NaNo is well underway. How many of you are keeping up with your word counts?
Of course, word counts in and of themselves can be a little deceptive because, let's face it, not all words are created equal. In fact, that premise is built in to the whole freewriting/NaNo mindset. Authors are given tips such as,
If you don't feel like writing a scene, just write, "This is crap," over and over again. Eventually you'll get so sick of writing, "This is crap," that you'll start writing real words. Either way, you can still hit your word goal for the day.
Frankly, that's one piece of advice that worries me. A lot.
I'm no expert on creative psychology, but I've done some reading and two things have jumped out at me.
First, the creative subconscious is almost wholly unable to distinguish facts from lies, sarcasm from literal truth, exaggeration from reality. What you present to the creative subconscious is accepted at face value, without question. (I forget where I learned that. One of those books on flow, I think. Maybe the one by the guy with the Eastern European name, Mikhail something?)
Second, the whole purpose of freewriting is to better open the channel between the conscious and the subconscious part of our mind. You put your fingers on the keyboard, and you keep them moving no matter what, ignoring the urge to edit before the words are even out. This is supposed to help train the deeper part of our creative mind to be more accessible. It widens the spaces in our minds through which information can move from the deep level to the surface.
Do you see where this is going? You open a pathway to that deep creative subconscious, which can't tell truth from fact, and then train it by telling it, "This is crap," over and over again.
Seems a bit dicey to me.
Instead, why not try Natalie Goldberg's focused freewriting technique? Pick a topic related to your book. Any topic will do. Your hero's childhood memories. The villain's favorite foods. The significance of the color red as a thematic element in your plot. Writer's choice. And, as you're writing, if you get stuck, switch to another sheet of paper or another computer file, and write on your target topic. Just keep it moving. Keep the ideas flowing. And keep it focused on the task at hand, which is generating material that might someday turn into a book.
There's another little mind-training trick I picked up from Dorothea Brande's classic book, Becoming a Writer. Choose a time of day at which you will write. And then, no matter what else is going on, when that time arrives, write. No exceptions. It's a bit Pavlovian, but it works. After three weeks of writing at ten p.m. every night without fail, you'll find that it's pretty darned easy to write at ten p.m. in week four. Skip a day, and you'll find that trained pathway is a bit harder to navigate all of a sudden.
I've often wondered if Nora Roberts doesn't rely on a similar dynamic to create her tall stack of new books each year. I read an interview with her once where she said she never takes a day off, because she's afraid that if she does, the tap will turn itself off. (Or words to that effect, anyway.) You know, I always say that if you want to learn methods for success, you should pay attention to what successful people are doing. And you can't get more successful than Nora Roberts.
So, let's hear it -- what are your favorite productivity tricks and rituals? What about superstitions? And how is NaNo going for all of you so far?