One Summer

In pursuit of 50,000 words


Never one to do the same thing in the same way two days in a row, I do not excel at getting up every morning at 5:30 and working out from 6 to 7 a.m. then eating muesli and coffee for breakfast before getting to the office by 8:30 a.m. My subconscious works overtime to thwart routine.

This is not to say I am un undisciplined person. I manage to accomplish many goals. I have some good habits about writing down my goals, breaking them into their component parts and ticking those bits off.  I just like to feel inspired while I do it and routine dulls inspiration for me.

This is why this November with National Novel Writing Month I am struggling.  Some people criticize the challenge for valuing quantity over quality. And NaNoWriMo sets the goal for you: 50,000 words. This might be the right length for a novel, and it might not, depending on the story. How else do you set a goal that will work for most people, measure it, and create a way to hold people accountable (word count reporting)?

The real point of NaNoWriMo is not to finish a novel in November and publish by Christmas, rather it is to set a goal and to remind yourself that writing has its own rewards. It helps to set up new patterns in your life where writing is a priority.  It also really helps to get you towards your goal. Just as walking 30 minutes a day or riding my bike trainer 20 minutes a day helps me toward my fitness goals, writing every day helps me toward writing milestones.

I have not taken advantage of the the community aspect as much as my friend Max. He participates in on-line speed drills and goes to places where writers are gathered to write for long periods and drink lots of coffee.  My experience is more community-lite. I am part of a cohort that Michelle Knowlden put together and she sends out encouraging updates every day.  I can also go on the Nanowrimo website and find inspiration--although the redesign completely baffles me.  Plus they send me emails with encouragement.  It is too bad that this only goes on for one month out of the year, because it is lovely to be part of a host of writers from around the world.

Blogging does offer the opportunity for interaction that traditional fiction writing and other writing pursuits do not. Someone snidely commented after the announcement of the Nobel Prize for Literature to Alice Munro that an American is unlikely to win it again because the most popular literature in the USA is the memoir. Blogging is one long run-on memoir. So I am contributing to the demise of American literature! It does help you hone your craft. Malcolm Gladwell said it takes 10,000 hours of practice at something to become a master at it. There are still differences for natural talent--not everyone who plays 10,000 hours of golf will become Tiger Woods. However, there is no doubt in my mind that Bill Bryson only became a master storyteller by putting the hours in and writing, writing, writing.

I am not sure how he can be so prolific: Bill Bryson’s new book One Summer 1927 in America is astounding. He apparently rapaciously consumes historical information and then reorganizes it in his creative cranium before spewing it all back out on paper in the form a highly entertaining read.  Sometimes I read a paragraph that makes me chuckle and smile and I genuflect and hope that one day I can write something half as good.

In my pursuit of the elusive 50,000 words (in my case travel writing, not a novel), I discovered that there is also a similar challenge where you can blog every day for a month.  This challenge is not restricted to November. I am not sure that my blog subscribers would not cry “Uncle!” if I sent a blog into the ethernet everyday for 30 days. It would be a great way to create a supply for times when I know I going to be consulting very hard for awhile.

All of these challenges should serve my overall writing goals and not become goals in themselves. 717 words, in case you are wondering.