There is a debate right now (and it is friendly and well-intentioned, so debate is the right word) about what the group of people who plan to write more than 50k during NaNoWriMo are supposed to call themselves. The term that has come to stick is Overachievers, which is used in both of the spaces that we call our own – one thread on the forums, and a chat room that I started to give us more space.
I have heard that some of the dislike for us is caused by this name we gave ourselves, and that changing the name might help things out. There is resistance, though, mostly in that we don’t feel like a very respected or included group within NaNo, and most of us have already given up on using 90% of the forums in deference to the reactions doing so would cause. There are people on both sides with good arguments, and like normal, I side step things and am on neither side.
My opinion? I think that changing the name is a good solution to something that isn’t the problem.
This is my sixth NaNo, and will be my fourth victory as soon as I can validate. My first two years were abysmal failures in which I didn’t even realize that NaNo had forums, let alone that there might be value in me using them. I didn’t know anyone else that did it, and was not part of the community.
On November 1st, 2009, having never been to any forums during the regular season, I wrote just over 10,000 words. I won on Day 6 of that year, and was an Overachiever before I knew what the term even was. And, being new to NaNo as I was, kept posting in the forums.
And got flak for it.
Since then, I’ve quit posting in the forums so much. It’s not that I don’t love them or their sense of community, it’s just that I try to be sensitive of other people’s feelings and don’t want them to feel like my posting is to make them feel bad. And yet, no matter what I say, no matter how supportive I try to be, there are always people that dismiss me, tell me I shouldn’t post, imply that I cheated to get where I am, or say that I must be writing crap. Except in the one forum thread we have, I don’t self-identify as an Overachiever and don’t use the term, but people still respond the same way.
Last year, I made the mistake of trying to post in the Ate My Soul forum, because NaNo had eaten my soul. I was feeling discouraged, like a bad writer, and was having trouble writing. There is a week last year that I wrote under the NaNo minimum goal every single day. And yet I was run off from that forum as soon as I got there, by those who felt that, since I had won, I couldn’t feel bad about anything, ever, period.
But there is something else that I noticed, and why I went on this long personal tangent (other than the catharsis of complaining): those same people were saying the same things to those that were ahead of them, whether or not they had won. It wasn’t the Overachievers that they reacted poorly to, but those that were doing better, those that had written more. That’s what they responded poorly to and what they were upset by, and changing what we call ourselves doesn’t help that.
I’ve also heard that the term has connotations of bragging, and implies that the opposite of Overachiever is an Underachiever. Importantly, I see just as many or more people bragging that aren’t trying to write more than 50k, and I have always thought of the Overachiever as a slightly self-deprecating term. It reminds me of that kid in class that always does all the extra credit, brown noses the teacher, and is the first to answer every question.
But importantly, the issue here isn’t with the words in particular. Any other word that we could think of, it sounded like the Overachievers were writing more than those who were going for 50k, people would take offense at, because it isn’t the words people are upset about, it’s the numbers. Some people are upset that someone else writes more than them, and they’re not even always upset at Overachievers for it. Changing what we call ourselves won’t really fix that issue.
The solution here, in my opinion, has more to do with a focus on the fact that NaNo is a personal challenge, that no amount that anyone else writes, more or less, changes what NaNo means for you one iota. It’s about you writing your words, your story, and if someone else writes more or less that doesn’t make them a better or worse writer than you, period. A reminder that everyone struggles, everyone has difficult days and slow parts to their novels, and that we are all here over a common struggle to write.
Everything else is just details.