On Why I Do NaNoWriMo

“Knitters don’t knit because their friends need more hats. But so far, there hasn’t been a “Better yet, DON’T knit that scarf” manifesto.”

Knitters gonna knit, and writers gonna write.

Every year, right around this time when I’m running around in circles trying to get my life in order for NaNo (the irony of that statement considering the chaos of NaNo is not lost on me), I run across articles about how NaNoWriMo is the devil and it’s eating away at the fabric of America (I’m paraphrasing here, but that’s the gist of it).

My first thought, after the initial surprise, is to wonder why some people care so much about what other people do.  Why does it matter to you that someone spends their free time one month working on a novel that they’ve always wanted to write? Does it keep you up at night knowing that someone is having fun writing poorly?  Do the cheers of success eat at your very soul, knowing that someone has accomplished something that you think is just not important?

Some people would actually say yes.  Sadly.  And the ones that annoy me the most are the Serious Writers.  They are the ones that look down upon you with disdain that you could dare write something so fast, or that you could ever hope that your idea would have Serious Literary Merit.  What aplomb you have for daring to enter the hallowed ranks of the Literary.

There are two things that I have noticed about most of those types.  The first is that the speed limit of good writing seems to always be right about their own speed, whether they write 100 words in a day or 10,000.  Isn’t it funny how the only speed that anyone could possibly write a good novel at is their speed, and that any faster results in an irrecoverable loss of quality?  (Sadly, this comes up in the NaNo community as well, with writers of all speeds looking down their noses at those who write any faster.)

And secondly, what makes them think that someone who does NaNo just for fun, or even as the first step towards a real novel, is trying to sneak into the vaunted halls of Literary Greatness?  Did they ever think that someone could be doing this, I dunno…for fun?  I wonder if they also go over to their friends’ houses and deride them for daring to make a recipe more complicated than Easy Mac, for posing as a world-class chef, and for destroying the great culinary traditions of France because their friend made a quiche.

If so, they sound like not very much fun at parties.

And really, that’s the core of their disdain that I don’t get – that we are doing it wrong because we’re having fun.  The only way to write anything good is to be Serious.  You must struggle for every word, spending all day on one paragraph, just to have a chance at greatness.  To them, writing is hard work, a Brobdingnagian challenge, and I just don’t get it.

Writing is fun.  Yes, it’s also hard work, and occasionally (or often) frustrating, but there is a joy in creating.  Most writers I know are addicts to the written word, towards the expression of new ideas, or old ideas in new ways.  It’s a passion, and a wonderful one.  I’m trying to imagine myself coming back to the blank screen knowing that writing this story would be the joyless effort of pushing a boulder up a hill, and I just don’t see myself doing so.  What’s wrong with having fun doing something?

And that’s why I write.  Because it’s fun.  Do I have aspirations of being published?  Sure!  Do I realize how difficult it can be, and how much work can be involved?  Absolutely.  Do I know the chances of ever being successful, let alone a literary giant?  I am keenly aware of them.  But none of them will ever dissuade me for writing, because I don’t write to be published, or to be a Literary Genius, or as some kind of slavish devotion to a chore.

I write because I have stories inside of me that are screaming to get out.  Everything else is secondary.

Plus, the company of NaNoers is pretty nice too.


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7 Responses to On Why I Do NaNoWriMo

  1. amanda says:

    this is well written and needs to be Seen. because the idea that it takes YEARS to perfect a manuscript or that writing is Serious Bidness is sort of antiquated, don’t you think? who writes because they have to? writers write because we don’t know how not to.

  2. racquelin says:

    I really like this entry.

    And I’m arrogant enough to enjoy my own writing, so I curl up sometimes and read it over and over again! And fiddle if I want! Sometimes I don’t buy books for a very long time because I’m stuck in my own head! I am going to so many hells.

    From the forums:

    “What are some of the worst writing tips you’ve ever gotten?

    “Write drunk; edit sober.” ― Ernest Hemingway

    That’s a quote I’ve come to hate. Not only is it bad advice for those who are underage, it perpetuates a stereotype about writers that I find reprehensible.”


    • May says:

      This is my first NaNo so I’m not sure but I suspect I’ll be a ploeddr when it comes to word count although I want to do slightly higher word counts for the first couple of weeks just in case something it becomes more difficult to make writing time later on.I’ve had a bit of a peek at the forums but there are a lot there so I could see that it could take up a lot of time to be active reader/poster. I’ll probably just find a couple of threads that appeal and check them regularly but not be hugely active forums-wise.

  3. quix says:

    Great post. I’ve always been annoyed with people like those you described. No one writes a perfect first draft. Whether you write it in a month or in a year, you’re still going to need to edit it.

    Sadly, this is true no matter what the topic is. I work as a school photographer, and people are always saying that they’re slower than me because they care about the quality of their pictures, implying that my pictures must suck because I take twice as many pictures as they do. It’s exactly what you said – their speed is the right one, and anything faster is clearly inferior.

    I hate people sometimes, and you summed up my reasons why so much better than I could have done. Love the cooking example!

  4. Ruth Madison says:

    Something I’ve noticed is that writers, being a somewhat insecure bunch to begin with, can become extremely defensive when they “make it.” I think there is always fear because no matter how successful you get as a writer, there will always be someone to say that your books suck and you’re the worst writer ever. It seems like some professional writers keep that fear at bay by looking down on aspiring writers and feeling smug about themselves by putting others down. There may also be some fear of the threat of new talent.

    I hear people say that doing NaNo is not a professional thing to do. I disagree! Yes, I’m a writer every day, but NaNo is a great opportunity to spend a little bit of time trying something new or challenging myself.

  5. Mandi M. Lynch, author says:

    Just remember, these same people that say nothing good ever came out of NaNo are generally ridiculously under-educated about books such as Water for Elephants or Forest of Hands and Teeth. One has already had a movie, the other one has one announced.

    Just sayin’.

    IMO – anything that makes anything write is a good thing.

  6. Jassa says:

    The forums are fun, and desitpe being populated by some people who aren’t really all that serious about eventual publication there are a few who take it Very Seriously. I’m not particularly fond of the boards themselves, being much more slow than other forums, but it has its’ own charm. Some of the posts are hilarious fun to read, and I as the obsessive freak I am simply have to respond.I’m trying to stay off the controversial topics, because I don’t want to get myself banned before I can win.

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