By Sam Slaughter
I was reminded this week of National Novel Writing Month, NaNoWriMo for short. As someone who at this point considers himself a writer, I’m torn over the idea of forcing oneself to write 1500+ words per day every day for a solid month in order to turn out what can be termed a novel. In order to have a 50,000 word text—typical length for a short novel—one would need to write 1,666 words per day.
On a good day, when I’m feeling the stars align and everything just feels good, I’m lucky if I can hammer out 1,000 words. Sometimes, I feel like I just won the Stanley Cup if I can get 200. Part of me—the part that looks to be considered as a serious novelist and wants to write for the remainder of his life—thinks this month-long challenge is stupid. Part of me, though, the educator in me, I guess, thinks National Novel Writing Month (I hate using its shortened form, it just sounds stupid to me) has great potential for people in a country where reading and writing aren’t the highest-rated skills any more.
The jealous writer part of me thinks it is stupid because of the thought of feasibility more than anything. Like I mentioned, if I’m lucky, I can get 1,000 words per day. During my latest writing project, I think there were two days out of 75 or so where I was able to write over 1,500 words in a single span. Maybe that is just me. Maybe I do not have the follow-through that thousands of people have. Maybe I don’t have the wherewithal to sit down and focus for hours at a time in order to piece by piece create a cohesive storyline.
The jealous writer in me wants to say that the above thought is wrong, It wants to say instead that the people producing 1,666 words per day are just not taking the same care and concern that I am when I choose my words. The same part of me also is liable to say also that the storylines themselves are most likely crap, that National Novel Writing Month is an excuse for retirees and angsty teens to pour out all their fantasies. In the same vein, it is also an excuse for people to unleash all of their deepest fears and deep-seeded jealousies. Picked on in high school? Throw a dragon in! Can’t figure out how to get the girl? Use magic! Easy as pie.
I find it hard to take anything that long created in only a month to be good. It is a quality versus quantity argument. I know how long it takes me to write a piece that I am even a little bit happy with and that I feel has merit. Being able to create something so much longer and in such a short amount of time boggles my mind and so obviously I immediately tell myself it is going to be crap.
The other part of me, the one that values that people are reading and writing at all, thinks the event is a fantastic thing. Every day when I wake up and remind myself that I want to be a writer, I think about how little most people read. I’m surrounded by readers by default being an English major, but outside that circle I see on a daily basis that reading does not rank high on people’s lists of leisure activities. National Novel Writing Month, though, pushes people to both read and write more than ever before in a very short amount of time. That makes me happy because it shows that reading is not dead and that the craft of writing, however poorly done (as judged by my incredibly biased eyes) is still alive and well.