You know, I've been a writer for a long time. I'll date myself, 30 years, pretty crazy and I joke that I've written nearly everything in the world except for a vacuum cleaner manual. And, the thing about this is I think that some day that vacuum cleaner manual awaits me in the future. I will end up writing it or I'll write a story about a writer who writes a vacuum cleaner manual. So yeah, my main thing though is fiction. When I left college I was like, I wanna be a fiction writer. There was no plan B and I've written novels. I've written short stories. I've written flash fiction, those little tiny 100 word stories that are exactly 100 words. The funny thing though about being a writer, especially a fiction writer, is that you don't you know, you don't just sell a best selling novel like right away usually, at least usually. So I've done a lot of different types of writing as well. I've worked in corporate communications. I've been a journalist. I've written stories about like sixth gr...
ade football games and corporate technology that I still don't know really what I wrote or understand it, but somehow it worked. They paid me. And then, you know all this led me though to being Executive Director of National Novel Writing Month and that's maybe been the most enriching part of being a writer and that's because I get to work with so many writers and at all stages, too, from beginner to best selling authors. Although, the best selling authors really don't need me too much at that point. But, our mantra at NaNoWriMo is that everyone has a story to tell and that everyone's story matters and we see evidence of that every year. Last year more than 500,000 people signed up for our writing program. So, you know, that's a lotta people and it creases every year and it just goes to show you how many people wanna write and write a book. There was a recent New York Times survey, 81% of Americans want to write a book someday, but most of them don't. I think maybe, let's just guess, maybe about 1% of them do. And the reason they don't, I think about this, why don't they write the book of their dreams. I think a lot of them think that they're not real writers. You know, writing is something that other people do, people who've taken classes, for instance, or live in New York City. They don't have time in their busy lives. We're all busy, right? You know, it's tough to make time to write a book. I think on that note, sometimes a book is such an enormous project that the enormity of it is overwhelming and daunting so they don't know where to start and maybe once they start they don't know how to get to the finish line. I think the worst thing is that I hear sometimes is that people think their experiences are trivial or not valuable enough to write about, or if they're writing a non-fiction, they don't have the right knowledge, other people are smarter and know more about the subject. So, people put a lot of obstacles in front of themselves and their creative dreams. So, where we going here? There we go. But, here's the thing and I love this quote by Pablo Picasso, every child is an artist, right? We know this, we've seen children playing in pre-school or on the streets or in the playground and seen them finger paint and stuff. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up. I think this is like one of the biggest challenges of life. You know, our lives as adults, the way they're defined are usually around these big to do lists and the to do lists relate to your career, where you're going for your current job, your next job, what you have to do in the house, if you have children or family, what you have to do with your family. It's full of all these shoulds, right? I should wash the dishes. I should earn more money. It's not necessarily creativity, I always think it like follows lower and lower on your to do list until it falls off entirely and then you just leave it there. And sometimes I think about this like, who outlawed doing a summersault for adults, you know? Who made a law that you couldn't finger paint or you couldn't just break into song, you know, just randomly in the day, you know? Kids feel that vibrant impulse and they create, they don't do it for approval, they don't do it for glory, they don't do it to be famous. They do it just because it's fun, it's who they are. It gives their life meaning. They even do this. They would give this speech like putting their, messing it up, sorry, I'm making myself ridiculous. But, that's part of creativity, too. Anyway so, with NaNoWriMo a lotta novelists when I've asked them, or writers, people who wanna write and I'll say do you NaNoWriMo? And they'll say, no, I'm not really a creative type. But the thing is, is that we're all creative types for this quote. We're born creative. That's what makes us human beings. We're wired to be creative. So, if you're doubting whether you have the creativity to write a book I would advise you not to doubt it because stories, the stories we read, the stories we write, they're the ways that we navigate life, right? I mean, when you write a story or read a story you get out of your skin and you go into somebody else's skin. That's the magic of it, that's the wonder and you're looking through their eyes on the world so you're getting new perspectives, not your perspectives. You're getting counterpoints and new visions. You're building empathy and tolerance. You know villains and you know protagonists, so you understand the differences between good or bad or the nuances in between. You get to think about that. Stories make us who we are, they shape our lives, they shape the way we live it. I recently read 75% of scientists say they became scientists because of the science fiction they read in their youth. You know, we think of science as all about laboratory experiments and physics is about math, but stories are behind that you know, because stories ignite the imagination to think what the universe is and that leads into the laboratory and into the mathematical equations. So, I often hear people trivialize stories as it's just entertainment and I think writing stories is way beyond entertainment. Philip Pullman, the writer, he said, let me think. He said, after nourishment, shelter and love, stories are what we need next and I think stories are a close second to those three things. So, and if you don't write your story you do so at your peril. Mary Oliver said, the most regretful people on earth are those who felt the call to creative work, who felt their own creative power restive and uprising, and gave to it neither power nor time. And, when I read this I think about those 81% of the people who say they wanna write a book someday and how many of them is sad. They're gonna be on their death bed, literally, thinking I wish I would've written that book, you know. So, today I want you to think about how we're gonna talk about how to banish, to write your book, banish regrets like this. You do not want that regret. So, I have four objectives for this workshop. I want you to, I hope you will know yourself more intimately as a creator. I hope you learn to understand what might be blocking you and how to overcome it. I hope that you'll learn strategies to get words on the page and I hope you'll learn to develop a creative mindset so that you can write every single day and you can not only start your book, you can finish it, too.