The Writer Myth or: Why I'm Doing NaNo This Year

by Dan H

Dan pontificates, as if that's anything new
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A friend of mine (who you shall be able to hear on the forthcoming Ferretbrain Podcast) recently took upon herself the mantle of Resident NaNoWriMo Temptress, and set about persuading several members of Ferretbrain to join her in committing to "do NaNo".

I've always been a bit sceptical about NaNoWriMo, I first heard about it years ago, but it pushed all the wrong buttons. This is chiefly because the pitch I heard back in 2003 or whenever basically went "NaNo is your chance to Be A Writer for a month" and if there's one thing I can't abide it's the obsession people have with "being a writer." At the time I knew an awful lot of people who wanted to be writers, but very few of them seemed to actually want to write anything. A cursory glance at the Google ads that came through with my NaNo confirmation email only confirms the fact that most people are totally wrongheaded about this sort of thing. I can click any one of a half-dozen links right now and be transported to a host of websites which promise to tell me how to become a bestselling author overnight with as little emphasis as possible on the tedious preamble of actually writing anything, and it's this attitude amongst so many wannabe "writers" that put me off the whole thing for about five years.

Our NaNo Seductress is a big fan of a book called The Right to Write which encourages a different approach. The analogy she uses is that if you see somebody kicking a football around in a park, you don't tell them that they should stop because they're never going to be a professional footballer. The more I thought about that, the more it bugged me: you don't tell people to stop doing DIY because they're not going to qualify as plumbers, and millions of parents get their kids to have music lessons despite none of them having any realistic expectation of making a living out of it. It's almost exclusively writing which has this peculiar standard associated with it, and I've spent the last couple of days trying to work out why.

Here's what I've come up with.

I've heard it said that the difference between talent and genius is that talent this: talent is when somebody does something that you can't do; genius is when they do things that you cannot imagine doing. Interestingly I've heard the same description used to distinguish between "regular" genius and a rarer variety of the same, which possibly goes to show how the word has been devalued by overuse.

I think the key to the strange status of writing lies in this distinction. If I see somebody painting a realistic picture of a bowl of fruit, I think to myself "gosh, that person is very good at painting" but ultimately I recognise that their ability to paint bowls of fruit is a skill that they have learned and which I too could (at least in theory) also learn. On the other hand if I look at the Sistine Chapel then as well as appreciating the craft of the whole thing ("gosh, that picture of Adam is proportioned in a manner which closely approximates reality") I will also be blown away by the sheer wonder of it all. In painting there is, for want of a less pretentious way of describing it, an equal measure of the technical and the sublime. Even though somebody's painting of a bowl of fruit is never going to be a defining feature of European culture, I can still recognise the technical skill involved in creating it.

Writing is different. I could never have painted the Sistine Chapel, because I don't know how to paint, but I could have written Hamlet. All I would have had to do was put the words in the right order. It's a bit tacky I know, but it does actually come back to the monkeys and the typewriter, a novel or a play is just a collection of words that everybody knows, written down in a particular way. It does not have, or does not appear to have, the same technical elements as painting, or music or for that matter football.

It all brings us back to the idea of genius: a writer doesn't do anything you can't do, they do things you didn't think of doing. It's this, I think, that gives writing its mysterious quality, and which accounts for the peculiar attitude people have towards it. Because writing does not require any obvious technical skills, it follows that writers must be special kinds of people, possessed of a gift from whichever God you believe in that allows them to do things that other people never dream of. The reason so many people want to be writers, even when they often don't particularly enjoy the act of writing, is because of this all-too-understandable belief that a Writer is something different from normal people. It's like the Family Romance for twentysomethings, except instead of "there aren't my real parents, I'm really a magical princess" it's "this isn't my real life, I'm really a Writer."

