Saturday, November 28, 2009

Is This Worth Working On?

All over the world, writers taking part in Nano are either already celebrating, still beavering away to reach their 50,000 or have given up and are sitting back, wondering what they got out of it. I know I have managed a huge number of words at a really busy time of year, and am happy with my total. After 14 hour days, most of which has been spent talking, to sit down and write has been beyond me. Instead, since I've been inexplicably been waking up at 5.30am (unheard of for me), I've been squeezing in some words in the mornings.

But the burning question, once November is over, is: is this worth working on? In fact, it's the question we ALWAYS ask. Whether the novel is half-finished and we're flagging, or whether we have a first draft completed, it's always about its "value". What you put in vs. what you get out. Because the question is really - if I rework this (and spend maybe another year or at least dozens or hundreds of hours on it), will it be publishable? We can't help ourselves. Publication is like a validation or reward for the time and energy and commitment.

We forget that it's an unanswerable question. Is anything worth working on? If publication is your only way of valuing what you write, what effect does that have on your ability to commit and write and grow, because that's what writing is about? Every single thing that we write, if we tackle it seriously, should help our writing to grow, our craft to improve, our ability to revise it improve. It's the work itself that's important - what you can learn from putting your heart and brain into it, how it can expand the way you see the world and how you understand it.

Of course publication is wonderful! But the question - is this worth working on - can't be about publication. It has to be about you. Do you have a story you need or want to tell? Are you driven to tell it in the best way you can? Will you write it and revise it, no matter what? Does the subject engage or intrigue or stir you so much you can't help but write it? Then yes, it's worth working on.


Anonymous said...

I didn't and won't reach the 50,000 total on my NaNo piece this year. The thing is it got me writing. But what I found really difficult was the fact that I shouldn't go back and edit it and I really wanted to go back and fix things. Perhaps it will be worth revisiting and maybe it will never be published, but it got me writing and that in itself was worth it to me.

Sherryl said...

Me, too, Cathy! I have 32,000 words that I wouldn't have got anywhere near without the stimulus of Nano and my writing buddies.

Sheryl Gwyther said...

You're very inspiring, Sherryl. Which is why I like reading your blog! wish you lived down the road, I'm sure we could have a very interesting cup of tea or two (when we're not writing, of course).

Sherryl said...

Now, Sheryl, a long walk is good for you. Just step outside your front door and set off... I'll put the kettle on!