November 23, 2014
Last year I tried to do a traditional NaNoWriMo. It was called "95 Kingdoms" (working title) and I made some serious headway, but fell far short. I didn't think writing the great American novel was the point or the likely outcome, but it still didn't feel great to know that I was behind day after day and then to ultimately give up.
As this year rolled around, I'd already been doing this 750words thing daily (more on that below) for a couple months, and I really wanted to jump right into giving NaNoWriMo another try. National Poetry Writing Month (NaPoWriMo) has been so good for me the past couple years, after all.
But work was driving at a fever pitch and there were a thousand other things nibbling at my time and my mind. My extremely intelligent (and beautiful) wife said to me, "Jamie, don't be stupid. Why don't you just do NaNoWriMo in some other month." Which was brilliant. Yes, I won't be part of the website or the community. Everyone locked arms and struggling with their novels together. But I can be part of that some other year.
NaNoWriMo isn't about writing a novel, for me. It's about instilling a practice. It's about reminding yourself what it means to be a writer.
It's Monday and you are dragging. Dreading going back to work? Write.
It's Tuesday and you didn't get enough sleep? Feel sick? Write.
It's Wednesday and you are totally uninspired? Write.
It's Thursday and you are going to hit a happy hour with friends? Write.
It's Friday and you have a massive deadline? Write.
It's Saturday and it is snowing and looking gorgeous out there? Write.
It's Sunday and you need to weather-seal the windows? Write.
You're in love? Write. You're depressed? Write. You're kid got detention? Write.
When I get envious about my friend Justin, it isn't about the great books he's written. It's the practice and the dedication. He writes and writes and writes. He built a routine into his life and rarely deviates. That's work and takes serious commitment. His routine even includes exercise. Christ.
He's put out more than half a dozen books since I met him, while I struggled year after year to make writing a regular part of my life. If you are a writer, you write. If you aren't writing, you're a fraud. And that feeling seeps out into your whole life. It sucks.
I could be proud about all the great work I do at work and this great career I was building. I could make excuses about the responsibilities of being married or then the emotional drain of my marriage falling apart. I could talk about raising a wonderful child. But when I wasn't writing there was always a part of me that knew I was falling down.
Regular practice isn't about quality, it's about volume. Quality comes in fits and starts, let it take care of itself. And let editing happen when it is time to edit. Regular practice is about staying on top of words and sentences and rhythm and idiom. Keeping nimble and easy. Always pliable and charged for when inspiration pulls up a chair.
It's not about spending hours every day -- more power to you if your life affords that kind of time for consistent stretches, though -- it's about giving it a half hour here or 15 minutes there. Finding the tools that'll let that happen and instilling a massive habit.
The tools for me:
I started writing on my phone -- almost exclusively -- about 4 years ago. 99.9% of the poems on Very Most Good were written on my phone. It meant that I always had my writing implements with me wherever I was. And that change has had all kinds of amazing downstream effects for me and my poetics. Immediacy. Another go at the eternal struggle to break down the wall between the observer and real life. And so on. I only started typing with my 10 fingers again when I set out on this latest challenge to pound out 50k words in a month. I think I could've done it on my phone though (next time).
750words.com -- is a website based on the Artist's Way model of writing "Morning Pages" (go check out the Artist's Way some time... it's totally cheesy and you'll feel strange-to-outright-embarassed doing it, but getting out of your comfort zone is a great way to get out of your own head for a while -- thanks Jon). I'd been doing all this writing on my blog, but 750words gave me a private space that was always available (the mobile view is great). I can cut and paste from it over to my blog when I want, but the default is private. I needed this practice to be something that was intrinsically motivated. Not something driven by pageviews and reader comments and Tumblr likes. 750 words a day on my phone takes a half hour, and I made that a part of my morning -- getting up a half hour earlier on weekdays. That started something like 3 months ago and I'm still going strong.
Talking to my partner (and my daughter) -- you need help maintaining this little corner of selfishness that it takes to stay committed. I don't have tons of witty examples on this, but let's just all agree to the importance of communication in your relationships and this is just another part of it. And my daughter is writing more and more and 12yo-curious about this daily writing idea, which makes me feel like I won some parent award somewhere.
And that's it. Make it simple.
Make it regular.
Make it as private as you need it.
Make it easy.