This idea that Being a Writer is some kind of transcendent state distinct from the physical act of writing is probably one of the most pernicious (I love the word "pernicious" - it's got such a great sound to it) and destructive ones affecting the craft. The disease is so endemic, however, that the mere idea that "writing" is something that can be done by ordinary people causes bouts of apoplexy, particularly amongst a certain variety of published author. A large number of people who object to things like NaNo seem to do so out of a strange sense of outrage that just anybody can sling fifty thousand words together and call it a novel. This is rather like objecting to a child's drawing of his father being called a picture.

People object to NaNoWriMo because they cling to the idea that "novel" means "published work of fiction," or even more specifically, "published work of fiction possessing great literary merit, such that it should rightly be ranked alongside Hemingway, Dickens and of course me." That's why so many comic books are so keen to redefine themselves as "graphic novels" - the term carries with it an implication of merit. The idea that the word "novel" simply implies a work of fiction which follows a single storyline and is long enough that you wouldn't really call it a short story is anathema to many people, because it flies in the face of the prevailing notion that Novels are mystical artefacts created by a race of demigods from before the dawn of time.

John Hegley has a poem that goes like this:

The first time that I wrote in verse
Was about the age of ten.
George said, "That's just like a real poem Miss,"
And Miss said, "That is a real poem, George"
And I've been a poet since then.


And that, right there, is what NaNo is about. It's about recognising that, just like poetry, just like music, just like football, writing isn't magic. This November, hundreds of thousands of people will produce novels. Most of them will be bad novels, some of them will be unreadably awful novels, but they will all, never the less, be real novels. Some novelists (a few real ones, a whole load of wannabe ones) will get mortally offended at the idea that the exalted title of "novel" can be bestowed upon what will be, for the most part, unmitigated crap.

Personally, I'm throwing in my hat with the people who are going to spend November writing, instead the people who are going to spend it talking about being writers.
Themes: Topical
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Comments (go to latest)
Arthur B at 11:43 on 2008-10-07
I'm doing it this year too, partially because I write so much about books on Ferretbrain. It's not so much that I feel that I have to have some experience of writing to slam crappy authors like Cecilia Dart-Thornton, any more than I have to work in a kitchen for years before I can complain about being served poo on a stick for lunch - it's just that having seen so many ways people do it wrong, I'm wondering whether I can actually do it right, or whether I'll just produce something which is so keen to avoid my particular bugbears it makes all kinds of other mistakes in the bargain.
Arthur B at 15:52 on 2008-10-07
Oh, that said I won't actually be registering for it, for the following reasons:
- I'm not interested in comparing my lamentable progress with other people's, or reading excerpts from complete strangers' works in progress.
- I don't want to feel obliged to stop once the month is over, and I have no interest in being a "winner". If what I've written is any good, I want to be able to spend more time polishing it and submitting it to an actual publisher; if it's crap, I'm not going to broadcast it all over the internet.
- Having at least three of my RL friends (at the last count) participating is all the community I need.
Arthur B at 16:01 on 2008-10-07
Disregard that, I misunderstood what they meant when they talked about verifying the word count - I thought they expected you to upload the unscrambled text of the novel. Which wouldn't be something I'd ever want to do, ever.
Dan H at 22:48 on 2008-10-07
If you do decide to do NaNo, I strongly recommend signing up officially. The whole point of NaNo is that the clear, concrete challenge of writing 50,000 words in a month, and making the number public, will encourage you to actually get writing instead of prevaricating. Essentially it's about providing a metric for success which *isn't* "getting published".
Montavilla at 23:39 on 2008-10-07
Um. That wasn't what I meant to say. I just hit the button by accident. Not that I don't want you to have fun. Do have fun.

What I wanted to say was that it took me the longest time to call myself a writer, even though it's what I do that brings in the biggest bucks. (Not that those bucks could be called big by any stretch of the imagination.)

But I felt embarrassed and unentitled to the... um... title. Precisely because a writer is someone like Dickens or Hemingway or Steinbeck, who write IMPORTANT BOOKS and get written about by critics. And collect royalties.

Whereas I am merely someone with a talent for typing quickly and stringing words together in a coherent fashion. And, although there are actual books with my name on them that are available at Amazon.com, they were all written for hire and I'll never see another penny from them.

