Results vs. Process

“In hindsight, it is obvious that my drawings were result oriented. I wanted to render a specific image I had in my head. When I failed to attain it, the frustration would freeze me for days or weeks on end. . . . I had not yet learned that the process of drawing was what brought me real fulfillment.” France Belleville-Van Stone, Sketch! The Non-Artist’s Guide to Inspiration, Technique, and Drawing Daily Life

This quote is from a great book that I’m slooooowly working my way through. I don’t usually read books about art, but I’m glad I picked this one up, because there are some insights in it that are really applicable, not only to drawing, but I think to any kind of art. This quote was certainly applicable for me, since a year or so ago, something strange and unpleasant happened: I largely stopped enjoying writing.

There were lots of reasons, but I think a decent part of it was that I’d stopped seeing the process. All I could see, when I sat down, were problems. Plot holes, narrative missteps, superficial characterization. The inevitable rewrites up ahead. An endless trudge through what used to be a fresh landscape.

I’d lost the joy of wandering into a new world, meeting new people, discovering things with my characters, waiting to see what would happen next. Writing was turning into a chore. And the more that happened, the harder it got for me to open up that Word document and get to work.

I’d love to say it’s all better now, but as with so many things, I’m still figuring it out. Writing can be difficult; though you may not think so, starting out, it can be surprisingly easy to lose sight of the things you love. In a way, this quote prompts me to get back to my writing roots–to stop putting so much pressure on myself, stop treating the blank page as a horrible burden, and instead welcome it as an adventure, an opportunity to be surprised.

So as NaNoWriMo heads into its second week: here’s to writing, and its whimsical ways. And for those of you who are participating: I hope you’re making progress toward those 50,000 words. But maybe even more than that, I hope you’re enjoying the whole beautiful, annoying, rewarding, and perhaps-mildly-but-not-dangerously-sleep-deprived process of getting there.

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Just Finish Something

I haven’t done NaNoWriMo since I was in high school, when I wrote a novel that I have never since felt compelled to revisit. (What was it even about? Blah, blah, something about ships.) I like the idea of NaNoWriMo, and I’ve definitely written novels in a month (or less) since then. That month just doesn’t seem to be November, most times. I think it’s something about being told “you must start writing on November 1st, and only on November 1st.” It pretty much guarantees I’m going to start writing before then.

But the spirit of NaNoWriMo isn’t a bad thing. NaNoWriMo forces you to hunker down and focus, to push past the nitpicking inner editor’s voice and get words on the page. It forces you to finish something. All of that is good and useful.

So that’s my NaNoWriMo goal: not to write 50,000 words, but to finish something. It could be the research for my big WIP. It could be the first draft of my other WIP. It could be the short story I’ve been promising myself I would write for ages and ages. I don’t care, as long as something gets done.

… this blog post counts, right?

Seriously, now, back to work. And good luck to everyone tackling the NaNoWriMo challenge!