November, November

You guys, I have a confession to make.

I kind of hate National Novel Writing Month.

Now, before you tell me to shut my big, mean, elitist, fascist fine arts degree’d mouth (not that any of you would do that), hear me out. I like the idea of  NaNoWriMo, certainly. As you know, I’m a fan of goal-setting and achievement in general. So, on that score, NaNo’s cool with me. I like that people get to feel accomplished after thirty days. I can’t say I condone all the resulting caffeine abuse, but hey, I can’t really criticize.

No, I hate NaNoWriMo, because I can’t do NaNoWriMo. I have never been able to do NaNoWriMo.

In the past there have been extenuating circumstances. For one thing, it’s more or less impossible to do NaNoWriMo your senior year in college when you’re taking 17 credits, including your senior exercise in Italian and a translation independent study, as well as the nine billion other commitments you foolishly agreed to. It’s also pretty ill-advised to do NaNoWrimo when you’re working full time, applying to grad/law schools, and studying for the LSATs. You might think that it’s well suited to an MFA program, when you’re supposed to be writing more or less nonstop anyway.

Well, not if you’ve decided on short fiction for your thesis.

So I could say, if I wanted, that it’s simply never been a good time for NaNo. But is it ever a good time for NaNo for anyone? Of course not. That’s pretty much the point.

Which isn’t to say I haven’t tried NaNo either. I’ve tried NaNo several times. I’m really, really bad at it.

I think this is partly because the peer-pressure aspect doesn’t do much for me. “You’ve written 25,000 words already? That’s awesome. I’m going to go reread Walden. Or make some bread. Or play Portal 2.” Again, I think it’s wonderful that this works for other people. It doesn’t work for me. Partly, because I have trouble with word count as a competition anyway.

It also doesn’t work at all with what I understand to be my creative process. I am very much a fits and starts writer. I know this goes against the “write the same amount at the same time every day or the writing police will come confiscate your keyboard” rule, but frankly I don’t much care. I’m okay with writing 5,000 words one day and 100 the next. I’m okay going without writing for a while. And I’m okay with stories evolving organically — that’s what they do.

Finally the deadline is arbitrary and therefore meaningless (to me). I know, I know, if you get your 50,000 words by the 30th, you’ve won NaNoWriMo and . . . well, probably your novel isn’t done because a novel is usually more than 50,000 words. So there’s more writing to do on the first draft. And then you have to edit your brains out anyway. So . . . it’s an arbitrary deadline. Really, I’m not trying to devalue what anyone gets out of it, but I don’t get the same things out of it. Because on December 1, I’m still going to be writing. Basically, I’ve never been able to convince my right-brain that November 30 has any intrinsic meaning.

But I think I would hate NaNo a lot less if I didn’t try to force it on myself every year. I’m going to promise to stop doing that right here and right now. So when October rolls around and I’ve forgotten how frustrating I find this whole process, someone just point to this post and say: “Let’s save ourselves the trouble, shall we?”

By the way, I am still working on my three novellas. Just . . . in my own time and theirs.

Did you finish National Novel Writing Month this year? What are your feelings about it?

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2 thoughts on “November, November

  1. Nope – I’ve never even started. And I’m a sucker for an XP bar just like everyone else, but it just seems that’s all the exercise is truly going to produce. A feeling of accomplishment and a wonky first draft.

    Just like you, I’m not disparaging anyone who participates — just not my cup of tea.

    I am the specialist of snowflakes!

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