The ghost of Hemingway scowled at his cards.
"Bad hand?" asked the ghost of Mark Twain, his eyes twinkling with mischief.
"Bad season" Hemingway gruffed.
"Damn NaNoNites are wasting a whole month vomiting out quantity not quality."
"Their choice," I said, looking at a hand full of jokers I was sure Mark had double-dealt me.
F. Scott Fitzgerald sighed and sipped his champagne. "They are making a gimmick of an art form."
The ghost of Jung frowned at his own cards,
and I had a suspicion that Mark had jury-rigged another hand.
"Perhaps it is the herd mentality which possesses mankind. It can be harmful if the individual gives into it unthinkingly."
I said, "It gives stimulus to many to write each day."
Hemingway chewed his cigar.
"If you need a kick in the pants to write, you are a wannabe not a writer."
The ghost of Roger Zelazny said,
"I made myself write three times during each day and insisted on completing at least a page each sitting.
Not even close to 50,000 words a month, but I wrote a good many novels. Even won an award or two."
Hemingway snorted, "And now, you are forgotten."
Roger shook his head. "Roland still reads me."
Hemingway scowled, "Roland doesn't count."
"You must be talking to my past dates," I smiled
and then sighed as I drew yet another Joker for the one I discarded.
Mark ignored my dirty look and said,
"Words realize nothing, vivify nothing to you,
unless you have suffered in your own person the thing which your words are trying to describe.
And to do that, you must live not chain yourself to a desk!"
He lit his own cigar, saying
"I read that NaNo electronic page. Why they say: 'You will be writing a lot of crap. And that’s a good thing.'
Am I the only sane person here to think 'writing a lot of crap' does not sound like a particularly fruitful way to spend an entire month,
even if it is November?"
Mark shook his head.
"To get the right word in the right place is a rare achievement.
Lord, to condense the diffused light of a page of thought into the luminous flash of a single sentence is worthy of a prize just by itself."
"Anybody can have ideas -- the difficulty is to express them without squandering a quire of paper on an idea that ought to be reduced to one glittering paragraph."
I said, "They say that they can go back and edit ...."
Hemingway looked like he was going to slug me.
"I have gone to their site, too. 'The world needs your novel' is their motto.
The world does not NEED badly thought-through novels. The world only needs to breathe, eat, and sleep."
"The joy of writing is not in deadlines and word counts, but in taking time to shape your work:
to sit and let the ideas flow and then, when they ebb away, retreat from your keyboard
until the next surge washes new fragments of story into your head."
Jung turned to me. "What do you think, Roland."
"I believe writing is not a sprint but a marathon,
a way of life for every day of each year, not just a competition for a month. But that's just me."
Jung stroked his chin.
"I believe this competition, where word counts are paramount, forms bad writing habits.
Habits such as overusing adjectives or bloating the pages with needless description.
It takes 28 days to form a habit, Roland, so you can see how November can become a hothouse for writing problems."
I nodded, "Many think that NaNo made writing feel achievable."
"I put a gun to your child's head and say 'Write 50,000 words or I pull the trigger.'
You will write that many words. It is all a matter of motivation. If you do not burn to write, you are a dreamer not a writer."
"No one convinced of the worth of this contest is going to be dissuaded by your words.
Sad fact actually.
You see, if their goal is to increase creativity, this contest will not help them. Research has shown that anticipating evaluation --
even the mild stimulus of the Winner's Badge to pin on their electronic newsletter--
has a negative effect on creative performance."
"I am concerned for these NaNites.
I’m afraid the price for doing professional work is a good deal higher than they are prepared to pay at present.
You’ve got to sell your heart, your strongest reactions, not the little minor things that only touch you lightly, the little experiences that you might tell at dinner.
This is especially true when you begin to write, when you have not yet developed the tricks of interesting people on paper,
when you have none of the technique which it takes time to learn. When, in short, you have only your emotions to sell.
This is the experience of all writers.
It was necessary for Dickens to put into Oliver Twist the child’s passionate resentment at being abused and starved that had haunted his whole childhood.
Ernest’s first stories ‘In Our Time’ went right down to the bottom of all that he had ever felt and known.
In ‘This Side of Paradise’ I wrote about a love affair that was still bleeding as fresh as the skin wound on a haemophile.
And all of this takes time to distill into just the right magical words to conjure the images in the minds of the readers.
Throwing them like dice onto the felt of the written page just will not do."
Roger nodded his head.
"Nobody ever became a writer just by wanting to be one.
If you have anything to say, anything you feel nobody has ever said before,
you have got to feel it so desperately that you will find some way to say it that nobody has ever found before,
so that the thing you have to say and the way of saying it blend as one matter—as indissolubly as if they were conceived together"
Mark smiled at me. "What do you think, Roland?"
I scowled at him. "I think you've been dealing from a deck of 52 Jokers."
He blew a smoke ring at me. "That's the story of life, son. The story of life."