I watched a poet last month. An amateur poet. The poet stood up and said, “This poem probably isn’t very good. I wrote it in five minutes.”
Well, way to engage my interest. I wasn’t sure I wanted to hear this poem in the first place. Now that you’ve told me you put no effort into it, and you don’t know whether it’s good or not, I’m sat here praying for deafness.
(As a matter of fact, it turned out the poem wasn’t particularly good but I’m sure that detail was merely incidental).
It’s not the first time I’ve seen an amateur poet piss on their own work in this fashion. What is said in a spirit of self-deprecation comes out as the epitome of ‘can’t be bothered.’
“This is only a short poem…”
It’s another line that slices through the jugular vein of enthusiasm. I think it’s the word ‘only’ lurking in the centre of the sentence. The phrase is said as though short poems are inferior to longer poems.
Seriously: are any of us that worried about the size of a poem? Did anyone ever turn to Shakespeare and say, “Bill – can you pad out these sonnets so that they’ve got more than 14 lines? They’re a bit short at the moment and we all know that short poems, regardless of content, are all a bit shit.”
I mention this because those participants of NaNoWriMo I’ve spoken with in the past have often surprised me with this same fashion of understated self-deprecatory achievement. Whenever I’ve spoken with someone who has participated, my first instinct is to congratulate them on completing a full first draft.
Invariably, they come back to me with the words, “But it’s only a first draft.”
Not much of a sales pitch, is it?
As someone who has written one or two novels, I know how difficult the first draft can be. I also know the first draft is essential for any successful title. It’s the starting point from which a second draft can be forged. And from there, it’s a simple matter of editing, revising and redrafting to produce a completed novel.
To all of those participating in NaNoWriMo – good luck. I hope November goes well for you and I wish you every success. And, more importantly, whatever lessons you learn from this month’s writing, I sincerely hope they’re ones that you can savour and cherish.