And so this year for NaNoWriMo, I decided I could make time anyway -- despite that great advice from my wife -- but I did it a bit different. I wasn't going to write a novel, I was just going to hit a goal: 50,000 words in November. Free-writing, creative writing, journaling, anything. I amped up my 750words practice to pound out a private volume of words and sentences. As of today I just crushed my way past 46k and have 7 days to go. If I dialed my pace all the way back to the 750 / day I'd been maintaining, I'll get there. But I'm sure I'll keep writing more.
All month, my weekday pace has been 1,250 / day. Maybe that'll be my new normal. Maybe I'll keep doing this 10-finger-typing thing when I write. It's been a welcome change. Who knows. But whatever it is, I'm going to keep going.
November 21, 2014
Speed speed speed again
Cycle go in circles
And we think about solvents before we're asked about proteins
Keep growing, keep going
And we're off
November 20, 2014
As in repetition repaired
Fault lines and forevers and houses burned down daily
The boots you walked in on
And the numbers you brought and an armload of opinions
To hell with all kinds of airplanes and a shit-ton of failures
Fault fault fault forget
What do you know about respect and statistics and every other thing
What about the time of year
Right right right
And somewhere down the line thirty
November 19, 2014
Those times when nothing was funnier than autocorrect gone mad
Troops lined in lines, but all were so so tired
Concrete walls, concrete floors, and harsh ceilings
Nothing ever happened just once
Forget it all, forget it all
Forget it in a river when the current turns icy
Forget it in a snowbank or on the roadside of a seldom travelled road
Forget it under cover of night and full of excuses
No one ever cared about commas like you cared
No one ever thought about what that switch was connected to
No one ever got those guys out of that prison camp that was legally nowhere
It's dinnertime in America if you're hungry
November 17, 2014
There were different first tries and different first thoughts
Flash-fried onions are a thing
Flash-frying is a thing, period
It takes half of everything
It takes laps and naps and beliefs
Constantly doubling down and forget it
You got a horn
You got a day off
Whoah upon whoah upon wow
There it is and there again
All I have are curtains
November 8, 2014
Things that smell good and things that smell good for you
Earlier, a very big, very dead spider on the underside of a green tarp
My beard has come in again
More every moment
More with a vengeance
And then every moment vengeance
This that that which which more often where who which which that
Nucleo-something vs. the center of everything
Enter enter enter
It all comes back until it doesn't
It's all taken down at the edges
Location:W 36th St,Baltimore,United States
November 6, 2014
Something something something
Like something noise
And activity and heat
That went faster than expected
Shoot, but good
November 3, 2014
Random nosebleeds have yielded to really random nosebleeds. Awesome.
Motivation, application, force.
Formidable opponent in a statement from his own life
Trust the robots and they will lead you somewhere
Like I said, trust and confidence and the rest of the best
Mirror feet meet mirror shades
Parties part ways in the worst ways
Stone cliffs are like this
So are new rooms before you've moved in
White on white corners
Art before the dust has settled
All the photographic evidence
And everyone is on their way
Location:I-95 S,Wilmington,United States
November 1, 2014
These patterns at my back
These napping cats
So says November
So says be careful
Stocking up stores
Short lines everywhere you look
Extra hours and regular sunsets
October 30, 2014
How do you like that?
Giant eyes, wooden booths, lazy foxes
I haven't thought about imaginary numbers in a long time
All the things you don't think about vs. all the things you forget
A city in the center of a state vs. a city without a state
Sometimes a solid becomes a gas straight away no matter what the century
Somewhere is next, over here
On a street corner outside your office, on the down escalator when you're heading up, ahead of you in line at a weekend matinee
Too many drinks, too many nights, too much more
Everyone get home safely, it's a world out there
October 27, 2014
Conversely automaton Tuesday
Welcome emulsifying Friday
Never on the weekends and never in front of your parents
What you expect of wisdom
How you take a posting
The position of your binoculars
And the way the sunshine hits everything
October 25, 2014
And then we compare stats and then we have more of this and more of that
Sidewalks have sidewalk cracks
And then twist ties and windows on buildings and buildings off highways
Daylight begets daylight
Swaths, swatches, swindle, swing
Tree branches get piled on days like this
More things come together on days like this
What is usual is numbers
What is usually said is reinforcing
What fits in this circle is immeasurable until it isn't
We all enjoy this most every day