The slab of text below the horizontal rule was my attempt at NaNoWriMo 2016. I started writing October 20th (my 59th day of wilderness), on the long and bouncy van ride from base camp to the exped site, and quit on the 26th, probably from combined busyness and boredom. (I can't be sure that that's why I quit. From the 27th on, none of the journal entries offer a reason—just other, shorter, all-around more pleasant creative writing.)
The plan had been (and, by different approaches, on different battlefields, continues to be) to attack the perfectionism (a confluence of worries) straitjacketing me: with mottos of "quantity over quality" and "done is better than perfect", I would complete NaNoWriMo for the first time. In practical terms, this meant free writing. I knew before I started that, if I finished, most of the 50,000 words would be total garbage. Massive revisions would be in order before I had an honest novel. I thought I could accept that; I told myself that I could lock my motor neurons to the helm and swallow the key. Believing myself, I got to writing.
Things started according to plan; if I could've written faster, it sure didn't feel like it. But you already know that, somewhere, trouble brewed. I can't point to where it started, but the more I wrote, the slower. I started pausing to think of a word; to answer, "What next?"; etc. How I was writing started to invade where how much I was writing should have had total dominion. And, without delving too far into an assessment of the draft, it wound up being lose-lose for both cares. (It occurs to me now that "quantity" and "done is best"—mottos that don't even let quality enter the picture—would have been better. But I still probably would have dropped.)
I've said all this because I think it's necessary for the cautionary tale I hope this writeup tells. Telling it requires both the product and an account of how it was produced. While I can't deny the possibility of you succeeding where I failed, I suspect that my experience isn't exceptional. If you're planning to free write, be prepared to wind up with something on this level of quality. If you're planning to free write, actually free write.
this is slash will be slash was a book or something this is a preface call this a preface or a foreword and this will be the first of (I hope) many rules broken: no words written before November 1st yes we are beginning on October 20th because I'm stuck in a wilderness program no access to a computer so the writing is gonna be slow so and I'm not getting out of here before November first and probably not before the thirtieth so I figure I deserve a sort of headstart that out of the way this piece is at the time of writing without a title nameless shade without shape phrase meaningless poetic nonsense per the usual ("the youzhe") some ideas for titles are this is why I'm here, and thats why I'm here, a book by myself for myself, my other car is this book, whim, caprice, the first draft of anything is shit, shit shit, spitting images there are more in there I know maybe I'll write them later who knows quantity over quality and what qualifies this as a novel over anything else in this journal over anything else I've freewritten over anything else I've written period what will make these 50000 words worthy of the official NOVEL stamp of approval when they come rolling down in wide ink-wet manuscript pages along the quality assurance line where a disheveled middle-aged man bead of sweat dripping down the forehead down the temple down the neck getting lost somewhere in his torso perhaps resting glinting in the way high up humbuzzing fluorescent light on a curly long grey chest hair one of the first of its sort but many more on the way and the bags under its owner's eyes the day in day out listlessness on his face show no indication on his part to hide the fact that he knows and knows hard or perhaps soaking into the thin cheap cotton of a light blue button-up shortsleeve tucked into honest authentic 100% genuine American-manufactured denim Levi boot-cuts showing signs of the wear of time and the wear of Tide and the wear of impending death that even inanimate objects must see coming like chugga chugga chugga chugga CHUGGA chugga chugga chugga CHOO CHOOOO with not a Dudley Do-Right in sight because there is none never was never will be but put the sheer nonsense of it all out of your mind for a moment and it will be out of your mind for a lifetime like I said these manuscript pages will be traveling down the conveyor belt one at a time passing under the purview of that QA officer you and I know so poorly the belt will jerk into a halt giving Mr. QA time to scrutinize the material that is his his his his his his his I can't remember the word but you know what I mean I bet I hope please know I may not remember this one but I remember plenty of others and I know how to use them (title idea: this is the song of my people let me play it for you slow and sweet and schizophrenic) (how about just title idea: play it for you) at least I know how to use a sizable portion I may not be licensed or credentialed in their use but mistake me not for yet another back alley hack (in the place of hack I could have just as easily slotted in author writer penman wordsmith litsmith litter uh grapheme-slinger letter-setter um pencilman eh eh maybe if you're lucky (and if I'm really really lucky) I'll rattle off a few more for you later) passing off/peddling (I almost included "pawning (off)" in there too but I didn't think it belonged didn't think it made the grade but still I felt you might care to know) portions of piss-poor ("prosaic" doesn't even begin to describe its sheer LACK of quality) prose to pitiful pissants/peasants for a pittance of pennies (wow you have no idea the sheer willpower it took to suppress the urge to drop a big old pattern-breaking word into that chain of P alliteration) that fail to even plink as they plummet from one poverty-stricken (I'd love to replace that "stricken" with a P-word but I but I just can't dear reader my I don't know what to say but that my hands are tied) (I almost mentioned something about dirt or filth or stains but I'd run the risk of being offensive enough