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The (Not So) Complicated Element of Surprise

NOTE: I met Annia Napier, a young writer in Rapid City, around Christmas of 2020. Her great aunt reached out to me with a special request for the holidays. Could she purchase a gift card for her niece, Annia, to spend some one-on-one time with a published writer? Annia, then 15, had completed the draft of one novel and was cranking away on the second. But apart from her supportive family, she didn’t have anyone with whom she could really talk writing and explore the often evasive mysteries of the creative process.

Annia’s aunt surely didn’t realize it at the time, but her phone call was the beginning of a remarkable relationship, one where this 37-year-old writer might be learning just as much from her now 16-year-old understudy as that 16-year-old is learning from her. In Annia, I see myself as a teenager. I recognize the determination and uncertainty, the dogged desire to succeed and the importance of receiving persistent encouragement from the adults in her midst.

Were it not for the few adults who believed in me and my passion as a teenager – Jasper Warembourg, my high school English teacher; Janet Montgomery, the editor of my local newspaper (and Jasper’s wife); and my parents – I never would have pursued writing as a career. It would have been too easy to throw in the towel, convince myself that I wasn’t good enough to succeed, tell myself that no one cared about what I wrote, anyway.

Annia’s creative energy, curiosities about life and incredible self-motivation are refreshing and inspirational. As we work through her first novel together – tightening the plot, strengthening the characters, exploring why various elements of story matter – Annia is coming to bat for me. She has graciously agreed to help me in the coming months with social media posts and will contribute to my blog once a month.

Here is her first post.

I invite you to follow the creative journey with us. And when Annia’s debut novel is ready for publication, we’ll let you know!

-Kate Meadows

When I first started writing, I assumed that if your writing were complex, naturally it would turn out good. I never really understood what people wanted in their reading experience, and I never understood what I truly wanted to accomplish in my own writing. As a young writer, I am still figuring that out. All I knew was that I had an idea, and I wanted to bring it to life. To do that, I reasoned, it had better be complex. As I have learned more about writing, I have realized writing and storytelling, whether in books or films, are quite complex. But they are not complex in the way I once thought they were. The complexity comes in the ways one’s ideas connect to create a whole picture. For a whole picture to exist, the writer or storyteller must first have the ideas and recognize what makes those ideas unique. If the creator is able to connect the ideas well, it is as if you, the reader or viewer, have entered into a mystical realm. Sometimes, the ideas I have about what I am going to write are overwhelmingly complicated, and I have to make the decision to go with the flow. If I resist the flow, sometimes my mind cannot handle the chaos of it all. Other times, my ideas can be pretty simple, and I have to come up with more ideas to make the story work, which can be hard, too. 

Annia Napier

Often, I am not sure what I am doing when I’m planning my work. But I know that if I stay open to the possibility of surprise, amazing things can happen when I walk into the unknown adventure of storytelling. You know when you have ideas, but there are all these blank spaces in between? You have the simple parts that are easy to understand, but you do not yet know how you will connect those parts. As much as I want to push forward with my work at this stage, I find that, more often than not, I have to be patient.  I have to wait for that “aha” moment to arrive. That epiphany of how to connect the dots comes in its own time and in its own way. If I force it, my story no longer feels genuine. I have learned to trust the process and expect to be surprised. Because, when that “aha’ finally does come, I am left joyfully astonished. The creative muse puts a fire into my work that I never could have, had I not simply trusted the creative process. It reminds me of why I want to write and tell a story. Every part of writing is an adventure. There is adventure in the waiting, and in the writing process itself. There is adventure in the parts of the process you enjoy the most, and adventure in the most difficult and frustrating parts. 

I love it when an idea clicks in your mind after hearing a smart quote or learning something fascinating from research. I also love that “click” of an idea when you realize the truth about something. You want to share that truth with others, and sometimes, it can be the truth your character needs to learn in a story, as well. Although you both, the author and the character, never knew it, that simple occurrence or exchange in your life can be the thing that connects the dots. But these moments can only happen if you remain open to possibility and believe that answers throughout your creative process can present themselves in unexpected ways.

I have found it is satisfying when a complex thing gets simplified by the timely knowledge and experience that you gain over time. Sometimes things become simpler as you learn and grow, and other times they become more complicated. But that is just how it works, because life, as we all know, is simply complicated.

2 thoughts on “The (Not So) Complicated Element of Surprise”

  1. wow! Wow! WOW! Both Kate & Annia on your gift of the spoken words AND how the creative process works! I have studied it my whole life and you are nailing it!! Currently I am listening to the book, IMAGINE- How Creativity Works by Jonah Lehrer talking about how the process must go through for an innovative creative work to come into our mind.
    I’m so glad to be a small piece of this wonderful relationship! Keep using God’s gift he has given you both!!!

    1. Thank you so much, Auntie Pam! I wouldn’t have been able to do this without you if it weren’t for God’s blessing!

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