Also, since I'm freelance, writing seems like something that could disappear at any moment. It often does.

So, it was with a surprised thrill that I finally once answered when someone asked what I did, that I replied, "I'm a writer."
Rami at 14:45 on 2008-10-09
I have to admit that part of the reason I want to do NaNo is on the off chance that I'll end up with something like The Eye Of Argon, and gain infamy that way ;-)

I've signed up to the official site, because I agree it's useful to make the numbers public, but I've turned off everything else because, like Arthur, I think the fact that I have real-life friends participating is sufficient community for me.
Rami at 14:46 on 2008-10-09
(I'm also amused that the canonical abbreviation is 'NaNo' when 'WriMo' makes so much more sense in most contexts...)
Wardog at 15:49 on 2008-10-09
(I am dithering on the borders of Nano ... I may join you insanity, or I may not. I'm not sure I'll have time.)

But I felt embarrassed and unentitled to the... um... title.

Fascinating, isn't it, that 'writer' is a title in a way that administrator or plumber just isn't. I suppose it's because it brushes up against ideas of authorship and authors and, oh gosh, then it's Foucault all the way to insanity and back :)
Arthur B at 16:41 on 2008-10-09
FWIW, I am on the actual site, partly because my misconceptions as to how you submit novels for word counting have been sorted, partly because enough of our circle are on there that it's worth it to keep tabs on each other. :)

I agree that the big deal is having a deadline and a word count, and I suppose having something publicly accessible which shows your wordcount is a good spur (especially if you are writing alongside people whose opinions you respect ;) ).

I also think that it's past time we started referring to the thing as WoNoWriMo, because talking about your "nano project" implies you are fiddling with nanotechnology or iPods.
Sister Magpie at 16:32 on 2008-10-27
I think Montavilla and I have something in common here. I find I keep pushing my definition of "writer" or "published writer" forever onward so I never am one, even though I have been published and the things I have published have been in book form.
Dan H at 13:58 on 2008-10-30
In my more sarcastic moments, I have noted that (at least up to a point) there is frequently an inverse correlation between a person's willingness to self-define as a writer, and the amount of actual writing they do.
Gamer_2k4 at 18:46 on 2011-05-18
I could never have painted the Sistine Chapel, because I don't know how to paint, but I could have written Hamlet. All I would have had to do was put the words in the right order.

And all you would have had to do to paint the Sistine Chapel is to put the right colors in the right places. Heck, if you want an example, just go to YouTube and watch people make the Mona Lisa in MS Paint. Copying is not hard; creating is.

I expect the actual reason people think "I could be a writer" is because the perceived effort and commitment is so low. Someone who types at a moderately fast speed (60 WPM or so) could, in theory, write a 50,000 word story in a day. Writing doesn't require any fine motor control, like sculpting or painting or even playing music does. You just type (or write) and it's there. In short, there's a much smaller gap between conception and realization, and that's what makes writing so attractive.

@Kyra
Fascinating, isn't it, that 'writer' is a title in a way that administrator or plumber just isn't.

Not really. It's the same reason 'artist' is a title while 'painter' isn't. Anyone can slap paint on a wall, but it takes talent and creativity to actually produce something original. Writers do that. Plumbers don't.
Dan H at 19:34 on 2011-05-18
And all you would have had to do to paint the Sistine Chapel is to put the right colors in the right places. Heck, if you want an example, just go to YouTube and watch people make the Mona Lisa in MS Paint. Copying is not hard; creating is.


Gone to YouTube, seen exactly one person creating the Mona Lisa in MS Paint, and a lot of people saying "Wow, that is the most awesome thing ever" and a lot more people saying "you are a genius I could never do that in a billion years."

There's also quite a lot of people saying "actually, this is probably a fake" (I am inclined to agree with these people, it looks a lot like the thing was filmed backwards).

None of these observations seem to support your assertion that "copying" is "easy" (I'd also point out that the *original* Mona Lisa was copied - it was after all a picture of a real woman).

