Do you know about NaNoWriMo? NAtional NOvel WRIting MOnth (not stylized that way) is a 30-day challenge that invites people to write a 50000 word novel in a month’s time, usually November. I’d heard about it a number of years back, and with November now approaching, I thought I could perhaps finally participate in 2 challenges – No Shave November and NaNoWriMo. So I started reading up on it a bit more, when I came across this article on newstatesman.com, which cussed the eff out of the whole endeavor.
At first, I thought it was an angry rant, another angry rant by the type of person who likes to laugh at people for trying. You know, the wannabe-aloof-asshole who is so scared of looking silly that they would rather not try something, the ones who rubbish projects and espouse a mainstream, “normal” life.
But the more I read the article, the more it made sense to me. The writer calls out the somewhat pretentious nature of the whole thing and the people who do it for the attention-seeking aspect of it, tweeting out updates with #amwriting and #nanowrimo and what-not.
The writer points out how ludicrous the buzz around the thing is because of all the distractions that have evolved around it – “while you are a person signing up to write a novel, clearly the last thing you want to do is actually write a novel” because there will be:
- “webinars hosted by people…who have “novelist” and “writer” in their Twitter bio…wanting to teach you how to use a writing programme… to organise your 50,000 words.”
- “blog posts telling you how to cheat your way to a great book (use the Snowflake Method!)”, which I admit, I had thought about using myself.
- “life-saving tips for writers written by previous NaNoWriMo participants… half of which are about believing in yourself.”
I also particularly enjoyed her dig at Tumblr – “All of Tumblr will be #writing the most politically correct book ever using all of their favourite hashtags (there will be no white people in these books, and if a white person is writing it they will be checking their privilege against everything that happens throughout, in footnotes).”
She succinctly sums up her point by saying “Just shut up and fucking write it.” The basic takeaway from this is that, like everything else that becomes mainstream, NaNoWriMo has filled up with people who want to half-ass their way through it, people who want to do it because it sounds cool but find it too tiresome and don’t want to put in the effort, and therefore also has filled up with people who support that kind of thinking by filling you up with supplements, tools and accessories to make it somewhat easier.
But writing a novel is not easy. There are reasons why we celebrate good novels and why successful writers (and publishers) can make a lot of money – it is a difficult, tiresome and time-consuming process, and despite how terrible the world is, effort is eventually recognized and appreciated.
I don’t mean the childish handholding that is becoming the norm – “No child left behind”, ribbons for participation, everybody is a winner etc. That kind of thinking elevates “hurt feelings” to the utmost importance, and therefore enforces extreme and oversensitive behaviour, creating more crazy Tumblrians in the process. It also creates a sense of mediocrity and kills aspiration.
When I say effort, I mean the kind that wins and creates something great. Failure is not wrong or bad, but it’s okay to feel a little bad about failure, so that you can get motivated to try again and get it right. Being told it is completely fine to fail as long as you try drops motivation and productivity. That kind of effort creates cool things in science and literature, and elevates humanity in some measure. That kind of effort will always be lauded and appreciated.
I’m not yet ready to write a novel. Being a professional writer (No, really. I get paid to write, both full-time as a technical writer and part-time for content creation), and a lifelong story enthusiast, I aspire to someday write a full novel, an aspiration that I share with my sister. I have been working my way towards it, like she has, and I will eventually write one, much, much before I die.
I started with short-short stories, then short-stories and essays, and am currently working on some more short stories and two novelettes. It will take much more than 30 days for me to get those done, but I guess I can fringe-participate in NaNoWriMo by completing one Novelette. Let’s see if I can finish that by 30th November.
I hope to move to novellas by next year, and then maybe I can write a full-fledged novel. My sister is far ahead of me, having put out a couple of short stories and a whole barrage of poems. She’s shared a fraction of those on Facebook, but recently she restarted blogging afresh, and I encourage you to see her stuff – The Self-Aware Citizen.
But before I do any of that, I must continue to build this blogging habit. Thank you for the support you have given and may continue to give me. You can support me by commenting about things you’d want to see more on this blog, or by sharing my stuff (which you can see in the Library or in Related Posts below) with a #ThoroughAndUnkempt. As always, thank you for reading!
P.S. But hey! If you think you won’t be pretentious, and want to try it, it is still a great premise originally, and you can find out more about it on http://nanowrimo.org.