There is irony in this post, in that I am writing it instead of my NaNoWriMo words. In doing so, I suspect that I’m not going to make my NaNoWriMo goal today, but as mentioned in my last post, I have been working rather a lot the last couple of months, on fiction and various day jobs, and tonight the well, as they say, is running just a little bit dry.
But that’s okay; I’ve already fallen behind once in the past week, and written 3000 words the following day to catch up, and I can do it again.
What I wanted to write about here is how useful NaNoWriMo is proving to be for me so far. There are a lot of naysayers out there, here represented by Laura Miller’s piece in Salon. In the other corner, a response from Carolyn Kellogg at the LA Times. The thing is, I used to be a NaNo-doubter. Not to the degree of a Laura Miller–I never really understand why people get themselves so exercised over what other people are doing, when it has absolutely no effect on them. (It’s not as though an army of rabid NaNo-writers is going to break down her door and force her to read all their godawful, half-baked efforts.) But I admit I might have been a little bit sniffy about it in the past. It seemed too much like a stunt. “Real” writers already have their routines in place. It overemphasized quantity over quality, and suggested that the reams and reams of words one must write before one actually starts to get any good at this sort of thing can as easily be spewed out in one’s sleep as sweated over.
Well, there’s a bit of truth to all of that, but who cares if it’s a stunt, if people are having fun with it? And all kinds of writers sometimes need to figure out a better routine. And anyone who thinks learning to write well simply consists of stringing words together until magically one day the right ones start to gush forth will be disabused of that notion sooner or later.
And so far, on day eight, NaNoWriMo is doing exactly what I needed it to do, exactly what I hoped for in my previous entry. I’m writing a lot. The story is taking shape for me. I’m having insights into character and plot points I can only have in the process of writing–I can’t do it just by thinking about writing, or writing notes–and I’m not frozen with indecision any longer. I have definitely worked out one of the major issues I haven’t been able to solve in months of thinking about it, waiting to move forward till it was resolved; I have mostly made up my mind on the other one as well, and feel confident I’ll work it out for sure in the next draft. All sorts of new twists and avenues and unimagined depths are opening up to me. It’s a mess, oh god yes, and December (at least) is research month, filling in a million gaps and empty places, and then the real hard work starts, the rewrites, the part that makes it into a book, into something you’ll actually want to read and I’ll actually want to have written.
And so. A waste of time and energy? Not for me. And who are we to say what’s a waste of someone else’s time and energy anyway? What passes muster as an acceptable, non-waster of energy and time? (Is there any greater sin for us work-loving, leisure-shunning Americans than “wasting time and energy”? We’ve never really shaken off that practical Puritan yoke, have we?) Might my time be better spent, say, reading Salon than writing fiction? I wonder where blogging and watching Conan O’Brien and petting my cat, as I’m doing now, falls along that continuum of acceptably-used time and energy? As Kellogg points out in her piece, it’s not as though, but for NaNoWriMo, I’d be off digging wells to bring fresh water to thirsty and impoverished villagers someplace.
Well, now I’m just riffing off of a silly objection that’s too easy to smack down in the first place. My real point here is that for me, NaNoWriMo has provided just the structure and permission-to-write-crap that I needed, and that is really all the rebuttal required. The past year and a half has been a long process of relearning how to write and submit regularly again, but the sheer word count regularly required by NaNoWriMo has finally put fiction writing front and center for me in a way it hasn’t been in a long time, and for that I am very grateful.