Monday, June 27, 2011

The Lesson of NaNoWriMo

For those of you who don't know, NaNoWriMo (or, National Novel Writing Month) is an annual extravaganza where many brave souls join together to try and achieve the impossible: a 50,000-word novel in 30 days. This lovely adventure takes place every November and I have had the privilege of not only participating, but of actually completing the task.

"But what does this have to do with opera?" I hear you all asking. This is not just a moment for me to brag about my extra-opera achievements (because, believe me, that novel was a piece of crap), but to use this idea to explain another.

NaNoWriMo was an adventure in every sense of the word. It had the thrill of starting something new, the frustration of getting stuck after a while, and the joyous exhaustion of falling across the finish line at the last possible moment. I finished with 50,003 words with 3 minutes to spare. But getting there was the most difficult part, because in order to finish on time, you have to write around 2,000 words (or roughly 4 Word Document pages) a day. That means you have to sit your butt down in that chair every single day no matter what and get those words written. NaNoWriMo taught me a new type of discipline and I haven't forgotten that lesson.

When I was given my first assignment with Delaware Valley Opera, I had to learn a 38-page role in 30 days. Not to mention, this role was in Russian, a language that I cannot speak or even read. I was learning it all by rote (aka, by IPA). That meant I had to sit my butt down on that piano bench every single day no matter what and learn/memorize that music. It was a new sort of discipline, but I already knew that I could do it because I'd done it before. I'd made it over that finish line just in the nick of time and I could do it again. It was a matter of discipline and focus.

And I did do it. I finished memorizing the role just in time, just as I thought I would. Every project brings new challenges and this one has been no different. I'm learning so much from rehearsals and from working with older and more experienced singers. I feel so incredibly lucky to be training in this way. But I'm also lucky for my non-opera experiences, because we can learn from anywhere and every lesson is important.

NaNoWriMo and Eugene Onegin together taught me that it's best to try as many things as you can, because you never know when one thing will help you achieve another. The world is a huge web made of connections that you can sometimes not foresee, but are grateful for in the end. I'm happy to be learning and growing and finishing things one day at a time.