It seems that AcBoWriMo is all over twitter at the moment (see Charlotte Frost’s blog on a blog), and I won’t bore you with the details – we all know that the point is to write a draft of a book in a month. A draft of a new work, that is. 50K in a month is perfectly doable. My first novel (which languishes in a lever arch file away from public scrutiny, as well it might), was 150k. I wrote it in three months. I was quite surprised when I wrote the final sentence, and realised that I was done. Back then, I had yet to discover the joys of editing, and the story of what happened next I shall leave for another day (it’s really rather … odd), but suffice to say that when I began, I knew the beginning, and the end. The muddle was a mystery to me.
Now, I’m all for writing at speed, and editing at leisure, but with AcBoWriMo, the most important part of the process seems to have been left behind: the long, slow and random gestation.
In the days when I was a musician (ok, an active musician), I would spend an hour a day working on ‘things’. There were many ways in which I did this, with perhaps my favourite being the random-page-of-novel approach. I would open a book, prod a finger, and write a short piece of music based on the fruit of my digital gesticulation. For some reason best known to the gods (presumably they either had no faith in my creative ability, or were bored of hearing the definite article made aural), I never got dull words. Ones I recall include devenagari, lagopthalmia, and praxis. These pieces were interesting, as exercises, and forced me to investigate harmonic and rhythmic areas which would otherwise have remained elusive. Every so often, they would turn into something a little more than interesting, and stick in the memory.
The things that stuck I would noodle around with for a while. Days, weeks, months would pass … and then without warning, I’d just know that connections had been made. I’d know that, without getting too hippy on yo’ ass, that a song was there for the taking. And out it would tumble.
If you were a neutral observer, then you’d probably think I’d suddenly been hit by inspiration, not that I’d been working on this piece, internally, digesting and re-chewing it like some sort of creative cow …
Sprezzatura. That’s what Castiglione called it – that appearance of effortless brilliance. The sort of brilliance that comes through hard work. An awful lot of hard work.
Music and writing both consist of great waves of technical expertise – and before you bleat, those who pose as being ‘non-technical’ simply don’t understand what it means. They practice, just like anyone. They work, just like anyone. These waves of technique are what allows the ‘creativity’ to flood forth. The artist, whether he or she knows it or not, spends hours contemplating stuff … mulling over stuff.
This is the stuff that dreams are made on.