Tuesday, November 3, 2009


Yesterday, I signed up for National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo. I've thought about doing it for years, but would forget it was going on until, say, November 29. Since you need to write 50,000 words and most days I'm lucky if I write 200, this is a huge challenge for me.

The impetus to sign up was mainly from reading Art and Fear by David Bayles and Ted Orland. Seriously, this book is an ass kicker. If you're a creative sort, you will either be completely astounded by this book or you are already so awesome that we cannot be friends. It's the kind of thing you read and think, Of course! and feel stupid you never thought of it before. But it's truly life changing for someone like me, who is such a perfectionist that I can barely get anything done.

One particular anecdote in the book has completely changed my view of writing.There's this pottery class, and the teacher divides the class into two groups. Group A will only be judged on the quantity of their work, while Group B will be judged on the quality of their work. At the end of the semester, the teacher will weigh Group A's pots, and they will receive an A for 50 pounds of pots, a B for 40 pounds, and so on and so on. Group B only has to produce one pot -- but it must be perfect. At the end of the semester, something surprising happens. Group B has barely produced anything -- and certainly no perfect pot -- while Group A has created many perfect pots. I'm not exaggerating when I say this was like one of those Oprah lightbulb moments, when everything comes into sudden focus and I see what I'm supposed to do with perfect clarity (and no, I'm not starting a girls' school in Africa). I immediately put the book down and ran to my computer to start writing. Ok, maybe not ran, but walked with a renewed purpose.

Are you laughing at me yet? Right, this is elementary stuff. The more you write, the more likely you'll write something worth reading. It's practice. Just like, when I studied piano, I didn't expect to be able to play Rites of Spring* until I practiced and practiced and learned the easier stuff, I can hardly be expected to write The Great American Novel while writing 3 or 4 tweets a day, and maybe a Facebook update. (*I never learned to play Rites of Spring. Are you shocked?)

After running walking purposefully to my computer, I remembered NaNoWriMo and signed up. And I must say, it's going beautifully. I am writing the most shit-filled, mind-bogglingly awful stuff I think I've ever written. And I couldn't be more excited about it. Because, surely, once I get all this crap out, there must be a jewel in there somewhere.

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