Monday, January 9, 2012

Sheer Quantity

I'm home from the poetry retreat. One of the authors there did an estimate and concluded that together we read and discussed some THREE HUNDRED AND TWENTY-FIVE POEMS over the course of those four days.

That is a very big number. It includes poems we were given as inspirational exemplars in each writing session, plus the poems that the fifteen of us wrote in response to each of the many prompts we were given, and then shared in our circle. So right now I am saturated with poetry, stuffed to bursting with it, reeling drunk with it.

I also realized that while I was away I posted my five hundredth blog post. This is now blog post 502. That is also a very big number. I have done a lot of consistent blogging over the last two years.

So this is leading me to reflect on the benefits of sheer quantity. Author Malcolm Gladwell is quoted all over the place as saying that it takes 10,000 hours of doing anything to become really good at it. And it seems to be the sheer quantity of hours amassed that matters.

I have found that when I've written something that hasn't worked the way I want it to, the best thing to do isn't to try to rewrite it over and over again, but simply to write something else, something new. Then I return to rewrite the earlier failed piece with hardly any effort at all. Writing guru Brenda Ueland says the same thing, that rather than endlessly polishing the same little pearl, write something new and then you'll see how to fix up that pearl in no time flat.

When I was working on my Mason Dixon series, I started off with trying to write the book that became Mason Dixon: Fourth Grade Disasters. My writing group had much fault to find with it. I put it away and wrote Mason Dixon: Pet Disasters instead. My writing group loved it, and by then I knew exactly how to write Fourth Grade Disasters to that same level.

Sometimes, less is more. But sometimes more is more.

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