Around mid-October I start planning for NaNoWriMo. I’ve been the Municipal Liaison for my region (USA : New Hampshire) for several years, so prepping for NaNoWriMo not only means getting my head around my own project, it also means making notes for my weekly pep talks or lining up guest writers to farm out a pep talk or two, adding events to the regional calendar, ordering participant stickers and getting psyched not only for myself but for the couple hundred WriMos who will also be participating. As a mom and a manager I come to cheerleading naturally, but it still takes a certain amount of energy.
“I am a writer. I just get terribly, terribly frustrated when something I have devoted my life to is treated in as cavalier a manner as [event creator Chris] Baty seems to be doing. To be a writer is not a right, it’s a privilege. And you cannot buy that privilege by writing “50,000 words of crap” in a month. The price is much, much higher than that.”
Alma, I have something to say to that. But I’m going to say this first.
NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month, find out more about this 30 day challenge to write 50K words of a first draft) is growing in popularity, in my opinion at least, I think, because adults are frustrated and burned out and really need some kind of creative outlet. Think about how often you notice a paint/wine shop, for example. Or adult dance class. Our adult craft nights at the library are ridiculously popular. Community theatre. Adult voice lessons, music lessons. My town seems to have a growing abundance of cupcake bakeries. One of the cops I know plays in a hockey league, and one of the men in the finance dept. plays in a local soft pitch league.
Do the cake bosses and professional chefs complain about that local cupcake shop opening next to the insurance adjuster’s office? Do professional athletes rant on about the local amateur leagues? So back to you Alma, because you seem to so desperately need to be HEARD, here’s my question: how does disparaging aspiring novelists, or at the simplest level, hobbyists who are playing escape from reality for a month, make you a better writer?
I think I’m in a position to ask you that, peer to peer, because I attended an elite arts program in high school (selected for their inaugural year) my junior and senior year, won the NJ State Theatre Festival for “Best Play,” attended NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts’ Dramatic Writing Program, graduating in 3 1/2 years with a BFA in Playwriting, was produced on off-off Broadway, worked for a theatrical agent for 5 years, was published by Baker’s Plays Boston before I was 30, have received royalties (not big money by any means)…yes, so la dee da, I was certainly on a trajectory for a successful writing career —
–And then my incredibly self-centered life came to an abrupt halt when I got pregnant. And then we got married. And then we talked about what would be best for our new little family. And then we moved and he went to school and we had two more kids…
Family life is great and I don’t regret any of that, but a creative person can’t pour their creative energy into kids and housework and a job and whatever else. I had no creative tribe. I had other moms and church and work and that was great but…I was frustrated. They didn’t really understand how I processed stuff. I had questions I needed to write about and no time and no community. And then I found NaNoWriMo. Thank God, between NaNoWriMo and Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way, I had permission to write again, to practice self-care and nurture my creative self.
Every Tuesday night, my husband’s band comes over and practices in our basement. We counted once, and I think in the years since he’s returned to music, he’s been in 14 or 15 projects. And no, he didn’t study music at a conservatory. He picked up a bass and poked around like every other amateur. Life took him away from that and then he had the opportunity about ten years ago to pick it up again. Observing this side project of his, I’ve discovered there is this whole world, this whole community of musicians – adults – playing in garages and basements and bars, and listen, Alma, some of them aren’t that good, or they don’t play “my” music, but they are having F U N. They’re not playing for me, they’re playing for them. If you play music, you are a musician. If you write, you are a writer. I don’t see the benefit of maybe hyphenating that to amateur-writer, when so many other factors in your life make noise trying to stifle your voice.
When kids figure out how to stand up and take their first steps, we call them toddlers. They toddle and fall, then get up and take a few more steps, fall again. But the label toddler points them to a positive future accomplishment. We don’t call them fallers. We cheer their process.
Alma, I believe in a God who is the creator of the universe, who made man in His own image, and therefore, we – men and women – are creators, too. Some of us get to do that for a living, while some of us are called to other good work and are able to create on the side. But none of us should be made to feel inferior because of decisions or circumstances. We have a divine need to create.
Here’s my last word on this, Alma. There’s an entire list – that grows longer every year – of WriMos who knocked out a crappy first draft in 30 days. And their circumstances have allowed them to accomplish the dirty business of rewriting. At what point in their process would you validate them? November 5? Or some years later at a book signing? Would you only validate the traditionally published authors and not the self-published authors? And again, how does that make you a more successful author? Or a more successful human being?
- Yvette Couser
wrimo handle: wilabea94
Municipal Liaison for USA : New Hampshire Region
This blog post was originally published on the author's Book Covers Blog on 10/25/2017 and these views expressed are her own and not those of her employers.