Short Saturday: “Sometimes Fun Is Reason Enough”

I love Catherine Ryan Howard’s blog, Catherine, Caffeinated. She’s a smart cookie. And a smart mouth (probably a large part of the appeal for me). More importantly, she thinks deeply about the writing/publishing industry and she shares what she knows.

This week, Catherine wrote about National Novel Writing Month. NaNoWriMo to the initiated. Lots of people I know, lots of people I edit, lots of people I follow on Twitter and Facebook participate in NaNoWriMo.

But apparently there are mixed feelings about it. Catherine tells the story of “a professional, published writer who truly felt slighted by NaNoWriMo. [It] was her profession, her vocation in life, and the fact that ‘some people’ thought they could come along and do it in the month—do the thing she had spent her adult life perfecting the craft of—made a mockery of it and her.”

(I’ll pause while the Carmina Burana playing in the background comes to a close.)

Catherine calls it NaNoWriMo Snobbery.

Professional writers, who the other eleven months of the year seem like the nicest, most generous and friendliest people, suddenly start tipping their noses in the air and saying or even writing things about how NaNoWriMo and the people who partake in it are belittling their profession, ridiculing their craft and making a mockery of the 1,670 words they write every single day of the year in order to make a living. …

Sure, there’s a probably a few people in there who have never as much as read a book who suddenly decide to drop everything and attempt to write one during the month of November. But all the people I know who do it are writers.

They are already writing, have always been and for whatever reason, find it difficult to fit writing into their lives every single day. … Some people, myself included, write more when a deadline is sending us daggers from the edge of our computer screen. Some people write more when they are spurred on by being part of a group whose members are also trying to write more at the same time. And some people have so much going on that they feel they can’t set aside time to write all the year around, but … NaNoWriMo gives them some kind of official permission to do it, just for thirty days.

NaNoWriMoers are, for the most part, writers. Not “some people.”

I’m with her on this. There are enough words to go around, right?

And there’s a lot more in the post than this little rant. One of the things I found particularly interesting is that one of my favorite books of this year—The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern—began its life as a NaNoWriMo project. Catherine has a lot to say about what you can accomplish during NaNoWriMo, and you should read the whole post.

And then get back to work!

Tweet: There are enough words to go around, right? #NaNoWriMo
Tweet: #NaNoWriMo: Sometimes fun is reason enough!

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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7 Comments

  1. Sarah says:

    Yeah, I’m one of THOSE people. I have two kids under the age of five and a third one – hopefully – on the way. My life revolves around my family and not everyone in that circle think that writing is a full time job. My mom especially, really hopes it’s just a part time hobby. :)

    So it’s nice to get permission to write and to give people in my family – the skeptics – a valid excuse for why I spend THAT much time on my computer or in my notebooks. Plus, they are more willing to give childcare if they think I only write once a year like this. :P

  2. Roz Cawley says:

    I could not agree more with your post. it equates to me with parents who swear they would never let their children read comics or comic books. Our philosophy when the boys were small was ‘read everything!’ – yes, they would pick op on some poor grammar and limited vocabulary – but that was *our* job as parents – to make sure that they were surrounded with all sorts of texts and images…the most important thing was that they had a desire to read (and as both of them turned out to be dyslexic, believe me, ANY reading by choice was good!)
    I would say the same about people who may be having a stab at writing a novel through NaNoWriMo – who cares why they are doing it? – at least they are WRITING!
    The element of ‘permission’ is a strong one – and also that element of having a crack at something difficult in the (virtual) company of others. Community is an important support, even though the writring itself is, of necessity, solitary.
    Would the naysayers have the same attitude to amateur painters – who may never expose what they create to another living soul? The fact is, THEIR living souls are nourished by every act of creation in which they take part – privately or publicly, for financial gain or not,
    WRITE ON, NaNoWriMo-ers!!

    • Jamie says:

      Thank you, Roz! Yes—validation (as the commenter above notes) is hard to come by. And there’s no better place for validation than in a community of like-minded individuals. :)

  3. Shelley Davis-Wise says:

    Love love love this post. This especially:
    “Some people write more when they are spurred on by being part of a group whose members are also trying to write more at the same time. And some people have so much going on that they feel they can’t set aside time to write all the year around, but … NaNoWriMo gives them some kind of official permission to do it, just for thirty days.”

    This is for me the entire crux of the problem! My blocks to writing everyday are internal but I have made them LOOK external. I recall my first desperate email to you that was dripping with desperation for you to give me the magic elixir to grant me entrance into the world of writing. I haven’t gotten that from you in the concentrated, easy-to-swallow pill form but rather it has come a tasty morsels sprinkled in a line, leading me to banquets of inspiration like this last post. I am now closer to knowing what is the real work I have to do. Bless you.

    • Jamie says:

      Shelley, this makes me soooo happy. (And it should be noted, you DID go right out and DO IT.) Keep it up, my friend. :)

  4. May says:

    I thought we were quite over this when Salon’s Laura Miller turned her nose up at it two years ago. Guess not…

    I am no professional writer, simply a wrangler of pretty words (yes, there is a distinction in my mind). But NaNoWriMo and its late associate, Script Frenzy, give/gave me a schedule and motivation to crank out thousands of words that weren’t there before. How cool is that?! They are not the prettiest words, or the best sentences, or the brightest stars of literature. But they are pages of things that did not exist before. Every year there’s a new story to be told. That’s the most awesome part for me. That’s the worth of NaNo. :)

  5. […] run a piece about NaNoWriMo before. But read this from James Scott Bell, then dash over to Chuck Wendig’s website for this […]

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  1. By Short Saturday: What’s at Stake? on 26 October, 2013 at 4:17 pm

    […] run a piece about NaNoWriMo before. But read this from James Scott Bell, then dash over to Chuck Wendig’s website for this […]