A Bright Light Shone (Shined?) on Ignominy (Or, How I Learned to Stop Noodling and Love the Bomb)

Today is the first day of The Project, and like all first days, I came to it with excitement, resolve, and a really irritable bladder.  Seriously, I must have had to pee four or five times during the day at work today, which is just out of line, really.  Who has time for that?

One of the reasons I avoided choosing Accidentally Inspired as The Project is that, really, I’ve already written it once.  Wouldn’t that sort of deprive me of the creative aspect of the process, I asked myself?

Cue the derisive laughter.  In the broadest of senses, yes, I’ve written the story before, but honestly and without irony, the transformation from stage play to prose novel is so complete that I’m just laughing at the me who voiced that concern a week ago.  Silly past me, how much more clearly I see things than you!  The eyeglass of experience casts, like fiery lances, light upon your foolish claims.  Aaand I’ve been reading too much Macbeth.  (Silly literature teacher, letting literature created in a vacuum creep out to poison your daily life.  What’s that?  That’s the point of literature?  Balls, nobody ever told me.)

Things I didn’t have to write when I wrote AI as a play:

  1. Scenic descriptions
  2. Thoughts and internal monologues
  3. Exchanges that took place outside the apartment (Really, this should be worth about 3 or 4 points, as most of the action so far is outside the apartment, which kinda makes me laugh)
  4. Flowery metaphors (okay, the original might have had some of these but you really need a lot of them in a book.  Let me clarify.  I need a lot of them in a book, elsewise every description sounds boring and stilted)
  5. Really virtually anything that’s not dialogue
  6. Extended scenes including lots of dialogue

And the list will probably get longer.  In short, there is a ton of stuff that I have to – nay, that I can – include in the novel that there just isn’t time for in the play.  So thinking of the novel as not fully engaging my creativity is right out the window, even here on Day 1.  I even already talked about other ways I can expand upon the original, i.e. adding villains etc, in a previous post, so that limiting mindset is just doubly out.  Not only is it out, it never existed, and the previous mes who believe it existed also now no longer exist.  The timeline is repairing itself, and I am no longer my own grandfather.  So I feel a lot less like I copped out with this idea.

But, to get down to the meat of this post, here’s what I learned when I shoned my light on myself.

I first really considered giving this “writing” thing a stab oh, I dunno, two years ago.  At the time, I made some google docs, took some notes, jotted down some ideas, and got myself a couple of notebooks.  I told myself that when I felt the urge, I’d pull out one of those notebooks or one of those google docs and, by gum golly, I’d write a bit that day.

To be fair, that’s what I did.  When I felt the urge, I’d write.  Problem is, I’d feel the urge once every, I dunno, week?  Month?  Six months?  Also, to be fair, I booked several pages of hastily scribbled text in those notebooks.  Mad-cow chicken-scratch text, but text nonetheless.  Problem, again, is, that a “page” of chicken scratch is highly subjective, and sometimes when I sat down to write I’d write for five minutes and get half a page, sometimes I’d sit down for an hour and get three pages, or blah, blah, blah.  There was zero consistency and zero accountability, so there was virtually zero product.

BUT.  Because I had no accountability, I was happy with whatever I produced whenever I produced it.  “Hey, I wrote a little bit today; good job, me!  Let me take you out for a drink.”  “Oh, thanks, me, don’t mind if I do.”  “Not at all, good fellow.”  “Splendid.”  I don’t know why the me’s developed British accents in my head just now, but they did, and it just shows how foppish and dumb that system was, except that it was the complete antithesis of a system so I can’t even call it a system, all I can say is it was dumb.

In short (too late!)  I kept these notebooks going for about a year and a half, writing now and then, but never holding myself to any standard for production vis-a-vis quality or quantity.

Now that I’ve decided that I’m really going to for real give this “writing” thing a real shake for realsies, I’ve set some goals which I detailed before.  Those goals include finishing the first draft of a novel by the time school starts up next year (End of August).  Pursuant to that goal is a 5-days a week daily writing goal of ~1000 words per day (900 really, but why not round up) to give me a finished product of ~100,000 words which I can then edit down, like hacking the limbs off a baby octopus (who needs 8 arms, I mean REALLY).

So I sat down today during lunch to write (a portion of) my ~1000 words but decided that I really need to get what I had already in an electronic format so that I can actually work with it, in case I did want to work with it.  (Lest ye think this is just more procrastination, please rest assured, I type like a demon).  It took me about 15 minutes to transcribe (and clean up) everything I had written in my notebook on the project.  Because I’m a sucker for pain, I decided to find out how much work I’d actually done by the only hard-and-fast rubric a writer has: word count.  The total damage?  About 1800 words.

Now, 1800 words is no small thing.  But that’s all I can really say, and even then, I’m deliberately misleading myself through clever use of (lack of) context.  It’s not a small thing for A SINGLE DAY OF WORK.  It’s not even a small thing for a week’s worth of work.  Unfortunately, it’s also NOT A BIG THING by virtually any measuring stick.  To put it in perspective, the short story I wrote on Friday (300 Years a Thief) was 1860 before I trimmed it down, 1550 after.  This post, as I type it, will be passing the 1,000 word mark at roughly the end of this very paragraph.  When I got down to work today on Accidentally Inspired, I set down over 1600 (new) words, that done within the space of about an hour (less some work e-mails, less some students popping in to ask about grades, less a few bathroom breaks [I really wasn’t kidding, it was nonstop today]).  Frankly, I could have done more, but I needed to be professionally as well as personally productive, so I had to leave it off.

All that is to say, that within just over an hour working WITH a plan, I accomplished as much as I accomplished in almost 2 YEARS working WITHOUT a plan.

The lesson, kids, is simple.

Notebooks are the devil; burn them and feed the ashes to your computer as a ritual sacrifice.  Only that way can you absorb their power and open the gateway to…

No, wait, that’s not the lesson.  That was, uh, unrelated.

The lesson, kids, is: I need a DonDraper plan.  Luckily, I have one.  The trick will be sticking to it.  At least I can say this: Day 1 is a ringing success.