Why We Grind, Part Two

Another post about the Grind Daily Writing Series.  Here are others:

We Grind to push ourselves past what we knew we could do. Most people enter a month of the Grind ready and willing to do the work, and they generally have some ideas or notes that they think will carry them through the month. And occasionally, they do just that. Several chapbook-length products have come from a month of the Grind, and a few folks have finished large swaths of their novels during a month. But for most of us, those ideas and notes carry us through about five days, after which time we’re on our own, producing without an agenda. And I won’t lie: that aimlessness leads to a lot of bad drafts. A whole lot. But it also leads to restlessness followed by bouts of intense experimentation. It leads to self-imposed formal challenges. It leads to topics we wouldn’t have dared tackle if we’d had more time to think things over. It leads the eye to light on the unexpected. It leads to work so raw that it cuts, but sometimes that cutting is what survives into the second or eighth or final draft.

We Grind to be part of a community. The original Grind was just four of us, and I knew all the participants, so it didn’t occur to me that what was gestating in that first month was a community that would evolve into something unlike anything I’d ever experienced. The Grind requires a writer to be willing to be vulnerable for a group of folks, perhaps some friends but, more than likely, mostly strangers. The rules of the Grind ask a writer to finish something every day, but everyone involved knows that the products created in the Grind are seldom finished. They’re usually sloppy, unwieldy, awkward and ugly drafts. The kind of thing that you wouldn’t ever want to see the light of day. And then, because the Grind recognizes that every aspect of the creative process is a risk, you send it to that group that includes a bunch of people you’ve never met. And they don’t speak about that work. They don’t make comments, they don’t share it. It wouldn’t seem to be a great community-builder, but what happens over the course of the month is that the pieces themselves begin to speak to each other over the month. Writers borrow from each other. Writers study each others’ habits, structures, images, and obsessions. Writers’ come to know each others’ minds. When you put it that way, how could you not develop some community?

We Grind for inspiration. Watching another writer reach deep, watching another writer push through the dry spell or conjure the draft that has perhaps been waiting for them for some time… these moments are magnificent. The Grind gives us the opportunity not only to see the work but to see how it is created, to see it in its nascent stages.  I can’t tell you the number of times that I have seen writers circle an idea without knowing it, only to have the thought crystallize after a few days or even a few months, and a terrific draft is born.  I think anyone privy to that process feels privileged.  Watching your Grind-group succeed is confirmation that writing– however difficult, however tortured– is a process we cannot give up on.