50,000 Words? And the Rest…

One of the great obstacles to writing is Thinking You’re On The Wrong Tack. You bimble along and then suddenly stop, putting a hand to your mouth. ‘This isn’t what I wanted to write at all!’ you cry. So you try to get back to the original vision but of course it’s faded, so the temptation at this point is to Give Up – and if you’re new to the terrible business of writing you may think ‘I can’t do this. I’m not a writer; a real writer would know what they’re doing…’ But sticking to one idea is like canalising a running stream; as Blake says, ‘expect poison from the standing water.’ You have to go with the flow, even if the flow seems to be taking you somewhere else entirely.

But the flow is one thing; a flood is another, and what we see is that in Nano as in sport, overachievement is now a virtue; pushing yourself to the limit ‘and beyond’ is the new normal. For example; someone on the Nano Facebook group has already done 50,000 words. Just let that sink in for a moment: after only three days (or if they’re on the other side of the world, four) this person has written 50,000 words. That’s nearly 17,000 words a day, more than a thousand words an hour which I think counts as hypergraphia. And are they happy with their achievement? Are they satisfied? Content? Kicking back to enjoy the rest of the month? Nope – in fact they’re planning on doing 500,000 words in November. Five hundred thousand words. In one month. That’s more than sixteen thousand words a day or – assuming you work ten hours a day – about 1700 words an hour.

When do people rest?

What’s lost in this treadmill of constant production and achievement is not only rest but reflection. Nothing in nature produces continuously (or if so, it’s very short-lived) everything has its time and there are always periods of dormancy when nothing seems to be happening.

But in this society you are what you do. And we can’t allow that, can we?

Kirk out

PS if you’re interested I’ve written 720 words so far today.

5 thoughts on “50,000 Words? And the Rest…

  1. I’d say two things about this. One is that Neil Gaiman says that the second draft is where you make all the good stuff you’ve put in by mistake seem deliberate, i.e. you look for it and capitalise on it like it was supposed to be there all the time. The other is that I’m currently cleaving to the opinion that NaNo rewards verbosity, which is the opposite of my goal, and that in that sense it isn’t overachievement at all but a method of keeping the front and back covers of a book as far apart as possible for no good reason.

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