Even though this admission makes her feel like The Grinch, Tayari Jones will not write a novel this month.
Sometimes I feel like the only novelist who does not spend the month of November cranking out a novel in thirty days in celebration of NaNoWriMo-- National Novel Writing Month. Just writing this post makes me feel like a literary Grinch, but I must admit that I have never been even tempted
to NaNo. One reason is that my birthday is in November and the last thing I want to do on my birthday is to slam for an arbitrary deadline. The second reason is more artistic. I am a slow and deliberate writer. (When you think Tortoise and Hare, the Tortoise leaves skid marks on my back.) I cannot imagine that a novel I could write in thirty days would be any good to read, nor would it be any fun to write. I know someone will comment with some notable masterpiece written in three weeks. (Just as I am writing this, I think I remember someone saying that Their Eyes Were Watching God
, was written in twenty-three days or something.) But I know how I write and it isn't quick. I understand that imposition of a deadline as a way to motivate folks to actually sit down and write, but for me, art doesn't really work that way. The idea of writing a novel in a month is really attractive for obvious reasons-- just think, you could be a novelist before Christmas! But, sadly, really exploring an idea and developing meaningful characters and plots can take time and a lot of it. IMHO, word count is not necessarily the best way to measure progress on novel. I prefer to judge myself based on the time
I spend at my desk. Although it takes a certain word count to make a completed novel, counting words isn’t the most accurate measure of art.
I believe in setting goals, but these goals should be reasonable and healthy. I love all the NaNoWriMo enthusiasm, really I do. But you may also be setting yourself up to fail and feeling like a failure is not
To my mind, NaNoWriMo is almost like going on a crash diet to fit into a special dress. You spend days eating nothing but cabbage soup and Dexatrim and feel proud of yourself for dropping ten pounds in ten days or whatever. But have you been properly nourished? Have you learned any new sustainable habits? Nope. Why not? Because you made the whole enterprise about fitting that dress, not about changing your life.
Don’t get me wrong. I like the idea of the month of November being devoted to novel writing. I love thinking of thousands of people sitting at their computers and notebooks thinking hard. What I worries me is the idea that a novel should be finished at the end of that month. Let us devote November to novel writing, but let us focus more on trying to structure the month in such a way to be nurturing to our artist-selves. Maybe you will spend the month just daydreaming. Or someone else will hire a babysitter one afternoon a week to get some quiet time. Someone else will spend the month reading novels in translation. Yet another person may volunteer her month to reading friends' drafts. You get the idea. There is more to writing than just word count. Spend November being a more dedicated artist, whatever that looks like.
SheWriters, let’s NaNoWriMo in our own art-nurturing ways. What can you do this month to make yourself a better writer?
Novelists - Struggling or Not group