Posted by: jeannineatkins | November 7, 2010

Cheering for the Diligent Dashers of November

I like the way some writers are racking up words through this month that can be dreary, pressing their noses close to paper when the world is offering fewer dazzlements, at least here in Massachusetts. Most bright leaves have fallen, and it’s too early to put up the bird feeders: we wait until hungry bears are hibernating. The month between pumpkins on porches and lights strung from bushes is a good time for words, and thousands of people from around the world have signed on for National Novel Writing Month: Our Jo jbknowles welcomes people for perhaps a more generous, gentler – though still wildly ambitious — version. Here one can find revise or tweak while still dashing ahead.

Close to home, some friends including Dina Friedman and Ellen Wittlinger are writing 30 Poems in Thirty Days to benefit literacy efforts at the Center for New Americans Dina participated in this fundraiser last year and found that writing poetry daily both loosened her up and made her more attentive to the music in her fiction. And we got to read some wonderful fresh poems.

Then there’s the cool plan to write thirty ideas for picture books in thirty days. Not only did Tara choose a nice logo, but there are contests, prizes, and guest bloggers to inspire. I expect writing even one not-so-brilliant idea then another and another might trigger a great one, and several good ideas might start to blend into something amazing as the days pass.

I believe part of our writing brain can be seduced or tricked by moving hands, see those as a beckoning to work without regard to the quality of what’s coming out; then those words may get better from sheer volume, or they will when one eventually switches back to focus on quality over quantity, or what we call revision. But I’m cheering from the bleachers, feeling tortoise-like as I stick to my own everyday goals. Accepting my slow pace is sometimes hard – I’d like to be more prolific — but it’s also what allows me to write poetry. Still, there’s something to be said for going against our instincts from time to time, and knowing others are writing a novel in a month, even bad ones, reminds me that haste has its gifts. Speeding instead of lingering, changing my speed dial, can take me to new places. In haste we bump into things, and make connections.

So I’m shouting Go! Go! to my friends, and giving myself a small nudge and a whisper to kick it up a notch. My muse may be a sluggish girl, unimpressed by deadlines, but there come times when every tortoise should put on bunny ears and hustle, stirring up the leaves.



  1. A like the idea of 30 ideas in 30 days … I may steal that and apply it (for me) to all ideas, and not only picture book ones. Be interesting to see what might come of that.

  2. No need to kick it up a notch when you keep producing book after beautiful book, Jeannine! Wasn’t it the tortoise who won the race in the end? Not that this is about races or winning… but I’d say you’ve found the method that works for you.

  3. It’s great how all these ideas are malleable. Thirty ideas in thirty days — or, um, thirty minutes? You can do it, Janni!

  4. Amy, you’re so sweet. I certainly accept my slow ways — don’t have much choice, but thank you for saying this works for readers. I don’t see much change coming, just that in the context of a day, sometimes it helps me to try a little sprint for say twenty minutes – then slowly slowly revise what happened then.

  5. Thanks
    Love this quote, “I expect writing even one not-so-brilliant idea then another and another might trigger a great one, and several good ideas might start to blend into something amazing as the days pass.”
    That’s exactly the IDEA!

  6. Re: Thanks
    Thanks for reading, and as we say to you dashers — go go go! — and let those ideas flare!

  7. Jeannine, I’m with you. While I admire all the NaNo folks greatly, my personal writing style is extremely slow and involves a lot of trial and error. I’m just not happy hurrying. But I see your point about the value of going against our instincts and maybe finding gifts. I’d like to try it in a limited way — say, for a week. It’s hard enough for me to impose any kind of deadline on myself, unfortunately. The pressure freezes me up.

  8. A week is longer than I’d ever want to hurry. I know I have to wade in circles and look, look, look, and it’s just never quick. But once in a while I’m willing to sprint for a say fifteen minutes and see what gets stirred up, to then look at slowly. And so much is revision — who can do that quickly?

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