Nightwrite is a made-up word about making things up.
It’s a tiny dose of creativity
The idea is to take a brief moment
as the day draws to a close
to let your mind wander
and make room for the smallest expression
of something that doesn’t yet exist.
Maybe it’s a rhythmic line of poetry
an incomplete lyric
or snippet of dialogue.
Write a few sentences. Maybe doodle or sketch.
No need to polish. No need to title the novel where this will one day appear.
Each night, that moment belongs to you.
And what you do next does, too.
You might take these small creations and
post them for the world to see
or throw them out
or tuck them in a safe place.
Maybe you’ll fill the front of your fridge or text them to that friend who so enjoys this part of you.
It's tempting to see creativity as a means to an end, a way to check a box or accomplish a goal.
“What are you working on?”
“What is it for?”
But, sometimes the purpose isn't a product. It's to find a way to say what you couldn’t say any other way.
Sometimes, it’s just for
“It came without ribbons.
It came without tags.
It came without packages, boxes or bags.”
Creativity remixes people and ideas and moments with our truest selves. The result is something unique and valuable, regardless of whether others see it as mundane or magical.
For me, nightwrite is a small reminder to embrace the made up and frivolous, unpolished and poetic. Maybe it will be for you, too.
The latest dispatch asked, Fiction, non-fiction, or somewhere in-between?
Unsurprisingly, I’m camp Fiction. People get caught up in details and grow blind to truth—the truth of kind words, broken systems or internal Everests. We get distracted from understanding others’ stories by obsessing over fact-checks. Fiction removes that need so we can examine our experiences.
That being said, I’ve dipped a toe in non-fiction in the past few years. I discovered the awesomeness of biographies through Unbroken. It is a wolf of a non-fiction book, a thriller and war story.
Last week I thought “I should read more novels,” and walked into a Stockholm bookstore near Stureplan to buy a novel. I picked a short one out at random. The blurb said it was a piercing description of love among intellectuals, or something like that. Near the start of the book, the main character, a rather unhappy intellectual, gets the urge to read a novel, and walks into a bookstore near Stureplan… I briefly felt myself hurling into the vortex of metafiction and the paradox of so-called reality. The novel, Wilful Disregard by Lena Andersson, is, you could say, about fiction and nonfiction. Its characters read a lot, give each other books, reference them (there’s a romantic dialogue involving the difference between utilitarianism and deontology ethics). And they present themselves to each other as fictions and nonfictions. They try to read each other, but misunderstand. I’ll be reading more novels.
You know those initiatives to read 26 or 52 books in a year (you commit to 20 or 40 pages a day)? Well, they work. So I've been doing that with some success, even if my daily count is not always met. What I too realized was that I had shifted inordinately to the non-fiction, all-work-all-the-time reading, and sometimes just picking up a book just exhausted me because it felt like I was always learning, always taking in, and never just reading for the pleasure of it. Also, in my job I read 10-15K words a day on screens, so I really needed books to become a reprieve, and not a task.
So, I try to keep to the 26 or 52 in a year and my daily page count, but now I flip in between a non-fiction and a fiction book, which keeps me engaged, inspired and fed.
Growing up, I was much like you - all fiction, all of the time. I devoured books on the train to school, in between classes, any time there wasn’t an obligation to be social (and sometimes even when there was). In my university years, it was similar, and then over the following years, the amount of reading I did - of books, at least - dropped significantly. I blame the constant presence of the internet, and the coding, games, social media and online news articles it brought with it.
And then my reading diet changed, with a growing number of non-fiction works, albeit often as long-form journalism and essays rather than proper books. What you’ve said about reading non-fiction being more of an accomplishment rings true - it feels like I’m widening my awareness of the world around me. Fiction’s always been there though - but often sticking to the latest works by my favourite authors instead of a wider array. The value is perhaps less tangible in a utilitarian sense, but being introduced to other worlds and beautiful prose is food for the soul.
