Okay. Where, exactly do I start?
Maybe this is just because I haven’t done NaNoWriMo for three years, but I’m seeing a lot more negativity attached to the idea of writing novels (in a month) coming out of the internet this past week than I have, I think, ever in my life.
I honestly don’t understand the phenomenon.
So far, there have been a couple of arguments. There have also been tons of counter arguments. I’m not going to sit around and list them all, because frankly, Salon.com and The LA Times basically did that already (also, I follow Hannah Moskowitz on Twitter and she’s got most of this shit covered).
My issue with the criticism is a stodgy academic one.
Yeah. I can be a stodgy academic about NaNoWriMo.
I’ve talked before about active and passive relationships to creativity and creative pursuits. (And if I haven’t, I’ve meant to, so we’ll just pretend that I have and if I’m proven wrong I’ll just post about it later in the month.)
Very simply, in a our society, we tend to think of things in terms of producers and consumers. Producers make. Consumers take. I think this translates very rapidly in some peoples’ minds to novelists can write novels, but non-novelists should not write novels.
This is bullcrap.
First of all, “novelist” is not a definition of a person, it is merely an occupation. What does an occupation do? It occupies some time in your life. You do it. It does not define you. (I think Nathan Bransford wrote something to this effect a while ago, but of course I can’t find the exact link.)
Second of all, I don’t think anyone expects me to believe that producer and consumer are mutually exclusive. Even people who let their money work for them generally have hobbies or something to keep them busy. So let’s just imagine that everyone in the world has the capacity to produce and consume something, and that something may very well be novels.
Now: I have a question for you. What better way to acquaint yourself with the creative product of your choosing than to try to make one yourself?
In other words, even if you are just a reader, why choose a passive relationship to what you are consuming? Why not write a book? Well, there are tons of legitimate reasons to not write books. I can think of one right now. “I don’t want to.” More power to you, madam. But if you want to actively consume a novel, why not know how one comes into being?
This is where the timeframe of this whole deal becomes a problem for some people. How can you possibly write a novel in 30 days?
Well, how can you possibly learn figure drawing in a two hour session? Just because you’re a little squashed for time doesn’t mean you aren’t learning anything. And, just as there are artists who can draw a figure in two hours, there are novelists who can write a whole book in a month. (And it’ll be publishable, too. Again, I refer you to Hannah Moskowitz.)
Opinion time: In my mind, it is infinitely more rewarding to be an active consumer, to have this active relationship with art. Even though I’m rather crap at it, I do try to teach myself to draw, take art classes, learn about music, etc. I’ve even drawn a few things I’m proud of and composed a couple of songs. (One, which I wrote when I was 8, is called “Popcorn” and is about how popcorn is really pretty cool.) Even if I weren’t pursuing writing as a career, I would want to better understand writing as an art, and NaNoWriMo could be a perfect way to do that. You have community, a strict deadline, and daily goals. Plus, it’s fun.