From my journal today:
I’m in the middle of what is called, in the vocabulary of The National Novel Writing Month Challenge, a writing sprint. Also in this sprint are Avery, Joe, and Nico.
In a writing sprint, you do not pause when you write. The basic goal is to write as many words as possible in twenty minutes. To pause is to lose the race, because when you pause, in that gap of time that you’re not writing, someone to your left or right it writing, like, a dozen words, so now you’re way behind.
I think the point is to see who can write the most words in the shortest period of time, but I think that some of this has to do with how fast someone can type.
In truth, I wonder if this is writing or typing. At the moment, if there’s a moment to stop and think about what you’re writing, it’s easy to think you’re losing. There should be no hesitation with this, apparently, and there shouldn’t be any pauses.
In a way, this reminds me of that passage that Bill Evans discusses in the liner notes to “Kind of Blue,” in which he talks about the Asian style of painting in which the artist does their ink drawing on thin paper, and how any pause will break the paper. There can be no hesitation, and there can be no pausing.
It’s a really fun thing to do, because as I do it, I feel as if I have to line up these things in my mind to write about, or else I’ll just come to a point where my fingers are suspended in space, without anything to type out.
So basically it’s about throwing another idea on this swiftly moving assembly line, and then, while writing that idea, thinking of another one.
There’s almost a sort of multitasking feeling to this, in which I’m writing these words, while at the same time lining up ideas in my head to write about. To my right, my friend Avery is saying “this is not a race,” but it’s difficult to feel that way. I mean, okay, maybe I can modify my mindset so that I don’t feel as if I’m in any sort of competition with anyone else, but I still feel as if I’m in competition with myself.
I ended up writing 1,200 words in this twenty minute sprint, so obviously, I cherry picked the most coherent part of my frenzied tapping. And yes, of course I edited it a bit, correcting spelling mistakes (I hope), and moving a line here and there for clarity.
I'll say this: for cleaning the pipes and just letting it rip, I can think of no better method.
Sure, if I were to start doing this a lot, I’d end up with a lot of stuff that I’d rightly leave in my journal, never again to see the light of day. At the same time, though, there is that small bit of stuff that occasionally comes out of me when I do stuff like this, that bit of diamond in a sea of coal.
There’s definitely something to be said for this. I intend to do it a lot in the future, and it you write, it’s a lot of fun. Just set your timer to twenty minutes, poise your fingers over the keyboard, and then, when the timer starts, run, and don’t look back.