Tuesday, October 18, 2005

THE GREAT WRITING RACE


The Abandoned Pair, originally uploaded by | HD |.

November is coming, and for a lot of writers, November doesn't just mean turkey dinners and raking piles of brown leaves. It means the particular madness that is known as NANOWRIMO. Though I've never yet reached the finish line, which entails producing either 50, 000 words or the first draft of a novel in a month, the effort has increased my productivity. So once again it's time to get out the bright red track shoes and start stretching. The marathon starts in less than two weeks!

One form of stretching is psyching yourself up for the race. To that end, I'm posting a piece I wrote last year:

WHY I THINK WRITING FAST IS BETTER

1. Because it really can be done. Frequently, we writers are under the impression that the gods of writing are stingy types. They only dole out x number of pages a day--hell, sometimes just a measly paragraph or two, and then they move on to the next poor sucker sitting at a computer. Ask for more and you get your hand slapped and a stern lecture about the importance of gratitude. But countless writers have talked back to their fears, their indolence, and the need for a piece of chocolate or a cup of coffee or a shot of tequila right now and proven otherwise, producing terrific work at breakneck speeds.

2. Because the unconscious mind is a sprinter, not a stroller. When you write fast, you go deeper. You tap into a power you'll never reach if you treat every word like a bronze artifact, in need of daily polishing.

3. Because even if you have to delete the whole damn thing, you'll have probably learned something in the process. Remember: How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice, practice, practice. You can practice slowly, and take a dozen years to write your first crappy drafts or you can just tap the writing gods on the shoulder, hold out your little porridge bowl like Oliver Twist, and humbly ask for more. Now please.

4. Because everything the scientists say about momentum is true.
A body at rest remains at rest, etc...It works for writers too!

5. Because Ray says so, and when it comes to writing, Ray is always right. Ray who? If you really want to know, go out and buy Zen and the Art of Writing. It may not be the most technical book on writing, but it's full of joy and energy. And when you come down to it, isn't that what great writing's all about?

19 comments:

maria said...

I made it to the finish line a few years ago, with my 50,000 words packed in a file. A novel there wasn't to be found in all those pages --- but the challenge of just writing, regardless of how I felt about it, was more than met. I learned a lot from that experience that freed me as a writer.

Been thinking of doing it again -- but I have too many other projects going on, as well as a commitment to family, one of whom has his own finish line in sight, and I want to help him get there!

Sharon Hurlbut said...

I love #2 and I'm going to remind myself of it every day during NaNo. As for Ray - I defy anyone, writer or not, to read his book and not come away ready to sit down and write. His passion is contagious.

finnegan said...

I would have to agree with you 100% Patry.
It's the same set of analogies at play with visual art---the idea of being overly precious about forms---polishing and pocketing the "bronze arty-fact" without ever realizing the mother lode is 10 feet below. Can you dig it?

It's the same for songwriters. How many times have I heard that a "classic" was dashed off in a single sitting? No mention of the thousand-odd hours spent twisting and turning lyrics and notes that never get heard.

Ok, last one and then I'll flip the switch here. Upon being asked how long it had taken him to draw a simple sketch, Matisse replied: "50 years."

Debra said...

I agree that writing fast is better, for many of the reasons you've listed.

But I do wonder whether the unconscious mind is a more of a long distance runner - when you run for a while your internal chatter fades away and you can let yourself be the run.
Ever had that feeling that you don't know where the words have come from, after a long writing session?

Anyway - best of luck, and thanks for the tip about Ray.

MB said...

Good God, I needed to read this today. Thank you, Patry.

Debra, I often don't know where the words come from, even without going long distances. But I wholeheartedly agree it takes a certain focus or mindset to get there.

melly said...

Okay, you sold me, I'm in :)

I actually signed up but I doubt I'd be able to participate being half the month away...
C'est la vie...

Patricia said...

I signed up today!!!! I'm excited, I'm going to see if I can print this post, it's great, just what I need to get me going!! Thanks Patry. xo

Vickie said...

It isn't even so much the fastness of writing, it is not interrupting the flow. If the ideas are coming fast, I behoove you to keep up. Even if most of it is crap, there's always the chance that there will be one jewel buried within. In most cases, there's more than one...they just need some polishing.

James Goodman said...

I have thought about doing this two years in a row, but both times I've had a major project at my day job launch for November. Maybe next year.

rdl said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
rdl said...

Great advice!
Can't wait to get the book!

Dave said...

Count me in. I had planned to do it, and you blog reminded me. I went to login, and discovered that I hadn't signed up properly.

I am now signed up and scared. :O

I am writing 2 separate novels already. I use my cool down time from one to work on the other.

So I guess thay go back burner for a month.

Good luck to you, and thanks for the reminder.

k1tchenwitch said...

Great post!! I'm signed up for nano too. I may have to pick up a copy of Ray's book first though. . .

Sinéad said...

As the queen of procrastination and the champion of displacement activities ("I must rearrange my books alphabetically/clean out the kitchen cupboards/insert other mundane task here"), I think I might bite the bullet and sign up this year.
Yikes!

matt said...

i love this idea, though i'm not yet sure i'll try it. the part of me that is most acutely aware of the other part of me that procrastinates too much is rooting hard for this to happen, though. we shall see what we shall see...

fin said...

i tend to write very slowly...that's my version of zen.

Ova Girl said...

i think i'm probably going to try this as well...agree with your 'write fast' ideas. Some great things happen when you don't self sensor.

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