"Creating" is not the hard part, "being technically competent" is the hard part.
Gamer_2k4 at 21:11 on 2011-05-18
It very well may have been a fake; I'm at work now so I couldn't actually watch the video myself, and I just recalled it from seeing it a long time ago. Regardless, the point remains, so let me try another example.

It's one thing to play Beethoven's Symphony No. 9. You have to be pretty talented to do it, sure, and it's definitely worth respect and admiration, but at the end of the day, all you and your orchestra will have done is copy Beethoven. The genius behind that symphony's creation belongs to the man who composed it, not the thousands who subsequently play it.

Creating IS the hard part; being technically competent is simply another required component. After all, while no one can argue that good writing (from a technical perspective) helps contribute to a novel, it's much, much more important that there is a good plot behind it. The truly outstanding masterpieces are such because of the message they convey and the story they tell. For example, Lord of the Rings is a total drag to read, but no one can deny the depth of its ideas and the scope of the world portrayed.

I would argue very strongly that wannabe writers retain that adjective because of a lack of ideas, not a lack of grammatical knowledge. A sports columnist, despite impeccable wordplay, will never be held with the same regard as someone like Charles Dickens. It's the same reason chess experts who can tell you WHY Kasparov's moves were brilliant nevertheless cannot play at his level. Writing is easy; writing well is not.
Wardog at 21:45 on 2011-05-18
You have to be pretty talented to do it, sure, and it's definitely worth respect and admiration, but at the end of the day, all you and your orchestra will have done is copy Beethoven.

That's like claiming that the best way to experience Shakespeare is to read the words as immortalised by some random printers. Living art, like music and plays, are the composite of the original work *and* the complex layers of interpretation bestowed upon it by a skilled performer.

After all, while no one can argue that good writing (from a technical perspective) helps contribute to a novel, it's much, much more important that there is a good plot behind it.

Ah, yes, that James Joyce fellow, renowned for his plotting. You can't categorise what makes good and bad writing in this fashion; well you can, and you have, but that makes it an arbitrary statement of personal preference. There is, however, no deeper meaning to it than that.

I would argue very strongly that wannabe writers retain that adjective because of a lack of ideas, not a lack of grammatical knowledge. A sports columnist, despite impeccable wordplay, will never be held with the same regard as someone like Charles Dickens.

But there's a difference, isn't there, between the value of something and the regard in which it is held. You seem to be conflating the two without any real consideration of what that actually means in practice. I mean you seem to have taken it as read that Dickens was some manner of great creative genioos simply because he has a place in the English canon. Also Dickens was a jobbin' hack, a bit like the poor maligned sports commentator you mention.
Dan H at 22:24 on 2011-05-18
For example, Lord of the Rings is a total drag to read, but no one can deny the depth of its ideas and the scope of the world portrayed.


Actually, quite a lot of people deny the depth of its ideas. What people don't deny is the sheer exhaustive detail that went into it, but that doesn't necessarily make it a good book.

I would argue very strongly that wannabe writers retain that adjective because of a lack of ideas, not a lack of grammatical knowledge.


You can argue that as strongly as you like. My experience is that wannabe writers retain that adjective because they think that ideas are all they need, and that the business of putting words on paper is just so much tedious bookkeeping.

My experience is also that real, serious, critically acclaimed writers *don't* have particularly good ideas. Shakespeare isn't held up as the greatest playwright in the English language because he had better *ideas* than anybody else.

It's the same reason chess experts who can tell you WHY Kasparov's moves were brilliant nevertheless cannot play at his level.


I'm genuinely not sure what you're saying now.

Are you suggesting that Kasparov somehow "creates" the moves he plays in chess? Because he, well, doesn't. They're pre-existing.

Hell we've managed to build a computer which can reliably beat Kasparov at chess - unless you're arguing that an inanimate object which can do nothing but calculate optimal chess moves is somehow displaying "creativity" I really don't see how you can cite Kasparov as evidence that this nebulous thing you call creation trumps technical achievement.

Writing is easy; writing well is not.


