July Write-O-Rama 23: My cart has been out in front for years

Welcome to day 23 of the Write-O-Rama. I’m coming to you on the BIG laptop this morning in from the home office where I just edited and posted episode 501 of the podcast shabang that comes out every week like CLOCKWORK! CLOCKWORK, I PROCLAIM!

It feels good to create and unleash something and the podcast and these posts and most everything I do ends up being done completely on the fly with little or no notes, a stream of consciousness release of what is up in this brain.

As @altmilan said in the Discord today: you're just like those film directors that can do those long tracking shots. No edits needed.

Oh, if that was the truth, especially when it came to writing. This is my big hang up about the real November NaNoWriMo. It’s easy for me to write like this and dump out everything on my mind and sometimes even seem to have a point. It’s very difficult for me to write any fiction and especially challenging to try to make an even barely coherent first draft of a story that runs 50,000 words in just 30 days.

The supposed point of NaNoWriMo is to produce a draft that you will then come back and edit for the next eleven months or however long it takes to clean it up and make it publishable. Nothing I have created in my years of NaNo have been worth looking at again past November 30th and last year I deleted all of my terrible projects so that this return to Camp NaNoWriMo writing 30 days of personal posts would be a reboot. I named this project You Have to Start (Again) Somewhere in honor of this new start.

Yesterday, Austin Kleon shared an article – “Revision Is My God” by Meaghan O’Connell which completely turned my method of “long tracking shots” on its head especially when it comes to my writing. Sure, proofing and revision is something that must be done in order to be a REAL writer and get stuff actually published or at the very least worth publishing. I never turned in even a junior high paper without serious revision. Why should I think I can bang out the next great American novel in one fail swoop? What does NaNoWriMo’s 50,000 words in November accomplish if we wear ourselves out writing 1600 or so new words every day and then we end up with a pile of unsalvageable crap? I need a little expertise and direction to make that month of writing worth my time and I know I am very conscious of how I spend my time.

Camp NaNoWriMo works for me because I can set my own goal and my own project parameters. NaNoWriMo doesn’t work as well for me because of the 50,000 word goal and the need to write fiction – to come out with a novel. Even if we wrote non-fiction and even if I have a non-fiction book such as a memoir inside of me, would it be worth my time to try to make that fly out of myself in just 30 days or will it frustrate me to the point of not wanting to write? And if I was the Municipal Liaison for our region in NaNoWriMo in the fall, how would I guide our writers in a direction to where they would get something useful out of all of this time they will dedicate to writing?

Regardless of all of this, the article Austin Kleon shared was a big wake-up call for me, highlighting a lot of what I have been doing wrong and a lot of what prevents me from being a REAL writer. I have a lot of work to do if being a REAL writer is my actual goal!

Back to the article:

“It’s not like I hadn’t heard of the concept of multiple drafts, or editors, but subconsciously I must have been imagining everyone’s writing process to be like mine: typed along with an inner monologue, rapid fire. I didn’t understand yet, in a real way, that these writers were coming to their drafts over and over again, over many months or, more often, years, with new insights, new ideas, new metaphors, and new verbs.”

Sounds simple but I never do it. I do reread blog posts some of the time and make corrections after I have already hit publish. Ugh.

I needed this article because I have been doing this for years:

“How did they make their brains work so that a joke or a cutting insight or a clever turn of phrase occurred to them every other sentence? I imagined their writing process was like mine at 23 and 24 and 25, when I sat down and expelled a single meandering draft, except that theirs was in The Paris Review, and mine was posted to Tumblr at 1 a.m. without reading it over once.”

I have been posting to Blogger instead of Tumblr but it’s the same deal and I do the podcast a lot in the same way but I’m not trying to be a professional podcaster. It would be nice to be a decent writer though and if I am going to do that, I will have to A) get to writing and then B) get to revising. Notice that neither A or B say “get to posting” since that would be putting the cart before the horse. My cart has been out in front for years.


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