Musings on Photography

Solo Photography Book Month

Posted in Solo Photo Book Month by Paul Butzi on January 3, 2008

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Gordon McGregor Writes in the comments:

Something I came across, talking about the Novel in a month concept http://www.wetasphalt.com/?q=node/106

I can see the parallels – is the photo book in a month for everyone to do one book, ever, or as a means to get started on the ‘real’ book for those who were actually serious about it in the first place ?

Does that actually matter, other than taking part and finishing ?

Well, reading what the guy wrote at that URL, I have to say that while I understand his concern, I don’t have much sympathy.

If his problem is that readers can’t differentiate his serious writing from what some novelist wannabe bangs out in a month, he’s got more serious problems than NaNoWriMo diminishing the value of his finely crafted novels.

One of the things I like about NaNoWriMo (and NaSoAlMo) is that different participants will participate for different reasons. Some folks will do the NaNoWriMo thing because they’ve never written anything, ever, and NaNoWriMo gives them ‘permission’ to dedicate a month of their lives to writing. What they write might not be good in an absolute quality sense, but it’s way, way better than nothing at all. Either they make the deadline or they don’t, but it’s likely that they’ve learned something interesting about writing and something interesting about themselves in the process. And I think that’s good.

Other participants will be people have written but not written novels, or people who write but are blocked, or established novelists who just want to see what happens when they cut loose and do it in a month. I just don’t see the harm, here. It’s not like someone is going to come along and put a gun to your head, and make you read everything that gets written. I’d bet that the vast majority of the stuff that gets written for NaNoWriMo never gets read beyond a close circle of friends of the author. And I don’t see that as a problem, because I don’t think getting published is the goal. Completing the writing of the novel is the goal. From a writer’s point of view, particularly someone who’s just curious about what it’s like to actually write a novel, that’s the big win.

To me the brilliance of it is that by specifying one goal (50K words) in a sort of vague way, you get a lot of people to try something they would never attempt otherwise. Rank beginners concentrate on cranking out the words and don’t worry about quality. Experienced writers explore what happens when they do things quickly. And everyone can share their experience and support with everyone else. And some folks who were teetering on the brink of getting serious about it all will take the challenge as a way to get serious and make a credible start at a finished real novel.

I think that’s the brilliance of NaSoAlMo as well. Look at the list of acceptable recording techniques – ranging from ‘answering machine’ to renting studio time. That opens things up to a wide spectrum of participants, from people who just want to try something weird all the way through to quite serious musicians looking to get unblocked.

Some folks will say that the very vagueness of the goal means that people of vastly different experience levels and widely disparate goals will participate. I wholeheartedly agree – and I think that’s not just ok but a really good thing.

So I don’t think it matters. I think for some folks the goal is going to be participating and finishing. And for others, the goal is going to be finishing with something that might not be the quality they’d send off to a publisher, but which stretches their skills in areas they haven’t tackled before. And for some who have actually finished and published books, it will be about not just finishing but about learning something new about themselves and their creative process by pushing things beyond the limits of what they’d ordinarily try.

Lots of different reasons to sign up for iSoFoBoMo. Probably every participant would have slightly different reasons. And that’s not just ok, I think it’s actually a Good Thing.

One Response

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  1. Gordon said, on January 3, 2008 at 9:15 pm

    I tend to agree with your sentiments here – the novelty of producing a book will be a huge reward for many. There will be a perhaps a smaller amount of participants that will produce something particularly interesting or use it as a springboard or learning experience for the next book. Others will just get a whole lot of satisfaction out of the process.

    I think it is useful to understand that the goal is participation, up front, when pitching the idea to people. You don’t have to be a professional photographer to take part. You don’t have to have previously published books.


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