How Do You Come Up With That?

By Nanóuk Kromhout van der Meer


Even though I cannot say I’ve always been writing, I have always been a writer. If I would sentimentally look back on my life, one thing would clearly stand out. Stories have always been a part of me, even as a child I always made them up.

Like most children I grew up, or at least I grew older. Though I realized the distinction between reality and fantasy, I never stopped making up stories all the time. And to be able to do this keep doing this in a socially acceptable way, I started writing.

When I was asked to write this article my first question to myself was: how the hell do I write in English? Except for papers, other UCR torture, and a few poems, I never write in English. Why?

First of all, this is my best excuse for making mistakes when I do speak or write English. Second, I believe I can just express myself best in my native language.

Of course, I love to make an exception for this article. Since I am a naturally chaotic person, I attempted to structure this article by asking a few questions I’ve heard before. So here is a conversation with myself, in printed form.

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What do I write?

Well, a lot. But most important to me are my ‘long stories’. These are stories the size of a novel, in which I invest my time for a few months. Most are in the fantasy genre, which is really my favourite, though UCR courses have also sparked my interest in writing an historical story, for once. This is way harder than I imagined, since I now suddenly have to check my facts. At the moment I’m writing about Alexander the Great. I can honestly say this was not my best idea ever, since I’m writing papers on this topic as well. This results first of all in an ‘Alexander overload’, and second, in a very creative, but not academic mixture of fact and fiction.

What does writing mean to me?

The very cliché and cheesy answer ‘everything’ would be correct. Yet I also have a sort of love-hate relationship with writing. Sometimes everything works and I feel like I’ve just written the best chapter the world has ever seen. Sometimes I don’t seem to get a word right and I prefer to throw my laptop out of the window. It depends on the day.

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How do you come up with that?

I don’t know either. This is a question most writers hear a lot. Still the answer remains the same. Honestly, I have no idea. Anything can inspire me to write. Thinking of a story is not very hard. It is the details that sometimes surprise me, and it is the characters that make it interesting. And yes, I do sometimes inspire characters on people I know. I would never copy and rename them, though. It feels surprisingly awkward to write about real people.

How do you write so much?

I have been asked this a lot and I can’t really give a useful answer to this either. The only thing I can say is ‘just do it, and make sure you enjoy the whole writing process’. When I started writing I felt like I had almost finished a book after 250 words. Last year I finished three stories of about 100k. Just enjoy it. There is no amount of words you should aim for.

Lastly, if you write you might encounter the problem of not wanting people to see your Google search history. I had a very strong feeling of being a criminal after researching the best way to poison someone. “I solemnly swear I’m up to nothing else than writing.”

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Nanóuk Kromhout van der Meer, Class of 2018, is a Literature and Antiquity major from Middelburg, The Netherlands.

Photos courtesy of Nanóuk Kromhout van der Meer

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