These days, it’s still a mix - but the main problem I have is that I buy books faster than I read them, and your recommendation of Dept. of Speculation has led me to order that too (all part of your devious plan, I’m sure!). Maybe I’ll make some progress on the backlog tonight, before that arrives…
Until my recent move, I have always had this great teetering pile of books next to my bed and on my nightstand. I am cursed/blessed with a rapidly moving brain, meaning I require LOTS of stimulation. So the books were there. Today I feel like Tolstoy, I will slog through the last 200 pages War and Peace even though all the good characters are dead, I swear it. Or maybe I'll read that novel my mother-in-law swears is great, the one they are making into a movie, I know the copy she gave me is here somewhere. No wait, I haven't finished the third part of that great biography of Johnson. Oh, there is poor neglected dust-covered, Dickinson, no wonder Emily stays in her room if her friends treat her this way. Who am I kidding, I will read the Twilight, and I will shamelessly enjoy it. No, no brain candy for later, there is a new Smithsonian and a New Yorker in the mail today. Ok, admittedly that is brain candy too but it's erudite and educational brain candy and fodder for dinner party conversation and I want to sound smart at least. And on and on it goes until finally I settle....for at least an hour or two.
So somewhere in-between, always, in-between.
Fiction all the way, no contest. I’ll do audiobooks, and in my youth I read many of my favorite books that way. But just about the best thing in the world is being able to find a spare five hours to sit down and lose myself in some other world via the gateway of the written word, activated by my imagination.
Fiction with a sprinkling of non-fiction. I spent about 10 years of my life feeling like fiction was too self-indulgent and unproductive. Oh, how I wish I could have a do-over on those misguided years. I had no business ignoring a core part of who I am and how I came to be that way. I need a flock of characters running about in my imagination, and if I'm in-between books, the world feels a little too temporary. Some of my most content moments in life are when I'm curled up with a good story. I wish I could travel back in time to my fictionless years and give myself a grownup time out, plunking a stack of novels in my lap with a one-word directive: "Read!"
For me non-fiction is there to help me think, to focus and to discover new things to think about. It is about discovering new dots and connecting old dots.
Fiction on the other hand is about stopping to think, having fun, and letting my mind wander. It is about letting my mind rest for a while.
I'd have to say it really depends on my mood. If I'm feeling in need of sustenance, it would have to be fiction. If I'm feeling like learning something new - or reading something terribly articulate and well-written - I'll pick up non-fiction. I've dropped off of reading fiction in the last 10 or so years. I think so much of contemporary fiction doesn't appeal to me - it feels very forced and a bit too tidily constructed in order to impress. It's the same with music: a feeling of authenticity and honesty has been lost to the desire to ... make sales, perhaps.
I'd have to say that I fall into the category of fiction AND somewhere in between. It only takes a quick glance at my Goodreads page to see that I read a lot and most of it is fiction. I've had a prejudice against nonfiction for years and even though I've read some books in that genre that I loved (such as Rebecca Skloot's The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks) I still don't wander on my own into that section of the store. I have to be pushed. But the "in between" comes from my love of poetry. Poetry isn't labeled fiction or nonfiction. The truth is, it is both. Some poets write purely autobiographical work and others write complete fantasy, but many (like myself) combine the two. Some of my poems are true, some are completely made up, and others start out true but cross a line somewhere into "how it could have happened." When I'm reading my poetry aloud, I'll often preface one by saying, "This isn't about me," and people will laugh. But I feel the need to say it because although readers don't assume that first person novels are really about the author, they assume that first person poems are. :)
Note: The best poetry book I've read recently is Instant Winner by Carrie Fountain. I don't know if the poems are true or not. I just know they're good.
Fiction, with a dusting of occasional non-fiction so as not to become a completely unlettered ignoramus.
Oooooooooh fiction. So totally fiction. The only non-fiction I can handle are generally programming books, but even of those, I'm pretty sure I haven't read literally every word of even one. Fiction is where my soul lives. Recently, I've been trying to push into fictions that help shift my perspective and increase my empathy. Specifically, this has meant looking for authors that have an uncommonly heard voice (for instance, fantasy what isn't Euro-centric). It's been very rewarding so far.
I'm far too prone to read non-fiction these days, and I love it, but I can't help but feel there's something missing when everything is so serious and literal. Play and "whimsy" are such an important part of life. In fact your question has led me to resolve to have more of it in my life - in the form of fantastical fiction, or just giggles and silliness day to day. It is so good for us!
The Cost of Daydreaming by Vivian Gornick:
A surprising tenderness pressed against my heart with such strength it seemed very nearly like joy; and with unexpected sharpness I became alert not to the meaning but to the astonishment of human existence. It was there on the street, I realized, that I was filling my skin, occupying the present.
You Are Not Your Job by Alyson Madrigan:
The irony of our situation became increasingly apparent, of course: We couldn’t get the company up and off the ground without racing hard against limited resources. Yet we couldn’t properly build the company without embodying what we were trying to create.
Who is the best storyteller you know?