A Novel Experience

Along with several of my fellow blogging buddies, I’ve embarked upon the NaNoWriMo project. We’re all attempting to complete a 50,000 word novel between November 1 and November 30.

If you’re a regular reader here, you’ll know that I often post about my lack of time. It’s a subject that’s usually very near (if not dear!) to my heart. So I’m sure you’re thinking I’ve completely lost every ounce of common sense I ever had. Why would someone who already feels time deprived, add one more activity, and a huge one at that, to her list of projects and responsibilities?

I guess I’m just a masochist.

Actually, it’s because I really like doing stuff. I love trying things, even if I’m sometimes disappointed in the experience. Nothing ventured, nothing gained, is one of my mottoes.

Although I must say, at first the whole NaNoWriMo concept seemed like a complete joke. The main objective seems to be getting the words on paper. They don’t have to be pretty – as a matter of fact, they’ll probably be pretty ugly. It’s like a marathon – just get to the end, even if you’re limping and dragging your pathetic tail behind you.

Three days into the project, I’ve discovered what a powerful concept that is. After all, my name is Becca and I’m a perfectionist! But right now, in this particular instance, being perfect doesn’t count – it doesn’t even matter. So, when I’m typing away lickety split and a little nagging voice in my mind says, wait a minute, there’s a better word for that, or oops, I think that’s the wrong syntax, or yech! that’s a really stupid thing for that character to say – well, I just shrug it off and keep on typing. I can fix it later, I tell the little voice, that’s now sputtering uselessly where I’ve slammed it into the farthest corner of my mind.

Several months ago I read Bird by Bird, Anne Lamott’s fabulous and fun book about writing. Very early in the book, she discusses the absolute necessity for “shitty first drafts. ”
“Almost all good writing begins with terrible first efforts,” she states. “You need to start somewhere. Start by getting something – anything – down on paper.” She goes on to describe this first draft as “the child’s draft,” where you “let it all pour out and then let it romp all over the place, knowing that no one is ever going to see it.”

Julia Cameron, author of The Artist’s Way, is in total agreement with this concept. “In order to do something well we must first be willing to do it badly,” she writes.

And where do all these words (shitty and otherwise) come from? It’s amazing, really. Cameron says that our creative spirit is a natural instinct, and will “flow through us like an underground river, a stream of ideas we can tap into.” Lamott counsels letting the “childlike part of you channel whatever voices and visions come through and onto the page.” Natalie Goldberg, in Writing Down the Bones, warns, “don’t think too much. Just enter the heat of word and sounds and colored sensations, and keep your pen moving across the page.”

So far, it’s been a rather fascinating experience. The first two days, words came pouring onto the page, so fast my fingers could barely keep up. Well, this will be a cinch, I thought, cockily noting a word count of over 4500 words in two days. Day three has not been such a walk in the park. My mind was a little slower cranking it out today, reminding me of a car engine on a cold winter morning.

I have no idea where I’ll end up, or whether I’ll “win” the NaNoWriMo challenge (winning simply means completing the 50,000 word requirement by November 30.) But I’m enjoying this process of letting my imagination have free rein on the page, without worrying overmuch about getting everything exactly right. So, I’ll close with another quote, one I’m sure most of you have heard before, but it seems quite appropriate to this situation ~ “Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss it, you will land among the stars.”

Happy writing!

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8 thoughts on “A Novel Experience

  1. Becca ~ it is so nice to meet you, this past week I have seen you all over 🙂

    I loved everything you have said here, especially the ‘child’ concept and not worrying about the ‘shitty’ first writings…

    these ideas bring such freedom and puts the fun back into writing again! 😀

    Thank you so very much love, great post!

    XXX darlene

  2. Becca, good for you for trying. This is what I do everyday while trying to finish my novel – just write something, anything. Later, the light dawns and something more clever and creative takes its place. I have Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird on my desk to remind me that first drafts should be messy, whenever I start to get discouraged. I’m sure you’re going to do well – and you’ll have a great sense of accomplishment, not only for trying something new, but for getting thoughts and ideas into the light of day. Bravo!

  3. Ah yes, day three. The day creative juices come to a screeching halt. My cranky cold engine is coughing and sputtering right alongside yours. What’s worse is that I am now in day four and the prospects do not seem to be any better.

    I just keep telling myself I’m in it for the fun of the experience and try to forget the rest. I started out with the same abandon you did, but while my mind was reaching for new inspiration yesterday, I skimmed back over what I had already written and the beast that is “perfection” grabbed hold of my fingers and started fixing things.

    I’m trying to make the most of these weekend hours before work calls my name again on Monday.

    Keep us posted on your progress! 🙂

  4. Hi Becca!
    I’m sure that you are going to do something absolutely amazing and you’ll complete it! Remember that little song from Peter Pan?: Think of the happiest thing, it’s the same as having wings. Take a path and through the gate, if the moon is still awake you’ll see him wink his eye. You can fly, you can fly, you can fly!

    😀

  5. Good for you Becca! I think it’s hard, but necesswary, to let go of perfectionism. It ultimately hinders, more than aids.

    I love Julia Cameron’s Artist’s Way.

  6. This is such a great post! I think you’ve really embodied the spirit of NANO, as far as I understand it. Can’t wait to read about your progess!

  7. “I guess I’m just a masochist.”

    No, Becca, it’s worse….you’re a writer! And a damn good one at that!
    Hang in there…love what I’ve read so far.
    xo

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