So there’s this 750 words site, which is a very simple (simple enough to be confusing, really) site designed to help wannabe writers (raises hand) get into the supposedly healthy “writing three pages a day” habit that has, on dit, been recommended by Various Famous Writers. Friend Emily mentioned it on Facebook and I signed up on ummmm Saturday, I did 750+ words that day, forgot all about it yesterday despite the helpful reminder email, and then did 750+ again today.
It’s different from, say, NaNoWriMo, in that 750 words a day isn’t nearly 50,000 in a month (more like 22,500), and it’s open-ended. And on the other hand you can’t be lazy one day and then make up for it the next.
Here is what I wrote today; what I wrote on Sunday feels a bit too personal and/or embarassingly bad :) to post in public at the moment. It is, probably predictably, about the process itself.
I’m not sure that what Real Writers have suggested in the past really meant just writing three pages of absolutely whatever sprung to mind, including grocery lists, the word “cheese” repeated over and over (like, cheese, cheese, cheese, cheese, cheese, cheese, cheese, cheese, cheese, cheese, cheese, cheese, cheese, cheese, cheese, cheese, cheese, cheese, cheese), or even pure internal monologue like this.
Is that really something that helps develop writing skills? Or develope them, for that matter? (stet)
I can see this sort of totally uncensored, totally unjudged activity being either helpful or unhelpful, really, and I which is more likely is probably an empirical question. Contingent. Possibly different for different people, even, although it’s all too easy to suggest that for any given thing that might otherwise have a Right Answer.
There’s that scene in the L-Word where whatsername Jenny is talking to the creative writing teacher who has basically trashed her stuff, and what the teacher says is that she is just writing things that actually happened to her, perhaps thinly disguised, and Jenny agrees and/or admits this. And the teacher says that she won’t be a writer until she stops doing that, because just writing what actually happens is something else, she uses a word like “chronicaler” or “diarist” that’s clearly intended to be derogatory, and also says something sort of twee-paradoxical about things that actually happened not being true, or not being reality or something.
Awhile back, quite very awhile back, I used to (for some probably-small period of time) pick a word at random from somewhere (given how long ago, probably from the hardcopy dictionary or something), and then write some amount about that word, whatever first sprang to mind. (I wrote it with an actual pencil, on actual atomic paper, in an actual physical D-ring binder notebook, as I recall; how archaic, eh?)
Once Anne, childhood Anne, read a bunch of my writing (brave of me in retrospect, and probably even at the time, to have given them to her to read), and she liked it overall, but thought that the “write some stuff about a random word” ones were sort of forced, or artificial, or missing something, or at any rate, I remember, not as good.
And that’s the worry here I suppose, or something like it. That just writing without worrying about what one is writing will lead to the habit of doing that, of equating writing with writing-whatever, wearing away at whatever habits or standards of quality that one might otherwise have, and which one might do better carefully cultivating then actively wearing-away at. (Hm, how would one avoid ending that sentence with a preposition? “and one might do better carefully cultivating them rather than actively wearing away at them” I guess, but is that really an improvement?)
Not to mention actively developing bad habits. I don’t know if it applied to the pen-and-paper version, probably it did really in some form, but the temptation in this medium, with the word-count actively (but slowly) going up in the bottom-right corner down there as I type, is to always choose the wordier way of saying any given thing, to say the same thing over and over in various different ways even, to use N words when K would have done, for N greater than K.
One can just type and type and type, that is to say, making totally (or reasonably) coherent sentences (even though that’s not strictly-speaking required), while still not saying much of anything, or saying the same thing over and over.
And is that a good habit to develop? That is probably not a good habit to develop.
We walk out into the fields to harvest the pages. They grow on tops of the page-stalks, and also on the second-highest cluster of leaves, or cluster of what would be leaves if they were not pages. Below that level, the leaves actually are leaves, green with veins in the typical way, if somewhat more squarish than the typical leaf on any other kind of plant.
(See, the “on any other kind of plant” didn’t really need to be in there; there are things besides plants that have leaves, but the reader would have gotten it without that hint even.)
When the pages are ripe, they snap off of the stalks easily, with a slight tug just off of straight. Not too much off, so as not to tear the paper. And not too much straight, because then it may resist and not come off, and you may have to try again, and that would be inefficient.
And no one wants to be inefficient…
It’s funny that I have (or at least pretended to have, for the purposes of word-count) these reservations about developing bad habits by doing the “three pages a day” thing, whereas I’ve never had that worry about NaNoWriMo, where the lack of internal censor just feels freeing. Maybe because NaNoWriMo is so much an all-out infrequent event, whereas the other is intended to be an everyday every-day habit. Or something…