NaNoWriMo, in case you’re unfamiliar, is National Novel Writing Month, where writers try and write the first draft of a novel in a month.
I did it once, a long, long time ago. I wrote my novel and it was fun to connect with other writers online in their forums and to track my progress. But really, I write every day, for work or not, so this wasn’t as big a deal for me as it was for some of the people participating. I was always pretty disciplined about writing, whether it was fiction or poetry. I also wrote freelance articles when I could.
Even in corporate-ville, I was hired because of my writing skills and did a fair amount of what the kids call boring work. This is work that includes press releases, direct mail copy, advertising pieces, letters, proposals, white papers…..
Sorry, I fell asleep on my own description of this work. That’s how boring it is. And yet, if you love the written word you do it because of this remarkable thing called a paycheck. So I’ve been someone that has learned to un-glamorize writing.
Now, of course, I write a lot because it’s my full-time job. It’s not for fun, even though I love what I do. But there’s something else. Even though the writing is not as mystical or glamorous as it was years and years ago when I did NaNoWriMo, I think I have a much better attitude and approach to it. I don’t think anything should be so reverent that you make it an idol. I think because I loved writing so much that it became almost holy to me. But remember where the focus should be?
So the other day I’m on Twitter, and if you follow me there you’ll find that I probably tweet about ten times a day. Some are scheduled and some are just me blabbing away. The other day I tweeted that every day was like NaNoWriMo for me. This was because #NaNoWriMo was a trending topic, and I was on there tweeting about other things so I added to the trend.
I didn’t think much about it until a friend emailed me and said, “Are you serious about NaNoWriMo? I’m doing NaNoWriMo. You’re not.”
Am I actually participating in NaNoWriMo? No. I don’t begrudge anyone that does. I think every writer has to do what is right for them. But I also know that when you write for a living, the process and discipline is different. It’s different if you’re a freelancer or if you’re a full-time fiction writer. It’s different when you’re working not for extra income, not to spread the word, not for fun or something to do, but because your family needs the coin.
It’s just different.
Different is not better or worse. It’s different.
I’ve always been someone that hits deadlines ridiculously early. I remember once in high school, our teacher gave us a project that was due at the end of the school year and I ran right to the library to start on it. My friend shook his head sadly and said, “Overachiever.”
But it wasn’t overachieving, it was more like I hated to have a deadline hanging over me. I still feel that way. I’ve never missed a client deadline (and I hope I don’t jinx myself now that I just said that).
Years ago I read the advice that novelist Jennifer Weiner gave about writing, and noticed she recommended that aspiring writers get a job as a journalist. This seemed to go against all the advice I followed myself, which was namely that you should get a job that doesn’t interest you so you can always come home and be interested in writing. But there’s a paragraph I’ve remembered ever since I first read it, and which I can relate to in an even different way now:
you write every day, and you write on deadline, and you write to fit the space available, which means you don’t grow up into one of those writers who gets sentimental over her sentences or overly attached to her adverbial clauses. And writer’s block? Heh.
I like that. A lot. Mostly because it’s true.
So back to the NaNoWriMo thing. My friend pointed out that when you do NaNoWriMo the goal is to write a 50,000 word novel. But since I write an average of 100 articles a month with 600 words each, I already did that.
She disagreed. Writers will do that sometimes.