I was scrolling through my reader, searching tags to find new blogs to follow, when I happened across this post in which somebody was saying that they’re doing Camp NaNoWriMo, and that they haven’t met their word count and have been left in defeat at some 15000 words.
I’d like to note, dear original poster, that this is not specifically aimed at you but rather my thoughts on the whole mindset. I hope you don’t take offense.
For those who don’t know, NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month, which is held in November every year and the goal is to write 50,000 words within a month. Camp NaNoWriMo is some summertime spin-off and I’m not entirely sure on the specifics, but it’s all time-constrained world limits though.
I understand the reasons for NaNoWriMo. It’s to create a community, to encourage people to write, to set people goals. It’s to help beat writer’s block and help get writer’s motivated. It lets people attempt to tackle a goal together, which is excellent from a community point of view.
However, I don’t believe that it can produce good writing. I find that my best writing comes when it’s ready to come out, and when I have time to think about it. I write to relax, and feeling like I have deadlines is not remotely relaxing. I’m a student. I have nightmares about deadlines.
I find the act of writing soothing. Though it’s nice if people read and enjoy my work, I’m mostly happy to have written it. I’m enjoying the feeling of achievement at finishing and posting a chapter, so I’ve been doing that lately. But I never want to feel obligated to write. I don’t want to feel like somebody is breathing down my neck saying, “You must write or you are a failure.”
Worse yet, there’s the idea that if you don’t write enough within the given time frame, you’ve failed. Even if you write 45,000/50,000 words, and those 45,000 are absolutely brilliant, there’s this culture of failure around it. It’s terribly self-centered of me to think that my opinion is worth a jot, but I don’t like that.
It’s bad for my writing, and I don’t like people feeling like they’re underachievers because they can’t write as they feel they should. Writing is a learning process. With every sentence you write, you improve and learn more. Getting the experience under your belt is excellent, but what you write will never be perfect. It will never be enough for some people.
I don’t think a system of guilting yourself into achievement is healthy. Maybe it works for some people, but even so… surely you should be writing from a positive standpoint. Setting arbitrary deadlines is fine but people put a lot of stock by them. I know somebody who feels they’ll never be a writer because they failed their first and second NaNoWriMo, which is absolutely absurd. Finishing NaNoWriMo doesn’t make you any more a successful author than anybody else who has written something they’re proud of.
I think that’s what I’m getting at as I spew words onto the page in hopes that my thoughts will become clearer and I’ll be able to articulate my point. I think it’s about pride. When I write, I want to write something that I’ll be proud of. I want to write something and say, “It’s not perfect, but it’s mine. I learned a lot writing this” or “I’m really proud of the character development here” or even, “It’s nothing special. I didn’t learn much, but I finished it, and I struggle with finishing work. I’m proud of this.”
NaNoWriMo is too conditional. It tells me that I can’t feel proud unless I finish it. If I don’t finish it, then I’m a failure. I’ve write to write things for NaNo, and I’ll quit at about 20,000 words after about 10 days of stressful writing, and never touch it or look at the work again. It’s not something I care about. There’s no heart there, and it just feels like something I forced myself to do because I wanted the dopamine reward at the end.
Writing for me is about the journey.
I know I’ve spent this whole article bashing NaNoWriMo, but I don’t think it’s all bad. I think it has a lot of good points and brings people together. I’m not saying it’s literally hitler. I’m just saying it’s not for me, and I think people should be careful when doing it.
But what do you think? Let’s see if we can start a discussion down below in the comments regarding NaNo, because I’m really interested to hear other people’s voices on the matter. I am more than happy to change my mind here.
Quill, signing off for now.