I am taking a moment to examine one of my scripts. This script is my personal story unwritten but for this short blog sketch. The story begins in August at the UCLA Writers’ Faire. I decided then and there to invest several hundred dollars to take a 7 week class coinciding in time and purpose with the National Novel Writing Month [“NaNoWriMo”]. As many known, the “event” is an international invitation to writers everywhere to compose a 50,000 word “novel” in the 30 days of November. About 11% to 14% succeed overall each year as a fairly steady percentage despite an vast increase of participants in the approximate 20 years the event has repeated.
The ironies of this decision are multiple. I drive from O.C. on Saturday morning to U.C.L.A., the round trip consuming about 3 hours. The class itself is 3 hours. That’s six hours that could be spent writing. While this is a price obviously, anyone driving in Los Angeles probably needs a minimum of one hour. The distance-time equation is warped on the streets of L.A. There are about 30 people in this class. All of us probably expend the same time, energy, and cost of this whacky commute.
The second major irony is that I am a compulsive structuralist when it comes to writing. I plot out the story several times, then further plot each step, and within each step, each scene. I need to know the purpose of the step, and how I an going to achieve it. Of course, this level of “knowing” is in outline form, and I let the creative possibilities “just happen” within the structure. But NaNoWriMo gives primary importance to “word count” — an average of 1,667 per day to reach goal. The only way a writer can do that consistently is to sling words madly. I’m reminded of quip from Ronald Regan: a little boy opens the door to his room to discover it is packed with horse shit from floor to ceiling. “There must be a pony in there someplace,” the boy says.
I am that boy, and this UCLA/NaNoWriMo is my horse shit, and I am only doing this because I want the pony. The “catch” is that I cannot find the pony without abandoning my sacred compulsions.
I’m convinced this exercise is just another tool. It has nothing to do obviously with a completed, readable novel. That result might be reached with multiple rewrites in the months that follow, but the experience is really “aversion therapy.” I see this challenge as doing the very thing you most fear by immersing yourself it the conditions you have done everything to avoid.
I’m sensing that one of the important lessons I will learn from this experience is to trust myself as a writer. I am to learn that perfectionism and criticism get in the way of freedom to explore, experiment, and discover. When I begin shoveling away at the great heap in December, maybe the old sound of “nay” will become the a sweet sound of “neigh.”