While I ponder the nature of time, taking the time to find the right word, create the right sentence, and place those right sentences in order until I have a piece that “works”—I am filled with a sense of dread as challenges to write 12 books in 12 months or to write a novel in a month pop up online like prairie dogs. Now I’m not slamming those particular endeavors, no siree. Anyone who can put out that many words deserves respect for their hard work.
And yes, it does light the fire of urgency under writers who are sitting on their thumbs. It gets their hands out from under their butt cheeks and on the keyboard or wrapped around a pen, putting words on the page. But let’s now talk about a little thing like QUALITY.
One “12 books in 12 months” blog I recently visited emphasizes that those 12 manuscripts will be FIRST DRAFTS. Ahhh, relief!! that such a disclaimer is stated right up front for everyone eager to participate. But once the pressure and support for completing the first draft is gone, will the writer have the gumption to put in the hours it takes to make the story into a finished work of art? Only the shadow knows.
As a writer with a nursery of drafts crying and competing like octuplets for mama’s attention, I understand how important the next step is.
This NY Times short about Jerry Seinfeld writing a single joke gives me hope. Yes, he says that he often writes a joke over the course of a few days, but this one took TWO years!
If he can spend two years on writing a joke, I can spend at least that much time revising a short story until it’s in publishable shape without feeling like an idiot.
While I don’t want to discourage all the enthusiasm for getting those first drafts down on paper, they should be written with a clear eye, knowing full well that the next step will usually take much longer.
Which leads to another matter: creativity takes orders from no one. Some of those great lines, the right word, even the right situation/action for the right beginning or right ending won’t come to you at gunpoint. Most often, they show up when you’re relaxed, free associating, doodling, or ____. You fill in the blank.
Here’s my revelation:
It’s really Robin Hood, stealing from the “great pool of inspiration in the sky,” gifting you with ideas, with “Aha!” moments that tap on the window while your attention is stirring the soup, brushing your teeth, or taking a walk.
Give Robin some TIME to show up. He is British, after all. Make some tea. Let it steep. You don’t want your work to be weak.
Am I right, or am I full of the highly-maligned, much-processed, fatty meat product called “baloney?” (reference to Henry P. Baloney)