November 1, 2006
Begin anywhere. John Cage tells us that not knowing where to begin is a common form of paralysis. His advice: begin anywhere.
— Bruce Mau, b. 1959
Canadian graphic designer, from An Incomplete Manifesto for Growth
If you’re on my notify list you’ve probably already received today’s notice that I updated Markings. And if you read the piece, you might notice that I’ve used the same epigraph for this post. Today was a day of getting down to work, drawing a line and just starting again. Today is the first day of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) and NaBloPoMo (National Blog Posting Month). You won’t find either event on any official U.S. calendar, and even Hallmark doesn’t make cards that participants can send each other. They are both Internet phenomena, something begun among friends that spread to others.
I faded out on NaNoWriMo the two years that I signed up for it. My fussiness and perfectionism about writing got in the way. I just couldn’t sit down and tap out 1600 words a day without stopping to do things like make elaborate character charts or find out the date of Easter in 1969. When I first heard about NaBloPoMo I thought I’d do that instead of NaNoWriMo. I have no idea what my muse has been smoking to suggest that I do both.
I also don’t know what made me turn to material I last worked on in 2002. That spring I’d made some notes about a man in his early seventies who begins revisiting places of significance for him in the town he’s lived in for a long time as he’s getting ready to move to Florida. I had two scenes sketched out but not written.
The story is something of a memento mori, a reminder of death. October was hard in that regard for me. Two friends near my age died suddenly, and there was also the tragedy in Lancaster. In the last week I’ve read two published short stories that concern characters being visited by the herald of death, as well as a manuscript in draft from a friend who is working with the same theme.
I wrote a little more than 2500 words today, a little ahead of the pace required to make 50,000 words in one month. I put it aside without starting to tinker. I have an idea of a scene to write tomorrow that is unconnected to anything I wrote today.
If every day I just allow myself to begin anywhere, at the end of this month I won’t have a novel, exactly, but I will have 200 manuscript pages full of possibilities.
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