already if I'ms can guess) palm into another and it can buy literally nothing and that closed palm retreats into the dark folds of a thick brown low thread count moth-eaten cloak straight out of the D&D campaign you ran out of your basement every Saturday night in high school I have fine control over your mind and I'm whisking it back to a bygone age when you whisked it back to a bygone age that never quite was when eccentrically-clad hermits made playthings of atoms as they intoned and gesticulated arcane and the wayward fool and the outcast scholar alike could find purpose behind the nearest door of heavy oak that swings on rusted rickety-ass iron hinges into the tavern's perennial warm glow that radiates from the crackling fireplace set in stone a perfect station for the venerable thief with the heart of gold and the tongue of silver and the balls of steel and the dentures of what I'm guessing is ivory and the joints of plain old ailing muscle and connective tissue that no matter how spry agile reliable resilient trustworthy it was in its prime must now and forever persist in umbilical union with some bar inn tavern pub fireplace or another lest the man be wracked with aches merciless unrelenting raw electric never shall he walk the world again sans fetters venture forward into the unknown dangerous and dark breath abbreviated truncated shortened by that frothy witch's brew of fear and curiosity that erupts retroperistaltic from lesser men (such as myself) but is the sweetest nectar to those dauntless and self-assured few (such as uh myself) that may count themselves the Old Thief's worthy predecessors these men and women who sit beside not before the old man meet him in his eye (the other might be behind his eyepatch) and catch a glimpse at the end of the endless hall within his pupil of a soul weathered but indestructible as their own and in this moment they understand by no other means than the sudden presence of the piece of knowledge in their heads the purpose of the cloak that he wears the thick brown low thread count moth-eaten cloak that covers him from head to toe hiding everything but his face from everything and that poverty-stricken hand stained discolored by ink and graphite emerges from the folds of that cloak clutching sheets of paper yellowed by something that wasn't quite years (title ideas: the plot that refused to cohere, only one title suits this novel and it is this novel itself, the joy immutable, I cannot bring a world quite round, I patch it as I can, the acrid colors) that sheaf of scrawl occupies the space between the two men for not even a moment before the customer's hand snapped out from his side and snatched the clutch of paper like a frog catching a fly (nobody reads not that anyone ever did even Homer nods off watching late night George Lopez reruns) and he double triple takes as he stuffs the pages into an unbuttoned ("unbuttoned" as in not only was the flap of the pocket not buttoned down but there were bits of frayed thread where one would expect to find buttons) pants pocket not even a bit of care paid to the crumpling the pages underwent (wow what an awkward sentence) the pages buckled they uh you know they folded and curled as best any thin solid attempts when forced into a relatively tight/small space that space of course being that pants pocket I mentioned but if the deformation of the pages was even a grain of salt or a straw of wheat in the cognitive load his brain carried in a a a uh a a a a multifarium (we would have also accepted "multifare", "multifary", "multifariosity", "multifarity", and others in that vein/artery/capillary/vessel/aqueduct/lifeline/subway—we are not etymologists) of saddlebags and trunks and duffels and cardboard boxes and that cartilage that holds six-packs together and straps and jerry cans and pressurized tanks and binders and cartons and backpacks and dry bags and bottles and kits and sacks and suitcases and hollowed-out books and skins and bindles and bins and sleeves and portmanteaus and holsters and fanny packs and bladders and purses and tennis ball cans and and those Chinese take-out boxes and tubes and clingfilm and film canisters and handbags and wallets and tarps and aquariums and jewel cases and coffins and cages and shoeboxes and crates and sarcophagi and wrappers and chests and envelopes and stringed instrument cases and lockets and magazines and safes and seasoning shakers and those cardboard cupholders the barista gives you when you order multiple coffees to-go and hamster balls and arks and capsule toy capsules and pots and buckets and filing cabinets and warehouses and cups and urns and sacs and refrigerators and lockers and pockets and barrels and jugs and batteries and piggy banks and tubs and casks and baskets and hampers and vials and papooses and wardrobes and carts and inkwells and folders and those spring-loaded widgets that slot into a cupholder or clip to a waistband and hold the change that is loaded into for later use at a tollbooth or jukebox and glove compartments and Christmas tree stands and matchboxes and cigar boxes and closets and garages and cemeteries and landfills and vacuoles and "the back" where customers always insist that out-of-stock item is hiding and dog pounds and kennels and daycares and DNA and vaults and packages and flywheels and vacuum tubes and magnetic tape and punched cards and punched tape and piles and heaps and stacks and queues and trees and arrays and lists and maps and dictionaries and sets and drums and holes and cupboards and pools and vats and cellars and attics and coops and those plastic pill containers with the days of the week on them and registers and caches and "the cloud" and databases and floppy disks and bunkers and armories and ghettos and chambers and shelves and armoirs and cabinets and desks and drawers and compact discs and digital video discs and LaserDiscs and cartridges and (title idea: I will be this book when it dies) (all of these things are temporary—in a sense, a smoke signal is as good a storage medium as a monolith) (art is the only drug you can't make for yourself—remember that now because it might be important later) (title idea: lunar footprints last forever) (cont...)