Thursday, August 2, 2012

Setting Finger to Keyboard

I write one page of masterpiece to ninety one pages of shit.
-Ernest Hemingway

In the back of my mind, I've always sort of figured that if I actually sat down to write, whatever I wrote would probably be good. I figured it would need editing, and that it would probably take a very healthy dose of inspiration before I would be “literary,” but I always figured my writing would probably be about above-average.

I finished my first 1000 words yesterday, and in the course of it, contemplated scrapping the entire project. I even had an opportunity to do so when I realized that my announcement blog did not post at midnight like it was supposed to, so I could write up a different project and could avoid owning up to the failure altogether. Just reading a few paragraphs of my clunky prose made me see myself as too untalented to bother continuing, and reading my words appear on the screen never tickled my pride or excitement enough to compel me to go on. Worst of all, my chief motivation is the desire to have a novella written, rather than my desire to have a particular novella written. I'm writing without inspiration or without an idea or theme to build on; I have a rough outline and a handful of themes in mind, but they were chosen after I decided to write the book, they did not inspire the writing.

So I have about as much emotional fuel as a bored bureaucrat who has a set number of forms to review each day. This does not bode well for the quality of the material, or my endurance of the project. But there is one thought that I am trying to keep in mind throughout the writing:

It doesn't have to be good, it just has to be complete.

I'm sure that those with some writing experience are cringing right about now, but this is the philosophy that I think will carry me through this project. I am not approaching it as a potential masterpiece, I am approaching it as an experience that I want to have. If one day I ever do write something worth someone pirating online, then this novella will be practice for that day. If I do not, then this novella project was at least a case where I saw a creative act through to completion.

Mostly, this novella gives me a reusable lump of clay for the future. I can edit it, I can rewrite it, I can tweak it, I can modify it. Whenever I find an interesting literary technique, this novella gives me pre-written material that I can rewrite using the new technique, letting me look at it from the perspective of a writer and not just a reader.

Writing shit is the first step to writing something better. So, I will endure. But today, my prose still sucks.

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