Monday, November 14, 2011

Bits of Inspiration

I opted out of NaNoWriMo this year, but I do hope that Sally decided to give it a try. And I'm still trying to get into the spirit of the event, whose full name is National Novel Writing Month. I don't need to write a novel this month, but I do have several writing projects that need finishing, polishing or editing before being sent off to my agent or editor. So, I'm doing my own version of NaNo, and I suppose that counts.

The greatest thing about NaNo is that it inspires people to rise up and actually DO something that they might otherwise only talk about. Upon learning that I'm an author, people often react by saying something to the effect of "I wish I could write a novel," or "I want to write a book someday," or "I might write something after I retire." The polite thing for me to do in the moment is to smile and nod blandly and hope they read it as approval or encouragement. The less polite thought that typically bounces through my mind is "Well, why don't you?"

Anyone and everyone who wants to write can do it, but the fact of the matter is, most people who talk about writing never actually sit down with a pen or a keyboard. And that's the trick in the end, just sitting down and doing it. Little bit by little bit. No one--not even the most accomplished author--wakes up in the morning with the intent to write a novel. We go to the computer with the intent to put something on paper. A single letter, which begins a word, which sparks a sentence, which blurs into a paragraph, and after many, many such occasions might add up to a piece of prose that means something.

If the intensity of NaNo seems too daunting, think about some simpler math:
One page a day = 365 pages in a year (Don't look now, but that's the length of a book!)
Half a page a day = 182 pages in a year
One paragraph a day (1/4 page) = 91 pages in a year

Little bits add up! And here's the good news: in my experience, the best writing occurs inadvertently. Meaning, when you sit down to write and just let it flow you may be surprised by the quality of what comes out in the process. As opposed to sitting down with the goal of saying something profound--in that case you're almost guaranteed to be disappointed. Nothing comes out fully formed. Revision is inevitable--if your goal is to share your work effectively with others. But for a first draft, in response to that creative urge to get something on paper, absolutely anything goes!

Do you have things you want to say? If writing doesn't appeal to you, what other dreams could you be following, little bit by little bit?

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