Saturday, October 21, 2006

Nano Wondering

It is again close to that time of year, and I am considering whether I want to participate in NaNoWriMo. I have attempted to twice before. The first time I wrote a grand total of a few thousand words. The next time I came up with a viable outline and plot for a gothic mystery and a few chapters (much of which needs to be cleaned up or even just plain tossed out). My intention has always been to finish both projects.

That is really the problem. My intention and lack of discipline are at odds. I've talked about it before that I have difficulty actually finishing writing projects, even when I am loving them. This is in part due to the lack of any pressure. In grad school, almost all of my projects were finished under pressure of deadline. I did my research, I started writing, but it really wasn't until there was some duress that I would really hit my stride. I wrote the talk that would later become the basis for my Master's thesis in a night. Necessity forced the relinquishing worry that the end product might not be good enough, because lack of time inspires willingness to take risks. Writing that takes risks without being self-conscious is somehow better.

This is all my verbose way of proclaiming that I work well under pressure. Without it, I succumb too easily to "I can always finish tomorrow" syndrome. In that regard, the idea of writing a novel in 30 days (knowing it will require major cutting and revision, but trying not to care) is a good concept for me. On the other hand, it conflicts with my greatest fear as a writer, which is that I may just be awful.

Despite having been told plenty of times that I write well, this insecurity kicks the ass of memory and experience every time. On my worst days, my head wonders if I am not kidding myself about needing to write. Other days it thinks, "Well, the writing is technically okay, but the ideas suck like an industrial grade hoover. Who would want to read them?" On yet other days, when I'm feeling particularly inspired, and have reached that giddy, adrenaline filled zone where I find myself more conduit than creator, I know it's something I need to pursue. At those times, ideas come faster than I can record them, and I am able to tell my inner critic to zip it. These moments also coincides with the time when I begin to amuse myself with the cleverness of my own jokes or find myself feeling admiration for my own turns of phrase.

As an aside, that very last bit above was difficult to admit, because it makes me feel a dissertation away from a vainglorious professor from my college German Department who insisted upon quoting himself in his lectures. He also wore sweaters jauntily tied around his shoulders and was fond of regaling anyone he could corner with the story of how he had once made the deconstructionist linguistic joke to Jacques Derrida at a cocktail party that his name sounded like the German articles "der, die, das", but that really is another story for another day.) Back to writing!

Having given it a lot of thought, I've come to the conclusion that my subconscious reluctance to finishing things is that with an unfinished creation, one always has the out that it still needs work. One doesn't have to face up to the possibility that it might just be bad. I suppose that's why keeping this blog is relatively comfortable for me - I don't put enough effort into it to worry much that people will think it's bad. My whole concept has been that it doesn't matter, because it's mostly just off the top of my head. It has been good for me. If people can read my unedited words without feeling driven to mock or send hate mail, then perhaps there is hope for those other words too.

So, will I participate in NaNo this year? After writing this, I think I will at least try. I may twist the rules of the project to fit my own needs (i.e. finishing a preliminary draft something I've already started rather than embarking on yet another new project), but I think that participating in some way will be good for me. So, in the process of writing this, I have gone from considering to being fairly sure that I actually will participate. Last week another small group participant in a class I am taking, made the comment that "the truth is always at the end of a pen". I suppose he was right...


Chris said...

Mari, you know me well enough to know that I don't bullshit in the name of encouragement, so trust me when I say that I wouldn't bother reading this blog if I wasn't enjoying it, which could only be the case if it were well written.

Martina said...

Thanks, Chris. Compliments sans bullshit are always the nicest to hear!

Jen said...

Happy Start of Nano! May it be an auspicous writing month.

Martina said...

Thanks, man! So far it's actually been going better than in past years. I think the cheating has bolstered my enthusiasm. Both my spirits and my word count are higher than they would normally be by this time of the month!