Well, it's almost November again, and that means that the NaNoWriMo hashtag will be soon be appearing on Twitter feeds and Facebook posts all over the English-speaking world.
I'm a writer of sorts, so this is the type of thing that should warm the cockles of my heart, fuel my imagination and cause my "I can type 100 wpm" fingertips to tingle with delight and anticipation.
Should. But doesn't. In fact, I have real problems with NaNoWriMo, and in this post I'll tell you why.
Before I begin...I'm sure that many people will have a fantastically enjoyable month. Some writers may find it beneficial to their work and it may even release untapped creative skill, energy and inspiration. To those people, I can only say: "Well done, and I'm glad you enjoyed the experience."
So, what's your big problem, then, Jane, you may ask yourself. Are you jealous or something?
I don't know if I'm jealous of someone who can write 100,000 words in a month, though I know damn well that I couldn't. This feeling is similar to the non-jealousy I feel about some fool--oh, sorry, I mean person--who runs a marathon. I couldn't do it, so from that perspective a marathon runner has something over on me---big-time. Am I jealous of that person? It's possible, but not very likely.
Back to NaNoWriMo. This event strikes me as something akin to "National Loose a Bunch of Weight Real Fast Month" Yes, rapid weight loss might enable some people to lower dangerously high BMIs. It might encourage other to make permanent healthy lifestyle changes. But for most people, such a month would eventually backfire, the weight would pile back on, and the experience of wild success followed by rapid failure would demoralise and depress, making any real weight even harder to shift.
Of course, with NaNoWriMo, there's no chance of such a reversal. You write the words and nobody takes them away if you don't keep up the momentum (At least, I don't think they do.)
But what happens when an aspiring writer runs out of steam on, say the 10th of the month? Does he or she feel like a loser? Not like a proper "novelist"? There may be many talented people for whom failure during NaNoWriMo is a real personal defeat. They may not realise that, in fact, writing a novel in a month, is actually quite a daft (if not dangerous) aspiration.
And what about other writers, who are struggling with deadlines, or desperately trying to get a new project off the ground after a submission to an agent or publisher has come back to them, rejected? How do they feel--the blocked, the demoralised--when a million wannabees are posting: Just nailed my daily 5,000 words! #nanowrimo
Sick, that's how they feel!
Obviously, I'm being just a tad flippant. Any serious writer would know that NaNoWriMo is a bit of fun, or use the challenge to push themselves through a stagnant or dormant piece of writing. A real writer wouldn't expect success after only month, or give up if they failed to hit their word-count.
What really bothers me, though, is the way NaNoWriMo seems to present writing as something that anybody can succeed at as long as they write enough words in a short enough time. Of course, many people can write novels, but only with talent, and only after long periods of hard work, diligence and devotion to craft. Similarly, many people can write 100,000 words or so in a month, but the chances of producing something even remotely resembling a "novel" are extremely unlikely.
To me, NaNoWriMo trivialises both writers and writing.
Maybe I just know too many good writers who are still struggling to get published, or too many authors who've worked for years and years before seeing their work in print. I know the hard slog that real writers put in day after day. To have that dedication and perseverance mocked by an event that makes writing seem like a hobby (buy an official Thermos!), a sport (wear badges and stickers!) or even a charity (try on a yellow wristbands!) really annoys me.
Yes, anyone can call themselves a writer.That's not new. Grab yourself a notebook and a pen, put on a beret, sit in a cafe. But to call yourself a novelist? Just because you went on-line, did a lot of typing and used a hashtag?
That's really #takingthepiss