The Canadian Writers' Collective

Writing, and writerly tangents

Monday, November 10, 2008

Novel relaxation

There's a bit of controversy going down over at FWJ about the value and merits of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). NaNoWriMo, for those who don't know, is an annual event, when participants attempt to write a 50,000-word novel in one month. For the fun of it.

The implication in the protest blog is that 'serious writers' wouldn't participate in the event, and that the occassion has become 'overblown'. Some NaNo'ers have been on the defensive, and writers from a range of genres are weighing in.

While I'll agree it seems many take their participation in the event more seriously than others, I am baffled by the arguments listed against the event, but mostly this one: Writers write novels to relax.

Having a drink with friends is what most would call relaxing. Taking a stroll along the seawall is relaxing. Singing, dancing, or petting a dog would hit that list.

Pleasure, of course, factors into the novel-writing process, for most. But I thought I'd try to track down a 'serious writer' who calls the process 'relaxing.'

Mostly, I found writers describe the process as a certain hell, like Honoré de Balzac ("I am a galley slave to pen and ink"), Gustave Flaubert ("I am irritated by my own writing. I am like a violinist whose ear is true, but whose fingers refuse to reproduce precisely the sound he hears within") and George Orwell ("Writing a book is a long, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand").

I was able to find a few who raved about the process, notably Gloria Steinem ("Writing is the only thing that, when I do it, I don't feel I should be doing something else").

Generally, it seems, writers bitch and moan and go back for more in spite of it all, because that occassional writer's high is enough to keep them jonesing for the process. All too painfully well, I know what side I stand on in this debate. Call me a sucker for punishment.


Blogger Andrew Tibbetts said...

"bitch and moan and go back for more" describes my writing life quite T.L. and my love life these days, too.

I'm doing NANOWRIMO this year again. I find it MORE FUN than my usual writing because I never bother with quality. Just write! There isn't time to worry if it's good. This is a good process for those of us who self-edit too ferociously in the early stages of writing. It's an antidote to that!

Mon Nov 10, 02:12:00 pm GMT-5  
Blogger T. Lee said...

I kind of wish I had done some NaNoing this year. And then I look at the growing to-do list and think how glad I am about not doing it this year. Although, it would help the bitch and moan and go back for more state of my (our) life, eh?

Wed Nov 12, 01:28:00 am GMT-5  
Blogger Tricia Dower said...

I'm with you, T. I don't find writing relaxing. It's just something I've gotta do. NANOWRIMO, on the other hand, is not something I've gotta do. It sounds like torture.

Wed Nov 12, 06:39:00 pm GMT-5  

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