Monday, November 28, 2011

NaNoWriMo and the value of quantity

Each November thousands push many activities to the back burner to focus on writing a novel. The National Novel Writing Month challenge is to write 50,000 words in 30 days.

Four in my family accepted the challenge. My second daughter is doing the best. She is up to about 45,000 words. She is determined to make the full 50,000 words by the end of this Wednesday.

This experience had an unexpected side effect. She told my wife she has noticed that both her spelling and writing has gotten better.

This reminds me of a favorite story of mine:


The ceramics teacher announced on opening day that he was dividing the class into two groups.

All those on the left side of the studio, he said, would be graded solely on the quantity of work they produced, all those on the right solely on its quality. His procedure was simple: on the final day of class he would bring in his bathroom scales and weigh the work of the "quantity" group: fifty pound of pots rated an "A," forty pounds a "B," and so on. Those being graded on "quality," however, needed to produce only one pot - albeit a perfect one - to get an "A."

Well, came grading time and a curious fact emerged: the works of highest quality were all produced by the group being graded for quantity.

It seems that while the "quantity" group was busily churning out piles of work - and learning from their mistakes - the "quality" group had sat theorizing about perfection, and in the end had little more to show for their efforts than grandiose theories and a pile of dead clay.

From Art & Fear: Observations on the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking by David Bayles, Ted Orland

I am often critical of public schools which assign two and three hours of homework each day to students in elementary school.  Studies have found that boring repetitious homework does nothing to improve the long term education, and can often destroy a child's interest in learn.

But I recognize that there is a time and place for volume.  It is nice that as homeschoolers we have the option to pick and choose what works best for our children.


creative homeschool ideas said...

Interesting post. I'm surprised of the outcome. And 50,000 words--that certainly will be a challenge!

Angie said...

I have been intrigued by NaNoWriMo for many years,and have participated in its weak cousin, nablopomo several times. I have found that writing a blog post a month improves writing fluency, but have never attempted the novel writing challenge. What a ringing endorsement of the practice!

Annie Kate said...

Yep, you're so right! I love the ceramic study, too.

We have had 4 at our house do NaNo this year, and it's been great!

Annie Kate

Marbel said...

My kids and I did NaNoWriMo together in 2010. It was a lot of fun, and my kids learned a lot. I learned that I don't like writing fiction nearly as much as I like reading it. This year they did it without me; I just didn't have the time. But I was a little jealous of their fun! It is a great experience.