Sunday, December 8, 2013

50,000

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We make the world possible through dreaming.  Without persistent dreamers, the kind who fall down and get back up, the kind who others kick to the curb with doubtful feet only to emerge stronger than before, this world would have long ago become stagnant.  Some dreamers revolutionize the entire world, some only small clusters, but regardless of their impact, they share one quality I constantly respect and envy - the ability to push through the inevitable challenges the universe offers, resilient and strong.

I haven’t logged a blog entry in quite a while.  I have dedicated my fingers towards a different goal the last two months - that of working towards my own dreams.  November is National Novel Writing Month - or NaNoWriMo for short - and for years, as the writer bug tickled my insides, I have wanted to tackle the elephant sized goal of writing 50,000 words during the month.  Despite my best intentions, I had allowed those curious and unfortunate scourges every dreamer recognizes - doubt, procrastination, poor planning - to derail my plans.  Without ever beginning the challenge, November became a month wrought with personal frustration. 

This year, however, I approached the challenge with a renewed spirit.  In March, I finished the first draft on my first novel The Selection, and though it needs more work than I care to imagine, the act of accomplishment launched my brain into overdrive.  Story ideas pummeled my insides.  I saw new characters at every turn.  The world opened up before me as I found the first glimmers of belief in myself.

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I have no formal creative writing education, and while many authors over the years have made a go of publishing without a shred of instruction, my own psyche has always defaulted to the classroom when considering the unfamiliar.  I couldn’t feel comfortable without one attempt at finding a teacher who could tell me everything I do well and poorly.  So, I signed up for a writing workshop.  I learned a lot.  But what I learned most of all didn’t originate from the class itself.  I learned that the best way to learn how to do something is to do it.  Many times.  Many, many times.

Thinking back, I had heard that same exact lesson from my college bassoon instructor - Jeff Robinson.  He taught me two important lessons that strangely have more to do with life than bassoon performance.  The first regarded reed making - you haven’t made one reed until you have made one thousand.  The second - if you want to make it as a professional musician, you need to spend two straight years practicing four hours a day.

http://www.dianehanson.net/Painting%20Images/Painting%20Images%202000-02/L-bassoonreeds00.jpgThe first lesson was my least favorite, and not just because I loathe making reeds.  Knowing one thousand mistakes lie ahead  absolutely bruises the ego.  Once the one thousand and first reed sits on the vocal making brilliantly sounds, the previous one thousand become worth it.  Those mistakes allow you to fail forwards.

I have recently encountered the second lesson in one of Macklemore’s raps, Ten Thousand Hours.  The lyrics are ripe with inspiration, but my favorite lyrics speak to the meaning of the title:

The greats weren’t great because at birth they could paintThe greats were great cause they paint a lot  

Spending 10,000 hours working through the process, through the craft, eventually leads to the right kind of product.  

So, with these thoughts it mind, and with the specter of November failures hanging over my shoulder, I dove in.  I had to fight the internal editor who wanted to go back and fix.  I had to fight the persistent desire to check facebook, to see what drivel the TV had to offer, to read the news.  I occasionally succumbed to creative avoidance, but twenty eight days in, on Thanksgiving day, I had more than 50,000 words down and a nearly completed novel.

I sit here, eager to return to work and finish the first draft.  I write my blog today not for a pat on the back, but to remind you to never abandon your dreams.  No matter how old you are, how long you have put them off or hidden from them, your dreams are alive.  Embrace them.  Let them live.  You will never feel so alive as when you let them free.  I know.  50,000 words taught me.

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