffering and celebrating along with me made the process that much more meaningful. I did not finish a novel. I rekindled a lifelong passion.

So now, DePaul’s break is over. But I will continue to write, even when I am busy. Because no matter how arduous the writing process is, I know how rewarding it can be.

Many of my DeNoWriBre compatriots participate in the DePaul UCWbL’s Writers’ Guild. These creative writing groups meet every Monday in both Lincoln Park from 4:30-6 PM. Check them out if you’re into creative writing.