Umm ... yes? I think this is largely uncontroversial. But you seem to be insisting that writing "well" is a question of this nebulous quality called "creation" - that's your opinion and you're entitled to it, but the case I lay out in this article is that the thing you call "creation" is a myth.
Arthur B at 22:57 on 2011-05-18
A sports columnist, despite impeccable wordplay, will never be held with the same regard as someone like Charles Dickens.

That rather depends on the sports columnist.

A flippant answer, maybe. But it's worth noting Dickens honed his craft in journalism, so maybe dismissing journalism as a lesser art to fiction-writing might be premature.
http://ruderetum.blogspot.com/ at 08:32 on 2011-05-19
Well, for arguments sake, writing is a skill as well as painting and you can be a good writer technically and still never quite produce anything that might be concidered a masterpiece, or a work of genius. Which both are, of course, terms of fluctuating and subjective value.

What my point is that while writing is a separate deal from painting, it does resemble it, or any other form of art or artistry in that it does take both skill and vision to do, but neither of these of course should not be taken as obstacles to doing it for fun or as a hobby or even trying to do it professionally. Writing or painting or anything should be, I can't help but feel a bit banal about writing this, about expressing oneself. And of course for a person who has tried creative writing or anything, the technical and inspirational achievements of those one considers masters become even more inspirational and impressive.

For example, by the chess example, even if there is a machine that can do that stuff now, it is still amazing how a person can have such a beautiful and deep understanding of a game, that if you look at the moves, everything makes sense, but you can't just understand how it all comes together and there is a difference between a gifted player and a master that for lack of a better word, has the air of genius about it. Some people just get it somehow.

I could too imagine writing Hamlet, but isn't there just something sublime about how it all is put together? Or some other work which works better for the assumed reader of this. So in summary, while this talk of genius is hardly helpful for anyone concerned and while everyone should probably write more if they want to and then publish some modern epistolatory classics of their IRC-chatrooms or whatever, I would still contend that in writing too there can be a marriage of true minds sort of deal between skill and inspiration, which both without the other would probably amount to nothing.

As an added bonus, while everyone(well, mostly) is able to speak and anyone can train themselves in public speaking, there are still those who are great orators, who seem to somehow get just something extra to the performance. Or I guess I should use actors as an example.

I'm not really sure if anyone is actively disagreeing with anybody though, so this whole effort might be kinda pointless.
Wardog at 10:32 on 2011-05-19

I'm not really sure if anyone is actively disagreeing with anybody though, so this whole effort might be kinda pointless.

I'm disagreeing pretty fervently with Gamer_24k, since, as you point out yourself, flinging words about like "masterpiece" and making arbitrary assertions about what has value and what is "good" writing is deeply, deeply problematic. It makes far too many assumptions, accepts, and ignorantly propagates, the authority of an invented canon without question and essentially attempts to pass subjective statements of personal preference off as objective perspectives on the nature of art itself.

I would still contend that in writing too there can be a marriage of true minds sort of deal between skill and inspiration, which both without the other would probably amount to nothing.

I'm sure this is the case but I just find "inspiration" such a vague concept that it's largely meaningless. I mean, JK Rowling, sitting in her cafe in Scotland, was "inspired" by a vague idea of a boy wizard (which is hardly original) but more significantly by a real and pressing need to support the family she was raising as a single mother. If anything I personally find the later rather more "inspiring" than the former, and more meaningful. I kind of suspect Shakespeare was similarly "inspired" by a pressing need to eat. And there’s nothing sublime about the way Hamlet was put together – unless you count “hastily and incoherently” as sublime. The problem with Shakespeare is he’s so embedded in our cultural consciousness as a genius that it’s impossible to actually work whether he’s any good or not. (Incidentally: I would come down on the side of yes but, for me, Shakespeare is all about the performance – one of the many awesome things about the Stewart/Tenant Hamlet, which is my personal definitive Hamlet, is that it reminds you that this is a STORY being told for you to enjoy and think about, not a piece of genius being delivered for your appreciation).

