Wednesday, October 12, 2011

A One Track Mind

How many times have I heard that phrase in my life? “You have a one track mind.”

Well, I do. I think might self-diagnose as borderline OCD. I have a tendency, once I start something, whether it be writing, drawing, playing music, whatever it is, to do it at the exclusion of everything else. And I mean everything.

Of course, much like Ben Franklin before me, I am a big believer in self-improvement. He famously had a list of things he wished to improve about himself. I can’t recall the chart he used, but I do remember the story he told about it. He was bragging about how he hoped to, one day, be the perfect human, and was proudly marking all his character flaws and personal shortcomings off his list as he finally defeated them. when a contemporary of his pointed out that he really needed to work on his humility, well, that was just one more challenge to conquer.

If I recall his diary correctly, after some time he remarked that he had finally mastered humility, or at least the appearance of it, which in his mind, was close enough. He proudly wrote that he no longer shouted down men who approached him at gatherings as being morons, despite the fact that they clearly were. Nor would he talk over his compatriots when he realized they were blathering on about something stupid. Yes, he’d finally mastered it.

I’m not entirely sure if that applies to what I was going to make here, but that is a story that bears repeating, even if it doesn’t fit in with my larger point. Which is: I’m really obsessive.

Part of the inspiration for me coming out with that is because it’s NaNoWriMo time again. Twitter is full of it, I’ve seen several blogs mentioning its approach, and it’s been on my mind. Turns out, I need Nano to keep me sane.

You see, when I wrote my first novel, I wrote the first draft in a little more than a week. I wrote and wrote and wrote and wrote, I didn’t eat, sleep, or even go to work. That didn’t really bother me, as I’ve always been that way. When I used to dream of being an artist, I would draw for entire weekends, huddled in my bedroom closet, producing page after page of adolescent scribbles, mostly barbarians cutting the heads off of dinosaurs. The perfectionist in me would invariably throw every single drawing in the trash upon completion. I have very little artwork from my childhood remaining.

The point is that I find it unimaginably annoying when I’m working on something, and I mean something that is important to me, and I have to stop. That’s why I don’t like writing over a long period of time. I have become better at it, writing the novella I finished recently over a period of about a month. But I want to come home on a Friday evening, lock myself away, and write until Monday morning when I have to go to work, assuming of course that I'm finished by then.

Being a grownup has meant that sort of behavior is frowned upon. My wife sure doesn’t appreciate it. My kid probably doesn’t dig it too much either. So I find I put off doing a lot of stuff I want to do, because until I can really commit to it, I don’t want to start.

NaNoWriMo is like Ben Franklin’s self-improvement list for me. It tells me I can write until I get 1667 words done, then I can stop. I may do more, should the mood strike, but I don’t have to write until I collapse. It’s a means of self-improvement. It’s funny, and like Andrew said in his last post, it’s really a game you play with yourself to get things done, and in my case, an excuse to stop.  I can get lost in my head sometimes, this year, I have plans to dabble in the realm of fantasy for my nano novel. I’ve never written a fantasy book before, but after I reviewed what I’d read so far this year, I realized I must have read more than a dozen fantasy novels. It wasn’t that long ago that I ranted on this blog about how much I hated the genre, looks like I’ve kinda come around.

What do you want to bet that means the whole genre is about to crash?

So, everyone get geared up, I may be doing a few nano related posts – maybe not, but I’m just laying down the groundwork so there is no surprises later.


Matthew MacNish said...

You could certainly do worse than old Ben for someone to compare yourself to.

Rogue Mutt said...

I'd never heard of Nano until a couple years ago and now it's EVERYWHERE. I still don't see the big deal. I guess some people need something like that to establish discipline. I don't, so it doesn't mean anything to me.

So anyway, good luck with that.

Cindy said...

I think NaNo is a good writing exercise (a long one) that I don't feel the need to repeat, but many people love it so go for it. :)

S. L. Hennessy said...

I've never participated in NaNo before, but I've hear about it so much this year I think I will. Sounds like quite the challenge. Good luck with your fantasy books and may I say, please writing god, do NOT let the genre crash. I'd be totally and completely screwed.

Glad I stopped by. Love you blog (especially the title).

Nancy said...

I am the same way with writing. I have to be careful when I do it because I will snarl at my children asking for juice when they interrupt me. I love creating stories but I always have to remind myself that they aren't my life. I think that is the appeal of nano for me as well. Maybe it is kind of like an alcoholic on a bender.

Andrew said...

I'm the same way. My wife calls me OCD all the time. I'm not that bad, though. I just don't like to stop when I'm in the middle of something; I don't think anyone does. My wife, though, likes interrupting me. Between her and the kids, I try to not do any writing when anyone is home.

Speaking of humilty, it's something I've struggled with since high school. I don't really believe it can be mastered except by appearance.

And thanks for the linky :)

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

My wife is that kind of compulsive-obsessive. Only with her it's knowledge - she doesn't just want to know a little about a topic, she wants to know it all.
Go for the fantasy! That's the genre I might one day tackle. I participated in NaNo last year, so this year I'll just encourage those of you who are tackling it.

Michael Offutt said...

Fantasy isn't going to crash. It just needs better writers.

Rusty Webb said...

Matthew - Your right, I did compare myself to Da Vinci one time.

Rogue - The first time I participated, around 04 I think, it wasn't real popular then and I felt like I discovered something cool. I guess I'm one of those people who wants to brag about how I was doing Nano when no one else knew what it was.

Cindy - I really do think it can be a good excuse to just write your novel. The word count is ridiculously high, lots of authors write much more than that per day.

SL - Go for it.

Nancy - Yes, I can be a bit crappy when I'm writing, I try to be grown up about it though.

Andrew - Well, probably better to have a bit too much confidence than too little.

Alex - I'm with your wife on that one too. I can play a mean game of trivial pursuit.

Michael - Funny you say that, the reason I started reading fantasy is that I think a lot of the talent has been gravitating that way (as opposed to sci fi).

Trisha said...

I've long been a fantasy fan, and for quite a few years it was all I read. But the last few years, I've made myself branch out more.

You must LOVE NaNo for the reasons you stated here! Sounds like it would be a welcome relief for someone as dedicated as you to getting stuff done in one go!

S.B. Stewart-Laing said...

1) I also have some obsessive tendencies. Doesn't matter what the project is, I need to finish it, or I will be super antsy until it's done. The way I've corralled this is to break down my projects into sub-tasks (ie, each chapter on a novel is its own entity).
2) I actually disliked the fantasy genre for years, and hilariously, that's now the genre I almost exclusively write. What I realised is that fantasy is like beer: it comes in an variety of types/flavours, some of which are delicious and some of which are disgusting and/or ill-advised. But disliking one flavour (ie, Tennents) doesn't mean you'll automatically dislike the rest of them. Also, there's a market for cheesy fantasy (much like there's a market for Tennents) as opposed to other genres (I haven't seen a big market for 'cheesy literary fiction').
3) I doubt the fantasy genre will crash, since it's basically an extension of the myth-making humans have been doing since we could bang rocks together. At least I hope that that's the case :P