NaNo Rant (my only one for this year)

I remember the moment that started my writing career, the moment I found the real passion for it. I was in the truck with my grandmother on our ranch. This was right around the time of September 11, 2001, I was heading into one of the worst periods of my life, a good friend of mine was dying from cancer—at age 13—and my grandfather was so sick we weren’t sure how long he’d be around. My family life was shot, and I was half a step away from suicide.

And that cold, rainy morning, sick at heart and afraid of what was coming, I picked up a pencil and wrote a poem. When my grandmother read it to my grandfather, he started crying. I don’t really know why. Both my grandparents and my great-grandparents have that poem, and the two that followed, mounted in prominent places. My grandfather’s clients still ask who wrote that piece, since it’s in the reception area of his office. Within the next couple of months, I’d picked up a copy of Lord of the Rings, a forbidden commodity in my house, just like the rest of the mythology I loved, and a passion was sparked.

I never had a formal writing instruction. I don’t have a high-school diploma, due to the odd circumstances of my teenage years (although I’m in college, thankfully!). The only thing I have going for me is determination, passion and desire. Every bit of skill I have is the result of writing and trashing and writing it again, studying other authors, assimilating bits and pieces into an ever-smoother whole. All of this has been while I’ve been working, attending school, volunteering, fighting through serious emotional problems.

So it irritates me a little bit when my craft is dismissed as the stuff of wannabes. It irritates me when someone scribbles a little, and passes shit off as real writing. It irritates me when the line is blurred between those who want to write, and those who do.

Writing as a hobby is fine. I have no issue with that, because that’s all I thought I’d ever do. Plenty of my friends write casually, and I have no problem with that, because they know they only write casually, but that I work at it. They’ve learned not to whine about not having time or talent, because I love telling them otherwise.

But when things come along that flaunt the idea above the skill, and offer quick answers without work, then I start getting down right annoyed. Word count is all that matters, not the story, not the characters, not the skill. Don’t worry about any of that drivel, if you can get 50,000 words, you’re all good. I applaud the basic idea. It’s a challenge. You have to push yourself beyond any reasonable limit.

Where it crashes and burns is in the execution and reality. 900 words a day is a tough push. That’s with one day off a week. If I have a story I believe in, one that’s already plotted out and has a framework around it, I can hit 1000 words a day, consistently. Any more than that and both my personal life and my quality as a writer suffer. Frustration and self-doubt set in, the story loses cohesion, and begins wandering all across creation.

My goals started out as 350 words a day, now, with a novel and short story behind me, it’s climbed to 900-1000 words six days a week.

Reasonable goals mean I don’t have to stoop to such lows as the time-damned cliché of transporting my characters magically to another place and time, or having one of them conveniently get amnesia. These are the signs of someone who needs to go spend a few years working on the craft before they pick up a pen again. This is discouraged however, as wordcount is all that matters in these scenarios.

There are a lot of good writers out there. Even a few great writers. I’m sure many of them take part in NaNoWriMo and possibly even succeed without absolutely scrapping any semblance of skill or talent.

But the next time someone comments on the child’s play that is writing, or the absolute crap that is all they’ve seen, or how writers are out of touch with reality, or why beginner/new era writers aren’t worth the air they breathe, think about the examples we’re setting.

Do you want to be seen as someone who only does it to say they can, and they are writers, or do you do it because you love the craft, because you genuinely want to improve and succeed?

It’s like having children. You don’t have to do it. But if you are going to, make damn sure that you’ve done your homework first, and that you know what you’re getting into. Then go and do your damnedest to make it a benefit to the world, not just another nightmare.

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One Response to “NaNo Rant (my only one for this year)”

  1. 900 words a day, six days a week!?

    What kind of a madman would do such a thing?

    Oh… wait a minute… never mind…

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