Wednesday, October 19, 2011

National Day on Writing: Hoping for the Unexpected

If you're one of our regular followers, you know we're currently featuring a series of posts in honor of the Third Annual National Day on Writing, which will be celebrated here in the United States tomorrow, October 20. Here's an excerpt from the official website explaining why the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) founded this event:
"In light of the significance of writing in our national life, to draw attention to the remarkable variety of writing we engage in, and to help writers from all walks of life recognize how important writing is to their lives, NCTE established October 20 as The National Day on Writing."
Last year, when I posted on the actual day of the Second Annual National Day on Writing, I blogged on the topic of "Why I Write." My answer then had to do with having an inner calling to write, as Padgett Powell says, "in the closet of my soul." But that's not the only reason I write. The April 2011 issue of O, The Oprah Magazine, included a quote from former U.S. Poet Laureate Billy Collins that captures another of my reasons. Collins says:
"The hope for the unexpected is so essential to my process. I wouldn't start a poem if I already knew the ending. The pen is not just a recording device; it can also be an instrument of discovery."
I share Collins' "hope for the unexpected." For me, writing, especially fiction writing, is an adventure. I never know where a story will lead me. But I always learn something in the process. Even when I've plotted out a story and know the ending, I often encounter surprises along the way. And when I'm struggling with a piece and don't know where it's going, hoping for the unexpected is what keeps me at it.

After this post goes live, I plan to also publish it to the National Gallery of Writing. I encourage all of you readers out there to also celebrate by submitting a piece of your own writing. If you need help finding a topic, see the Writing Workout below. And if you're looking for other ways to celebrate tomorrow, visit NCTE's page on getting involved in the celebration.

Speaking of celebrations, I'd like to acknowledge a couple of milestones here on our blog: Welcome to our 400th Google follower: Soma Mohapatra! She happened to join us the day after our 400th post, which was Jeanne Marie's kick-off of this series about the National Day on Writing. A HUGE THANK YOU today to all our readers!      

Writing Workout:
In Honor of the National Day on Writing  

For this Writing Workout, you will create something to contribute to the National Gallery of Writing. The gallery accepts all sorts of submissions, including "electronic presentations, blog posts, documentary clips, poetry readings, 'how to' directions, short stories, memos, audio and video clips."

Need a topic? Here are four ideas for you:
  1. Read Jeanne Marie's post about her young daughter's love of writing, and then write your own blog post (aka "essay") on the topic "Why I Write."
  2. Read Esther's post on writing a "thanku," and JoAnn's response, then write your own "thanku."
  3. Read Mary Ann's post about how she misses receiving handwritten letters. Then write a handwritten letter (or if your handwriting is as bad as mine, type and print the letter, then sign it) to someone you've fallen out of touch with. Be sure to send it the low-tech way, via snail mail.
  4. Reflect on the above quote from Billy Collins, then write about a time when your own writing has led to "the unexpected."
When you're done, submit your piece to the National Gallery of Writing, then come back and share a comment here about your experience.

Have a happy National Day on Writing tomorrow!
And happy writing every day!


Wild About Words said...

Holy mackerel! Your timing with this post couldn't have been better. I'm giving a writing workshop tomorrow for about 45 young writers and will encourage them to share their writing to celebrate National Day on Writing.


Carmela Martino said...

Hope the workshop goes well. Thanks for sharing!