For those who are not writers (and maybe a few of you who are) I want to explain that NaNoWriMo is not a word from Lewis Carroll’s poem Jabberwocky It stands for National Novel Writing Month. This is an idea that took hold in 1999 with a small group of only 21 people. The purpose? To write a whole novel in one month.
What I didn’t know until I read it on the website is that the original idea started in July. It wasn’t until the second year that the creators of this novel-writer’s marathon moved it to its current month of distinction – November. If you want further info on the history, please go to www.nanowrimo.org to read about it. I’m not really much interested in the background, so I actually read no further about it.
What I’m interested in is why so many writers jump on the NaNoWriMo bandwagon. That is to say, can someone please explain it to me? Because I just don’t get it. I write because I enjoy writing and I do it well. (Trust me, there aren’t that many other things I’m good at.) The idea of turning it into a contest with myself to force the birth of x number of words sounds like turning the process of writing into sweatshop employment.
Before you email or comment or bitch at me, I understand the common arguments in favor. Some people are better at getting things done when they are faced with goals and deadlines. Some need an excuse NOT to use an excuse to keep them from writing. And some people feel inspired by the idea of a “community” of writers, even if you’re sitting home doing it all by yourself.
But why do you need a national movement to accomplish any of those things? Why not set yourself a deadline or a word page goal during another of the other 11 months of the year? If you joined or formed a writer’s group you could find community and use accountability to them as your reason to get work done. There are other ways besides mob mentality–aka conformity–to accomplish the same things.
I have my own argument against this idea, besides not wanting to play serf to myself as overlord. One reason I like writing is because I’m good at it, remember? I want to finish a novel feeling proud of how good it is, not how many words I got done in a limited amount of time. It seems to me that NaNoWriMo values quantity over quality, and that’s just wrong to me.
Maybe I’m just contrary by nature. When Elvis was popular, I used to root for Fabian. While the Beetles were cool, my favorite band was Tommy James and the Shondells. You all do what you need to do. If it works for you, good on ya. As for me, my goal this month, as it is every month, is to spend at least a part of every day working on, thinking about or researching my new novel Bend Me, Shape Me. Let’s race to see who gets their novel published first, shall we?