Free-For-All Friday: I AM a “Real” Writer and They Just Don’t Get It
There’s been some discussion on Twitter and various blogs (as there always is this time of year) about whether NaNoWriMo is really for “real” writers, or if it’s just for non-writers who want to FEEL like “real” writers for a month. Now, I have NO DOUBT that many of the people who participate in NaNo never write a single word of fiction (except for that email to the boss about being sick) at any other time the whole rest of the year. However, a) that doesn’t mean that there’s anything wrong with them wanting to try on the “writer” hat during a month when there is lots of enthusiasm and support for the endeavor; and b) plenty of “real” writers who write ALL THE BLOODY TIME also participate in NaNo.
Case in point, I consider myself a “real” writer (whatever the hell that actually means). No, I’m not published. No, I don’t have an agent. And no, I don’t write all that often during the semester (I should say I don’t write FICTION often during the semester, but I’m writing non-fiction up the wazoo). But I DO write at every given opportunity, I scrape out every spare moment I can, I write in the middle of class sometimes, and I forego sleep some nights because that’s the only time I can find. And when I took the year off last year, I wrote pretty much NON-STOP. And did FINALLY FINALLY FINALLY finish a whole first draft (and very long one at that) of a novel. So, I consider myself a “real” writer, and I think I have right to.
I love it for a lot of reasons. I love it because it is the sort of masochistic fun I tend to get myself into. I love because of all the enthusiasm and support. I love it because of all the crazy, eccentric, fun, would-be/hopeful writers who crawl out of the wood-work disguised as housewives and teachers and highschoolers and businessmen and firefighters, etc, etc, etc.
But here’s the one thing I think I love MOST about NaNoWriMo: For one month, I can tell my family I’m writing, and they back off. For some reason, the tangible goal of writing 50,000 in one month is real enough and presumably daunting enough that they realize my time/energy/concentrate are precious, and they don’t bother me with incessant questions, or requests to “just spend some time with family,” or tirades about not doing the dishes in two days. They leave me alone, and let me write.
Here’s the problem though: They just don’t get that this is how we writers think ALL THE TIME. In November, when tell someone you’re writing, they don’t respond: “but you wrote YESTERDAY!” They understand: “But I only have x days left to write x words! I’m on a deadline and I just don’t have time for anything else right now!” BUT, any other time of the year, if I say I’m writing, so I don’t have time right now, the retort is: “but you write everyday!” or “you were writing yesterday, can’t you take a couple days off?” or (my favorite) “some things [insert: spending time with family, doing housework, mowing the lawn, etc] are more important than your little hobby.”
They just don’t understand that we’re thinking: “But I only have the rest of my life to write every insane word crowded around and screaming in my brain! And that’s a whole helluva lot of words, dammit! I’m on a deadline and I just don’t have time for anything else right now!”
Now, I’m not saying I do (or want to) ignore every other aspect of my life. I still do housework, I still clean the dishes, and do laundry, and go grocery shopping, and do my homework, and watch a little tv, and go to family dinners, and all that other stuff. But if the dishes wait a couple days while I get a huge chunk of inspired prose out of my screaming brain, then so be it. And if some Sundays I’d rather sit in my office and write instead of sitting in my grandmother’s living room while all my uncles watch football and I try to look entertained, then so be it. And my family just doesn’t get it.
As long as it’s November, and I have a clear start and end date, with clear guidelines and an attainable goal in mind, well then: that’s a pretty cool achievement. But if I’m just writing, every day, any time I can find a few spare moments, when I should be doing homework, when I should be sleeping… Well, then, it’s like my brother playing video games all the damn time: it’s a fine enough hobby in moderation, but it shouldn’t take over your life, and never supersedes your other duties, activities, etc.
Perhaps if/when I’ve published something, and can definitively say: look, this is a career choice, not just a hobby! I AM A REAL WRITER.
Maybe then they’ll get it.
But then again, maybe not.