Yesterday I finally got some things done which are important but easy to procrastinate about. As with all such things, they took longer to worry about than to do. I am so impressed, as I read my friends' list, at tales of achievement and multi-plexity I read there. I am a plodder in the great achievement sweepstakes. I have a series of work-related deadlines I am always able to meet, but non-essential stuff outside work always feels a bit behind, and even non-client stuff at work requires constant catch up.
Lately I'm getting energized by this notion of writing a 50,000 word novel in one month as part of this nanowrimo.org project. I think it will be excellent discipline for me to just write under circumstances in which I will not have the time to obsess about whether the writing is any good. At first, the notion of generating 50,000 words in 30 days seemed really impossible to me. Then I remembered a key skill from my undergraduate days. It's an intricate mathematical process called "long division". By dividing 50,000 by 30, I realized that I need only generate 1,666 words a day. Taken that way, 1,666 words a day is not very difficult. Indeed, 5,000 words a day is perhaps do-able.
I have never been comfortable writing fiction. Fiction has several drawbacks. For one thing, one should have an ear for dialogue. I lack an ear for my own dialogue, much less any other character's. Secondly, one should be able to devise a plot which does not bore one by the fifth page. I remember once in college writing the first chapter of a book and showing it to a friend. He gently pointed out that it might be nice if something, anything, actually happened in that first chapter. I guess I am something of an ambient fiction writer. I tend to write heavily plotted things in which nothing happens. I should call my novel "Novel for Saunas", in honor of all those Brian Eno ambient albums, because my writing style usually is the sort of slow paced thing that best justifies sitting in a steam room, and thinking about something else. Fiction has this odd way of requiring one to actually possess skills, and utilize them in a cohesive way. That is so not me. I am rambler (if not quite a gambler or a sweet talkin' ladies man). I love my novels, but not like I love my freedom.
I did once have a short story accepted by a campus newspaper in college. It was a bit of comic writing, which comes much more easily than "serious" prose. The article never came out, though, and the semester ended before I could figure out just why not. As I remember, it was an advertising brochure for a country inn called the Grovel of the Ozarks, owned by the Grovel family, whose son Ralph "Shovel" Grovel was a local football hero. I wish I had kept it--at least it made me laugh. I think the definition of true happiness is being able to laugh at one's own jokes.
For years now, I write poetry. My poetry, though, is less "poetry" in some ways than epigram or short short story. I like writing in free verse because I never worry about anything when I write poetry. I just write what I feel like writing, do minimal revision, slap on a title, and pronounce it done. On this November National Writing Month project, I was putting a bit of concern into how the heck I was going to plot and all that for 50,000 words, when I realized that if I just wrote freely and un-self-consciously, like I do with poetry, but without the line breaks, I'd have 50,000 words in no time.
My goal is not so much to "finish" the novel or not, but to have those moments in which I write unselfconsciously. It is so easy to become so enamoured of the idea of writing that one is blocked from actually writing. I read the nanowrimo community's posts, which all seem to be by interesting people. But over and over, there's an earnestness, if that's the word, that seems to me to be antithetical to completion of the project in 30 days. One soul wondered about whether to pay a service to copyright her/his as yet unwritten work. One soul wondered how to name characters. I think it's great to use the exercise as this incredible springboard for hopes and dreams and intensity. That's got to be part of the fun, and I love that several journals are nanowrimo projects--that's really cool, and would never have been something I'd have thought of doing. I just don't think one can write 2000 words a day with any real care about the intricacies of the novel. All one can do is come up with some plot ideas, and execute the words. The plot ideas are important, because the writer him/herself must be interested enough in the project to keep at it until completion. But the fact of the matter is that one can only complete the project by not thinking too much about it. The thought may be mother to the deed, but often one has to get on with the birth, and stop conceptualizing it.
So many times in life I think people are wonderful planners, but poor doers. That's why it seems like so many people of limited imagination seem to succeed, while more brilliant people never get anywhere. My own theory is that the entire career of Ronald Reagan can be best understood in this light. Those of limited imagination run out of ideas, and then they actually have to put them in practice. It's like thinking people are all attending some incredibly intellectual ivory tower liberal arts university, but all the people who get anything done got their training at the Acme Business School, and they're out writing the novels and painting the pictures. I have every sympathy and probably every agreement that the Idea is the Art, but I also believe that the Execution may be Everything.
Marketing is an oft-derided skill, but that does not make it inessential.
My great thought is that "Finishing Things Matters".
Of course, yesterday, when I took my car in for its long overdue oil change, I thought to myself I might be a better person if I had fewer great thoughts and spent more time cleaning out the interior of my car. Even when it comes to fun, I can procrastinate. I've had the mental image of how much fun I'd have hiking and fishing at my favorite fishing holes at the Park Hill Prairie, this stretch of gorgeous blackland prairie with active sunfish ponds, but I never seem to get up some Saturday dawn and go have that fun. Similarly, my musical project, my poetry project, and a few miscellaneous other things never seem to get scheduled for final completion. Being busy at work seems to have bled into everything.
I guess that's why nanowrimo appeals to me. I want to feel that I can set a goal--no matter how absurd--and complete it. I have promised myself that if I hit the 50,000 words, I will then revise the novel slightly and then self-publish it at one of those print on demand places like trafford.com or iuniverse.com. I will have to ebay off some more chess books if I'm to raise a grand without dipping into "real" money, but it'll be worth it. Maybe I'll auction off my autographed Bobby Fischer's Games of Chess First Edition, as his recent outrageous statements make me irritated with him anyway.
I like that I am a thinker who sometimes can be a doer. But I want to do more, and not just conceptualize. This should be a good discipline to try. But all this writing this morning merely makes me hungry--and it's funny that I titled this post before I wrote it, because for whatever reason, I am now extremely hungry for croissants. I'm also eager to get my calendar into shape, and do all the things I dream.