I have been spending an average of 90 minutes a day on Nanowrimo, producing an average of 1500 words per hour. 1500 not-really-good words, that is. On November 19th, I passed the 50,000 word milestone, which means I’m comfortably ahead of schedule. Although I was originally tempted to wrap everything up quickly and take the rest of the month off, I thought that I should maintain the daily writing habit. While the main point was to do 50,000 words by any means necessary, I think it’s also important to hew to the Daily Commitment Toward One’s Goal.
Here’s a summary of what I’ve learned so far:
- Characters and plot points are a kind of Holy Work. Since I had done none of that preparation before starting, I have had to do without a strong basis to start from. Having a good idea of the characters and plot points ahead of time would have helped.
Clever turns of phrase, stylish description, and sharp dialogue also falls under the province of Holy Work, but I think that they, like angels, are best employed in reflecting the characters and plot points. So instead of trying to wring stylishness from my writing, I settled for whatever came out. This helped produce raw word count rapidly, but it will have to be carefully sifted for gold.
Despite my lack of preparation and style, I found that just having an Idea was enough to start. One Idea leads to another, and to another, and when you get stuck it’s easy to toss out a “what if” or a “what would” question and write one’s way into it. The process reminded me of the logic of dreams, where the rules of continuity are suspended and imagery just flows into the theater of one’s mind. This produces a lot of plot holes, but like with my dreams I have come away with an insight or two that can be used in new construction. I’ve let myself leap and bury and not worry about continuity too much. The leaping is what’s important, as I sample my own well of experiences and associations to draw out the dots from which I might connect lines in the semblance of a real story.
p>And so, the creative process rocks on. For me, the mental dust devils swirl their way into tangential ravines, throwing me from my original trains of thought into whirlpools of confusion. The daily nature of the writing, however, forces me to resurface and find something to cling to, so I can do it all again. The real picture starts to build itself from these repeated dunkings and emergent experiences. To be an artist is to embrace that.