Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Coming Up - More Self-Torture!

Seems like I've been getting a bit down and even a bit 'emo' in these posts of late, so I figured it was time to leap in whole-bore.

Yep, I'm signing up for NaNoWriMo.

I knew this was for me as soon as I read the following in the FAQ:

If I'm just writing 50,000 words of crap, why bother? Why not just write a real novel later, when I have more time?

There are three reasons.

1) If you don't do it now, you probably never will. Novel writing is mostly a "one day" event. As in "One day, I'd like to write a novel." Here's the truth: 99% of us, if left to our own devices, would never make the time to write a novel. It's just so far outside our normal lives that it constantly slips down to the bottom of our to-do lists. The structure of NaNoWriMo forces you to put away all those self-defeating worries and START. Once you have the first five chapters under your belt, the rest will come easily. Or painfully. But it will come. And you'll have friends to help you see it through to 50k.

2) Aiming low is the best way to succeed. With entry-level novel writing, shooting for the moon is the surest way to get nowhere. With high expectations, everything you write will sound cheesy and awkward. Once you start evaluating your story in terms of word count, you take that pressure off yourself. And you'll start surprising yourself with a great bit of dialogue here and a ingenious plot twist there. Characters will start doing things you never expected, taking the story places you'd never imagined. There will be much execrable prose, yes. But amidst the crap, there will be beauty. A lot of it.

3) Art for art's sake does wonderful things to you. It makes you laugh. It makes you cry. It makes you want to take naps and go places wearing funny pants. Doing something just for the hell of it is a wonderful antidote to all the chores and "must-dos" of daily life. Writing a novel in a month is both exhilarating and stupid, and we would all do well to invite a little more spontaneous stupidity into our lives.

I can tell you, partly from experience, that everything above is true.

- Saying 'I'll do this cool then when I have time' is a great way to convince yourself never to do some cool thing. Make time, or don't bother talking about it.

- Expecting the first thing you do in any new endeavor to ring with beauty and elegance is a sure way to frighten yourself into never making an effort. If a baby waited until she was sure she wouldn't fall to start to try to walk, she'd still be crawling at 23.

- Doing art fot the hell of it is its own reward - I've seen this over and over again when doing community theater. You don't do community theater to make a profound artistic statement, or pave the way to a burgeoning professional career. You do it because getting together with other people to create something is fun and exciting and does things to you that simply don't happen in other ways.

You'd think that after being on the planet as long as I have, and supposedly learning all this stuff before, that I wouldn't have to keep learning it over and over again. Ah, well.

One thing I won't be doing, though, is posting updates on my NaNoWriMo progress on this blog. As far as I sse it, setting a personal goal of writing 50,000 words in a month is bad enough without trying to write extra words about how easy/hard/surprisingly fun/whatever it turns out to be. When it's over will be soon enough to talk about the experience.

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