The thing is, I think there's a harmful tendency to invent this sphere of the unassailable genius and look down on the professional grafter, as being somehow something different – when I would argue that the differences are so abstract and arbitrary and indefinable that they might as well not exist. I mean nobody in their right mind would try to claim Meyer was some kind of literary genius BUT she wrote a hugely influential novel, read by many many people, that moreover has totally re-shaped the vampire trope in popular fiction. The thing is, whereas previously you couldn’t write a vampire without referencing Dracula, either by similarity or deviance, I would argue that the same is now true for our sparkly friend, Edward Cullen. I mean, there’s such a lot of vampire wanking about Dracula, with people lining up to dismiss certain vampires in fiction as not being “proper” vampires because they don’t adhere sufficiently to the vampire canon established by Dracula (which is really odd since, as Dan likes to point out, most vampire tropes came AFTER since Dracula himself was ignominiously beaten by being punched in the face a lot). I kind of imagine a world in a hundred years time in which these same vampire-culture-wankers will be getting themselves all worked because everybody knows that “proper” vampires sparkle. I guess what I’m trying say here is that there comes a point when you have to ask yourself: what, then, is the difference here. Or if there even is one. I mean, Stoker wasn't all that great at this writing lark either.

The thing is, the literary landscape has changed massively, not only in terms of how many books are available, but how many people are able to write them and access them. But our ways of looking at literature are still essentially a legacy system from when not many people could read and not many books were published. I mean, I could probably do a decent stab at telling you which novels were published in England in, say, 1854 (Dickens: Hard Times, Collins: Hide and Seek, Thackeray: The Rose and the Ring). Possibly a few more but not *many* more. But it would be ludicrous to try and do that for, say, 2003. I know this is completely obvious thing to say but it actually *matters*. I just mean we're too used to looking for signs of genius in artefacts of the past, and taking it as read that because they're still available they somehow must *automatically* possess some transcendental quality. I'm not saying they don't, or won't but I just don’t find looking for the spark of inspiration in any way useful.

There’s a quote about, I believe, Orson Welles that, again, Dan likes very much. It goes something like this: “The sad thing is that he has consistently put his very real talents to the task of glorifying his imaginary genius.”

I like this very much, because I do think we under-value talent in our search for genius.
http://ruderetum.blogspot.com/ at 12:19 on 2011-05-19
I guess one could argue that the whole problem is this whole concept of art and genius which arose with the romantic movement, although of course that whole connection between genius and madness is quite a bit older, though I could argue that it wasn't so glorified before the 19th century.

Most genius(by which I mean a renowned talented person, who's works tickle the right amount of the right persons) artists were more craftsmen than anything else, working for wealthy patrons of the aristocracy and the more wealthier bourgeoise and although that talent was hugely appreciated in fame, money and influence(in technique and whatnot), it was not as big a deal. In this view a person like Shakespeare is I think even more impressive, as he was able to please the crowds and the elite at the same time and make a pretty decent living doing that. And the haste makes it even better. Kind of like if Matt Groening wrote each classic era Simpsons episode instead of just drawing and animating them. But this is very subjective of course. While I enjoy Shakes on the stage, I have read them all, but voluntarily, since I never had to analyze anything about them in school. So I get my sublime kicks out of them.

Asit comes to vampires, I'm disappointed that there is no deeper commitment to traditional folklore. I have yet to see a vampiric melon anywhere. But points taken of course.

This whole effort of on the other hand trying to worship genius and on the other hand define it seems futile in many senses, like trying to hug the ocean or something; there will always be something out of one's grasp. In a practical sense there is no difference between genius and talent really or inspiration or vision or some such. Like the discussion on genre here, it often comes off as a marketing gimmick.

Indeed, if I were to ever pursue a literary career in any serious manner, I would try to make a living out of it and I would think most writers would agree. I remember Camus said the best cure to a writers block was writing three hours everyday, so writing as a craft would in all likelihood be a position of many one would celebrate as a master or genius. This is actually a connection between different literary worlds as you described them. Despite the difference in literary subcultures and volume, Shakespeare, Dickens and Rowling would be literary craftspersons, as Michelangelo or Leonardo were in art.

