In response to Jenna St. Hilaire, On Writing Crap.
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy has this to say about crappy writing:
That turned out pretty good! I should maybe make some crappy Xeroxes of that thing and sell it over at Bubs’s. Or at least some snooty independent record store.
Not really. But a Strong Bad quote was inevitable at some point in this discussion, so I figured we might as well start now.
It’s more interesting to read Jenna St. Hilaire’s eloquent defence of writing crap. She raises the intriguing point that we, who by and large share a similar writing philosophy, should have such very different reactions to the phenomenon of NaNoWriMo, the headlong race against the month to complete a 50k word novel before November ends. Jenna runs straight at NaNoWriMo every year. She’s drafted at least one novel-length manuscript that way. I think about it, and run the other way, shrieking, ‘Wolf!’
I haven’t completed a novel manuscript.
or, different is good—right?
As a runner and friend of marathoners, I appreciate the spirit of NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month for the unaware. I was thinking about that this morning, actually, as I ran along the harbour, under the sunrise over the sea, in Scotland (yes, that really happened to me today—and about a couple times each week).
Jenna St. Hilaire, a loyal NaNoWriMer, made the observation yesterday that ‘there’s a real value in the simple act of challenging yourself.’ The self-discipline and resulting reward of writing a 50,000-word novel in a month, from scratch, is well worth the sweat and the clenching neck muscles and the rhythmic muttering ‘i-HATE-mylife, i-HATE-mylife,’ which, coincidentally, is the exact same reason most people I know run marathons—with a few mad exceptions who like running marathons, and who can be likened to Real Authors.
I’m not doing NaNoWriMo this year. Because challenging myself to push my limits and do break out of the comfortable and feel exhilarated afterwards is why I run. Not why I write.
In response to Jenna St. Hilaire, In Concert With
The subtle truth of solitude is that it unites us with everyone else. The reality of creativity is that when we are most alone, we are most together.
Despite its many deconstructions, there’s a certain appeal to the bohemian ideal of a solitary artists, scrawling alone in a garret, or walking along on the moor, crafting great art in the lonely expanses of their imagination. Artists have done that. Other artists have emulated that. What’s even better is when you can get a community of solitary artists.
Actually, there’s something to be said for that.
Jenna St. Hilaire strikes at something uniquely human about the creative process when she writes:
Should my book be published, it could feel a little weird to just have my name on the cover. Yes, I wrote the prose—every line of it. I structured the novel and designed the characters. But so much of the worldbuilding, the nuances and the concepts, have been shaped in conversation with Mom and my sister Beth, who therefore deserve some acknowledgement.
Those who are known for creating—for putting hundreds and thousands of solitary hours into art—do so in concert with family and friends and fellow artists who hear the original idea and say things like "Oh, I love that! Had you thought about [insert suggestion here]?" The others’ creation is perhaps indirect, but it is still creation.
In times gone by, I might step away from my story document and return to find that my sisters had stopped by to help me write it. I’d know because all of my characters would be having a fistfight.
Since I had such a feeble post on Friday, I thought I’d treat you all to of John McIntyre’s rousing celebration of National Punctuation Day, in which he honours that most profound of all punctuation marks, the Oxford Comma. This one’s on the house:
The serial comma, sometimes called the Oxford comma, the final comma in a series, is both seemly and symmetrical. It marks a logical division and forestalls confusion. And for too long it has been neglected.
It has been scorned by newspapers from ancient times, for reasons no one recalls. Omitting it may have made Linotype operator’s job a fraction easier, or it may have saved some cheese-paring publisher a pennyworth of lead every quarter. But though there is no sound reason to omit it, and every reason to use it, the gnomes of the Associated Press Stylebook continue to shun it.
I have stood up for the semicolon, and I will not be silent as the serial comma languishes in disrepute.
Citizens! Are we not writers and editors? Do we not have independent judgment? Are we to remain in slavish subservience to the AP Stylebook? No! And I say again, no!. It is time we shook off our chains! To the Bastille! Down with tyranny! Up with the Oxford comma! To the barricades!
Now go use it. Special Bonus Points in some game you’re playing if you can use the serial comma creatively in the comments. Maybe special mention on Friday.
[NOTE: This isn’t exactly a break from the blogalectic with Jenna St. Hilaire. And I urge you all to read her excellent new post. But, mostly because of time, I’ve decided today should be something a bit—different. It’s a fable. Really. I think.]
The Shark that Ate People
or, probably a fable
Once upon a time there was a strange little boy name Willy who sang a strange song at the bottom of the bottom of the bottom of the sea.
The Mer-King appeared and said, “You stupid ape, you could drown down here.” Willy, who was irrational at the best of times and the worst of times anyway, ignored the Mer-King and kept singing.
The Mer-King listened for a while, and then said, “Your epistemology needs rewiring. Why not have the help of this handy pointy stick?” And he made as if to kill Strange Willy. But Willy said, “Hey, hey, watch it, hotshot!”
So the Mer-King, who wasn’t bright anyway, sat back tiredly and watched Strange Willy sing The Strange Song at the bottom of the murky gray sea.