nanowrimo logoUpon hearing about National Novel Writing Month, in which about 90,000 people around the country each attempt to write a 50,000-word novel during the month of November, my body naturally rejected the whole idea.

Jerkoff Writer Sarah, who lives deep inside my black, black heart, immediately said, “Graham Greene wrote no more than 500 words a day. And he was like, a good writer.” Jerkoff Writer Sarah was also slightly horrified at the idea that common people, the plebs, could possibly be mistakenly led to believe that they were real, actual writers, just because they string a certain number of words together. Way to make my heart’s passion and somber life-work into a fun, mindless hobby, Jerkoff Writer Sarah scoffed.

But Jerkoff Writer Sarah is kind of a jerkoff. And there’s a different kind of Sarah – the one who’s getting pretty damn frustrated with the fact that Jerkoff Writer Sarah has a few jerkoff writing projects that she can’t seem to get up and running. That she has a few difficulties getting to the end of longer projects before starting new ones.  

One of the problems with MFA writing programs, I think, is that they can sometimes have a paralyzing effect. You are surrounded by so many talented people and reading so much quality writing that you don’t dare write a sentence because you’re scared it will be a bad sentence. You start stories but don’t finish them because you know it won’t be as good as your mentor’s stories or as good as you imagined it to be.

On the other hand, I find NaNoWriMo to be bad for writing in the opposite way – the philosophy is that the words don’t matter at all. Here’s a few sentences from their About page: “Valuing enthusiasm and perseverance over painstaking craft, NaNoWriMo is a novel-writing program for everyone who has thought fleetingly about writing a novel but has been scared away by the time and effort involved. Because of the limited writing window, the ONLY thing that matters in NaNoWriMo is output. It’s all about quantity, not quality.” I find a lot of those concepts terrifying and dangerous. Enthusiasm over craft? Quantity over quality? Are these fast-food novels?

Luckily, though, I think that these two problems – post-MFA paralysis due to wanting each word to be perfect and NaNoWriMo’s encouragement to word vomit – will product in me a happy medium in which I can function normally. My goal is to write a first draft of something, straight through, as NaNoWriMo recommends. However, if I reach the word count, I won’t call it a novel, I’ll call it a first draft and, on December 1, I’ll go back to page one and start fixing stuff. Slowly. I don’t think I’ll ever be someone who sees writing as a fun game, but I’m not Graham Greene, either.

If you’re also participating, you should be my friend: as always, I’m Seaswell.