I was trying to think of a writer who was not a craftsperson and all I can really think of would be Kafka, who never tried selling his work or someone lik Montaigne, who was an aristocrat. Talent I guess is over-valued.
valse de la lune at 16:43 on 2011-05-19
Goodness, this is a fantastic discussion to necro.

I've always thought, though, that the... problem if you will about writing, as art or craft, is that it's entirely accessible in a way that say painting or playing the piano competently aren't: everyone literate can technically write, insofar as the act of writing is defined as "string sentences together to make stories" and it's not immediately obvious that a piece of writing is good, whereas a painting of an apple competently done will be recognizable as an apple and as such everyone can comprehend that this is done with some skill. It's why, if you write without being published--even though you aren't interested in being published--you're looked down at in the way an amateur DIYer or knitter, or baker for that matter, simply aren't.

I'm quite digressing from the point at hand, though.
Dan H at 22:36 on 2011-05-19
I'm quite digressing from the point at hand, though.


I'm not sure it's digressing, it's more or less the point I was trying to make in the original article (or possibly a point I intended to make but didn't get around to). Again, one of the things I think is really valuable about NaNo is that it provides a metric for success which isn't "getting published". "Doing NaNo" is weirdly legitimising in a way that just writing for funz isn't.
Michal at 04:11 on 2011-11-10
Well, with November rolled around again I decided to finally take a good hard look at the whole NaNoWriMo thing and immediately stumbled across a lot of pure and unadulterated hatred for it (one example), which usually amounts to, "Oh noes, the plebs are writing books. This must be stopped!" This article makes a good counterpoint, and I have to agree on the whole "being a writer" thing: the problem with being a writer, is that you have to write...and one too many people seems unable to grasp that fact. My memories of uni involved a whole lot of self-proclaimed writers who constantly complained about not being able to write anything. NaNoWriMo is a nice kick in the pants--writing is work, and anybody can be a writer if he/she just writes instead of nebulously thinking about plots and characters and the human condition while sitting in a cafe (but no, of course, writing something isn't special--being a writer makes you special. Right?).

That said...I haven't joined up with NaNoWriMo this year, because I'm fine with just working at my own pace, and November in the Yukon is already dark and cold and bad enough for the soul without adding wordcount goals and a deadline to it. Still, I like the sentiment. So I'll just cheer on the sidelines.
Sister Magpie at 17:14 on 2011-11-10
That always makes me think of a line from the Golden Girls where Blanche decides to write a romance novel. She complains she has writer's block. When asked how far she's gotten, how much she's written she says nothing. Dorothy says to have writer's block you have to have written. Otherwise "we all have it."

That article you linked to was hilarious. I still don't get how it's supposed to be triviliazing "the novel" or "our craft" as the tech writer in the comments said. But I admit I always love stories about the people who talk about making art/writing vs. the people who actually write. Which anybody who's "won" at Nano has done.
Michal at 20:14 on 2011-11-13
So, I hastily whisked away some previous comments I made because I thought they were a little too mean-spirited towards Eric Rosenfield (I will, however, continue to be just a tad bit mean-spirited). Now that I've collected my thoughts properly, I shall continue.

That article you linked to was hilarious. I still don't get how it's supposed to be triviliazing "the novel" or "our craft" as the tech writer in the comments said.

I honestly don't get it either. Obviously, a whack of rapidly-written manuscripts doesn't pose much of a threat to well, anyone, least of all published authors who have anything to say about "their craft". There's no real reason to care. But nevertheless, there's a surprisingly large number of people who do feel it's some kind of insult to "real" writers (again with the nebulous "being a Writer" thing).

In the case of this specific person (Eric Rosenfield) on Wet Asphalt, I'm not sure what criteria he's using to define a "serious" novelist who can talk about "our craft". Is it publishing? Because he hasn't published a novel so far, and I'm not sure what makes his totally non-trivial manuscripts more worthy than the unpublished manuscripts produced during NaNoWriMo.
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