It is January 1st, and as I sit in my kitchen writing this, there is a strong wind outside. The bird feeders sway, unsynchronized; leaves I thought were long gone fly around the deck; a plastic saucer lacking a plant lifts briefly into the air before crashing into the glass; and my cat stares warily out the window.
I generally have a forward-looking spirit, but that was dampened in 2018. In 2018, I felt compelled toward stillness — to watch, like my cat, eyeing the chaos outside of the window. Because of that, I’ve thought a lot about chaos — how it has to destroy, sometimes, before it can be an agent of progress and even order. An easy example: Consider the way you have to make a mess before progress can be made in renovating a room or even organizing a closet.
Now consider how we humans naturally resist progress/chaos, because it requires mental and/or physical effort, in favor of comforts like downy things to curl up with, and full bellies, and stillness on the housebound side of the window. Consider how easy it can be to be lulled into a life that doesn’t so much seek change as it seeks to prevent it.
A resistance to change and chaos may not be a bad thing for some people, but I would argue it isn’t the road you’ve chosen, if you’ve chosen to be a novelist. Because you, my writer friend, need chaos to produce your work.
You need the chaos of ideas.
You need a mess of words on the page, and sometimes all over your desk, several tables, and the floor.
You need to be frustrated over that character / plot point / predictable ending, because that discomfiting chaos is what can and will inspire new solutions as you seek a more satisfying relief —
and test your personal limits,
and the breadth of your creativity,
and meet goals,
and imbue your life with a sense of purpose.
But it’s a cycle that demands you step outside of your safe place and twist in the wind.
- “Pursue your contentment relentlessly with all your energy & focus,” a friend of mine wrote just this morning. (Thanks, David!) Consider the difference between contentment and comfort. What would it take to make you feel professionally content?
- Is there a barrier between you and your goals? What is that, and how can you get beyond it?
- Can you see how temporary chaos can lead to big gains?
- How can you make your contentment a more active venture, and make it a priority in 2019?
- If you’re creatively stagnant, what can you shatter in your manuscript that might ultimately lead to a better relief?
For Your Characters
- How do your characters create and/or resist chaos?
- How do your characters work against their own contentment?
- How might chaos push your characters beyond their comfort zones and to make discoveries about themselves, for good or ill?
- How might chaos become an ally for your characters’ contentment?
- How might your protagonist become the wind of change for someone or something bigger than themselves?
I wish you all forward-looking spirits, progress and chaos that lead to epiphanies, and much personal and professional fulfillment in 2019. Happy New Year, friends. Write on.