Something about the concept of National Novel Writing Month feels wrong to me. It seems to support the notion that anyone, everyone, indeed the entire country, can and should be writing a novel. Do I really believe that? I certainly believe everyone has a story to tell, and that the process of telling our stories is fundamental to who we are, and who we can become, as human beings. But I don't believe that everyone's story should become a novel. I don't believe everyone should declare themselves a writer. I do believe there already exists a glut of people who call themselves writers, myself among them.
I know diluting the name of "writer" or trivializing the process of writing a novel is not the intention of NaNoWriMo. I believe the intention is to inspire writers to push through the blocks and the tough spots, to challenge those who claim the name of writer to live up to that name by finishing a novel-length work, and to create a community of support that will allow you to reach your writing goals. These are all worthy purposes.
Still, something about the phrase "National Novel Writing Month" sticks in my craw. Maybe it's the bandwagon nature of it or the cram-for-exam component, the idea that those 50,000 words churned out in a month will actually constitute a novel. Wouldn't it be more accurate to say "National First Draft Writing Month?"
On the other hand, maybe this is envy and sour grapes speaking. I know quite a few writers who approach this month with seriousness and planning. They do their advance work. They have an outline, character sketches, everything you need to justifiably commit to a month-long intensive push that will, in fact, result in what could legitimately be called a novel. I salute them. They represent the best of what NaNoWriMo can be. Until I have approached it as they have, I have no right to criticize the concept.
My ambivalence may, in the end, come down to the age-old debate between "the plotters" and "the pantsers," between those who believe in the divine inspiration of the muse driving them forward, and those who believe you must outline and plan first in order to create something meaningful from that drive. For myself, as so often seems to happen in my life, I find I am a mixture of these two styles, an uneasy detente between the abstract-random thinker and the linear-analytical thinker. The plotter and the pantser coexist within me, attempting to sit down together over coffee or lunch and work out a compromise. And every year around this time they stare at each other across the table of my mind and ask, "Now what?"
Do I join the crowd? Do my own thing? Ignore the whole hullabaloo and fuss? Or throw in on it just once to see what happens and make me better informed?
I suppose I should end by throwing that question at you - "Are you participating in NaNoWriMo?" Why or why not?