November 13, 2008

National Novel Writing Month.









“How’re you comin on that novel you’ve been writing?”

Regardless of how you may feel about Family Guy otherwise, its constant use of pop culture reference in place of an actual joke is my personal favorite, I have to admit that there is one particular scene in an episode where Stewie mocks Brian about that Novel he has been writing.  I’ve been watching this pretty much everyday for the past 12 days.

Because, dear Elephants, National Novel Writing Month began 12 days ago.  Thus far, as an aspiring writer, nothing has been more challenging or daunting than the prospect of sitting down and actually writing a novel.  But, in plowing through it, procrastinating, and ultimately goofing around, it’s does reveal a few things about you as a person.

So with the purpose in mind of some sort of insight, let’s hop on into a short list of things I have learned thus far.

A novel is not an easy thing to write.  It’s like going from a sketchbook to undertaking a full canvass art project.  I don’t mean to make this all about me, because, frankly, you have have better things to do than here me bemoan the fate that I have taken for myself.  Lets talk a little bit about why NaNoWriMo exists, and then we’ll try to figure out what that means for your day.

According to the Website, NaNoWriMo exists for the purpose of:

Valuing enthusiasm and perseverance over painstaking craft, NaNoWriMo is a novel-writing program for everyone who has thought fleetingly about writing a novel but has been scared away by the time and effort involved.

So it’s basically to light that fire underneath all of us normal folks out there who have ever had some spectacular story to tell, or one character that we’ve thought of that we think deserves a chance to come to life, or an entire WORLD of characters that we might have in our heads.

The point of this whole exercise is to actually get you writing.  It’s to give you a deadline and force you to finally give that brilliant idea of yours a kind of birth.  And you know what?  It works.  Which got me thinking, what if we all have some brilliant idea, lurking somewhere in the complicated cobwebs of neurons and synapses?  What if between all that popping of pop culture, gossip, and daily giggles that is what passes for the whole of being human these days, is some kind of Artist, who hungers for the day when you finally say “Hey, you, let’s get some work done”?

In that case, I have got more competition than I thought.

But if we’ve all got this Inner Artist, then what’s the deal?  Why are we all not these crazy novel writers, or painters, or designers, or whatever it is that is our Artistic bag?

And here’s the inner genius of NaNoWriMo:  It gives us a chance to not only unleash this Inner Artist (who is, as I have discovered, a whiny, shiftless, and generally unpleasant person) but to develop our Inner Dictator as well.

And here’s the tie-in to spirituality, ready?

In most of the Buddhism I have studied and practiced, the Personality is not made up of one thing, but a lot of different Personalities, which all work together to produce the Personality that everybody knows and loves.  Everything is composite.  Everything is interdependent.  Nothing is permanent.

So, writing a Novel is really all about getting your Personalities working together to produce something.  You’ve got the Inner Artist, who is undisciplined, shiftless, frequently depressed and depressing to be around on the one hand; on the other hand, you have your Inner Dictator, who is very disciplined, very active, but not very creative. 

The genius of NaNoWriMo is getting these two guys working together to produce a Novel.  You’ve got a deadline (one month) to produce a specific amount of work (50,000 words).  Now, just planning and plotting your schedule does not a novel make.  And just sitting there mulling over your many different ideas but committing none of them to print also does not a novel make. You need to whip that Artist into shape, and no one is better for that than your Inner Dictator.

If you’re ever going to amount to anything, or produce anything great, you’ve got to at least start breaking a sweat once or twice.  You owe it to yourself to try, if you haven’t.  And if you have, you owe it to yourself to keep going.

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