In Defense of NaNoWriMo
An open letter to the guy who wrote this classist piece of self-gratification for The Economist:
I think your article is arrogant. You missed the real point. The point of NaNoWriMo is not that writing a novel is easy; NaNoWriMo merely points out that it is a skill, just like any other, that if you sat down and did the HARD work, you could learn. Because novel writing is a business that doesn’t often give you deadlines until you’ve broken into it, potential writers rarely complete the idea in their mind in draft. Editing a non-existent draft doesn’t really work.
NaNoWriMo isn’t here to tell people that you’ll have to cut and edit and rewrite and cry and rip out your hair and rewrite some more, because the first step is getting the draft. NaNoWriMo tells people to write, but offers advice and services for editing later. They don’t want writers to go publish the dreck. Plenty of established authors would never publish their first drafts, either.
NaNoWriMo exists to prove that writer’s block is a myth. If you don’t have time to be stuck, you’ll somehow make it through.
And no, I don’t expect everyone who starts it to become published. Like you said, only 1/5th actually finished it because many people realize that it is not for them or not within their willpower. But for those of us who can do it, it’s awesome. It’s an excuse for serious writers to bang out that first draft of that back-burner idea in 30 days instead of procrastinating.
You have turned writing into a classist thing, only worthy to those of high culture. In truth, people in almost any profession could benefit from becoming a better writer. Students’ academic papers can benefit from the practice of organizing thoughts on paper. People who learn the structure of story benefit as readers.
You talk about NaNoWriMo like it’s an activity for the cattle, not worthy of being writers, to use to avoid their boring jobs. Clearly your high friends at The Economist must fear what happens if Americans stop being drones and start being creative in any way, shape, or form. As for your talk of self-publishing, you operate on the myth that every traditionally published author deserves their career as some divine right, when in all honesty it’s a small portion skill and experience, but mostly luck.
Being a career writer from a major publishing house with lots of established works does not entitle you to be read any more than the next guy (so long as he has a story to tell.) Case in point- Stephanie Meyer (8) vs Harper Lee (1). You only have to write one, but you have to write the first (even if it never sees the light of day).
Like I said above: NaNoWriMo is not here to prove that writing a novel is easy. Society already has that misconception. It’s here to prove that writers are hard workers. It is HARD. It is not merely a gift given by God that pours itself onto paper without any effort. “Real writers” should appreciate that message.