Friday, October 30, 2009

If We Will Only RISK! And don't forget the diamonds in the dustheap...

"A lone syllable. A single word. Sometimes a noun. Always, in the heart of it, a verb. All creative expression depends on our willingness to take a risk, and yet just to say the word creates a feeling of excitement and fear in most people, a sense of danger rooted in the threat of change. Years ago I was told a story in which the painter Paul Klee said, 'When I paint what you know, I bore you. When I paint what I know, I bore me. So I paint what I don't know.' Isn't that wonderful? Paint or write what you don't know. Create what you have not even begun to suspect! This is risk. It is the freeing intent behind most original work. According to Klee, the means to help our deepest selves make their mark in the world is right here in the tip of our innocent pencil or brush -- the one we hold in our hand -- if we will only risk."

~ Peter Levitt ~
Fingerpainting on the MOON
"Writing And Creativity
As A Path To Freedom"

I have been sitting here with reading material all around me, all sorts of books, fiction, non-fiction, newspapers, magazines, not to mention sitting here thinking nothing with a pug on my head...

It's actually a very good way to keep your engine running, a shot of gas in your old slow running clunker, when a pug falls asleep on your head and starts snoring on your skull, shaking your brains all about, it wakes you up and makes your engine start to purr again. God knows, my engine is hard to crank with so much going on in my life right now I need someone to shoot me out of a canon to get me going. And it's a good think Sampson is snoring so loud on top of my head, because I am about to take a big RISK.

The day after tomorrow I start NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), with people all around the world who commit to writing a novel in one single month. You've got to write 50,000 words and end up with at least a small finished novel in that month. Now of course it will need polishing up and likely extending, but the very heat and momentum of the days of writing (Like sitting with your pen in a pressure cooker...) has actually resulted in a number of people selling their novels and even ending up on the New York Times Bestseller List.

I timidly took my calculator and divided 50,000 by 31 and came up with about 1613 words per day which equals something like 6 1/2 pages a day (But God Forbid, don't quote me on that.). My eyes widened in horror, and then I thought, "Heck, that's not so bad. Why, if I don't eat, sleep, answer phone calls, feed the birds, or take the 5 dogs out to the potty the 27 times a day they usually want to go, I think I might just make it." As the saying goes, "Denial is not just a river in Egypt."

As if that isn't scary enough I have to tell you that while I have sold non-fiction to newspapers, magazines and even had 3 small presses since my 20's (I'm now 55.), I wrote I think something like a dozen or so novels in the 80's and 90's and despite my best efforts, ALL of them were rejected. I told my husband it would be easier if the editors and agents that read them said, in a kindly and compassionate tone of voice, "Listen sweetheart, you just can't write. Go get a job at K-Mart and sell socks." So apparently my fiction sucked a rotten egg, and now here I am, wide-eyed and terrified, with a month of fiction writing staring me right in the face. (Shudder...) It's a risk, and a big one. But I think I've figured it out.

It's like Klee said. I can't write what I think you, the audience, might know and like. I can't write what I know (Lord God, after all the non-fiction I've written about my own life, and with 3 different non-fiction books in various stages in the works, I'm all non-fictioned up!). I will write what I don't know, and go like gangbusters. I already know the title and the main character, but I'm not telling you, and we're not allowed to start writing until we burst out of the gate, eyes wild and pen moving like a streak of lightning, November 1. (I will admit to having wanted to cheat and start a month ago, but for once in my life I'm going to play by the rules. Don't count on that ever happening again.)

So here's the thing -- all you have to do to make your unimaginable dream into a reality is risk, jump off the high dive or the Empire State Building if you have to, but RISK! JUMP! FLY!

Now, you don't have to be Superman or Wonder Woman to do this, and you don't have to be an artist or a painter, mainly you just have to get out of your own way. I think this is an AA saying, but wherever it came from I love it. Act As If... All I need to do is act like I'm the greatest novelist that ever walked the planet earth and I simply have to write something like 6 1/2 pages a day. Easy Peasy, or so I keep telling myself and Acting As If, and believing it.

There is a quote that I love, and it's Virginia Woolf, buried somewhere in her diaries. She wrote...

“I have just re-read my year’s diary and am much struck by the rapid haphazard gallop at which it swings along, sometimes indeed jerking almost intolerably over the cobbles. Still if it were not written faster than the fastest typewriting, if I stopped and took thought, it would never be written at all; and the advantage of the method is that it sweeps up accidentally several stray matters which I should exclude if I hesitated, but which are the diamonds of the dustheap.”

I firmly believe that the person who started NaNoWriMo based his or her idea on that quote by Woolf. I mean really, doesn't that just sum the whole thing up? And never mind writing a book. Isn't that just like coming up with an idea for anything? An architect, a mathematician, a rocket scientist, all had ideas, and they kept working them over and over and balling up pieces of paper (and likely throwing them across the room shouting obscenities...) and finally -- BING -- what they were looking for -- the answer -- came to them clear as day. It doesn't matter what you do, what your dream is, you just have to jump in somewhere and START! RISK! GET ON WITH IT!!!

I'm starting November 1.
What are you waiting for? The sands of the hourglass are running away like lightning and there won't be a grain left soon enough. Shouldn't you start now? Believe in yourself, act as if, grab a piece of paper and a pen or pencil and just start writing any old thing down. And write and write and write, ball up pieces of paper and throw them across the room, and then keep on writing, drawing, dreaming your dreams into a reality.

Put your Big Pants on and pretend that you've already achieved the dream. Then what? It's behind you, you've done it! Hooray! Lord knows I'm on The New York Times Bestseller List. I just have to get started. Act As If...

November 1. How about you start then too? BANG! We're out of the gate! Get a move on and don't stop for the whole month of November. It doesn't matter what you're doing, it just matters that you start and if you let your dream drift out in a sea of ambiguity it will end up so far away you'll never find it.

November 1 is the day after tomorrow. Shake a leg. There's no time to lose.



  1. Oh, Great! Now I gotta write a novel? What if I just try to adapt my blog into a novel? That would be SO much easier.
    A pug on the head, huh?
    You might enjoy my blog of dog related writing. It's Our styles seem not dissimilar.
    Do you suppose your pug thinks he has a Maitri on his butt? Just wondering...

  2. Wow! You are really something .... all geared up for November 1st and inspiring us all to kick ourselves to jump out of our seats to start cracking & move on to start making our dreams come true! I love the way you write, to be honest I don't read till the end at other blogs, time is so limited but at your blogs, time stands still for me, I keep on reading word by word till I didn't even realized it's the end already. See ... how you managed to get me carried away with your writing. You are truly a talented writer and always up to something that inspires the readers. Keep it up, we love you and your articles, this is for sure.

    Love & hugzz always, God bless you dear Maitri

  3. Hope you realise, Maitri, that there are only 30 days in November, not 31. LOL. Good Luck with NNRM.

  4. Maitri you are so good with words I know this challenge will be a piece of cake for you.

  5. I adore your blog! Thanks for dropping your entre card so I could find you:) I am now a follower. Please check out our blog also!

  6. Your blog always makes me smile. Thank you for the help to understand the secret of the creativity. That's the gratitude. That's the obvious. While reading your post, the cold November's sun was warmed by your word and that lovely experienced moved me to leave my feedback here - THANK YOU dear Maitri

  7. Oh hi! I am doing Nano this year and it comes out to be 1667 words a day. Very doable! Good luck to you!

  8. What a treat to find your blog today! ♥ Just when I needed it.