10 October 2008

Always Do Something - Another Reason To Nano

If you're looking for one more reason to do Nano, here it is. In their book Art and Fear, Bayles and Orland discuss the principle of quantity over quality. The relevant bit is quoted on the webpage, and goes like this:

"The ceramics teacher announced on opening day that he was dividing the class into two groups. All those on the left side of the studio, he said, would be graded solely on the quantity of work they produced, all those on the right solely on its quality.

His procedure was simple: on the final day of class he would bring in his bathroom scales and weigh the work of the "quantity" group: fifty pound of pots rated an "A", forty pounds a "B", and so on. Those being graded on "quality", however, needed to produce only one pot - albeit a perfect one - to get an "A".

Well, came grading time and a curious fact emerged: the works of highest quality were all produced by the group being graded for quantity. It seems that while the "quantity" group was busily churning out piles of work - and learning from their mistakes - the "quality" group had sat theorizing about perfection, and in the end had little more to show for their efforts than grandiose theories and a pile of dead clay. "

Right now, I'm struggling through a first draft. I HATE first drafts with a passion that sometimes makes me wonder why I'm doing this whole writing thing. First drafts SUCK because they are never, ever, EVER perfect - and I'm a perfectionist.

When we're stuck in the quagmire of an imperfect first draft - or caught in the death grips of editing, for those of you that hate that bit of the process - it's so easy to lose sight of what we love about writing. It's so easy to fall back into the default position - everything I write is terrible, I'm no good at this, I think I'll quit.

Don't. Quit.

Every word you write, every sentence you think, every scene you bash your head against the desk over - everything you read over later and wonder what you were on at the time... It's Something. It's Practice. You're Learning.

Quantity. To improve, you must practice. And practice means volume.

Go. Write. Do something.

4 comments:

Just_Me said...

I love the story. It's true, you don't learning anything unless you do something.

Lady Glamis said...

I'm taking a quick break from writing to read and comment on your blog. I know, I know . . . I should be writing.

Well, I'm in the editing phase, really. And that, my friend, is what I think is what teaches me the MOST. Me, anyway.

Cranking out a rough draft is the super-fun part - editing is where I truly learn about my craft.

What a great story! It makes me rethink, once again, if working so tirelessly on my ONE WIP is the best thing to be doing. Well, almost done . . . then I'm moving on to that next pot (and lining it up with several others, at the same time, hopefully!)

Thanks for sharing!

Lady Glamis said...

Oh, and good luck on that reading list. All I can say is. Wow.

Inkblot said...

Thanks, I think I need all the luck I can get!

Lady Glamis - everyone works differently. If there's one fundamental rule of writing that I've learned, that's it. If it works for you to concentrate on one at a time, then go for it :)

I think the point of the story is not so much that you ought to concentrate on multiple stories at once (though heaven knows enough of us do), but not to labour the perfection of the one you're working on. Get it down, get it down, and move on to the next one.

Not saying don't edit, of course (argh! heaven forbid, since editing is the BEST PART!), but more, don't let yourself become trapped by perfectionism. What you write will never be perfect.

But the more you practice, the closer it'll get.

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