Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Stupid of the Week #3: National Write a Novel Month

Apparently November is "National Write a Novel Month." The name implies that November is the month for every person in the nation to "finish that novel they've always talked about writing." This is a terrible idea, and here's why:

To begin with, let's assume positive intent. That is, let's assume that whoever came up with this idiotic idea was really, truly trying to make something good. Let's assume they are not a soulless Randian supervillain hell-bent on drowning the world in mediocrity. Maybe they thought it would be a nice morale boost for struggling writers. Maybe they think it will increase the probability of another J.K. Rowling appearing on the scene. Maybe they have cerebral palsy.

If that is the case, whoever thought of this idea really needs to stop and think some more. For instance, they could think about the last pamphlet they received, or the last thank you card that came in the mail, or the last angry note someone left on their car. They could peruse Emails from Crazy People or 27b/6. They could read, oh, pretty much any random blog. They could do all of this, and then imagine a world where the authors of all the pamphlets, thank yous, passive-aggressive notes, crazy person emails, and blogs wrote novels instead.

As Sue Silvester says: horror!

Most people can't write for shit, and most of them are completely, utterly, blissfully unaware of this fact about themselves. And this is fine, as long as they don't write in public. Kind of like how it's okay that most people can't sing since they only do it in the shower or alone in their car listening to Annie Lennox. Our society has even cleverly constructed outlets to allow us to occasionally embarrass ourselves doing the things we can't in a safe environment. Artistic vomitariums, if you will. Sculpture has adult pottery classes, singing has karaoke, and writing has blogs.

It is as inappropriate to encourage some Stephanie Meyer wannabe to write a novel as it is to grab the girl butchering "Total Eclipse of the Heart" in the karaoke bar and put her in Carnegie Hall.

Now forgetting positive intent, there's something bracingly offensive in the idea of "National Write a Novel Month." Maybe it's because I have a number of friends who are legitimate writers with legitimate novels in the works, but I react to the notion of just anyone writing a novel for the heck of it with total disgust. It's insulting both to the people who take writing seriously and write for a profession and to everyone who is not a writer, who is bidden to take a month out of their life to give up their values and write a novel instead.

A novel is not an absolute good. You are not a better person for writing a novel. Novel-writing is a totally optional value, properly done by those who enjoy novel-writing and properly left alone by everyone else. What insufferable arrogance to suggest that one person's values must be everyone else's as well! How equally loathsome to value the art of the novel so little that you would suggest that anyone can and should create one!*

If someone tried to start a "National Perform an Actuarial Reserve Analysis on a Bermuda Captive Insurance Company Day," everyone would scoff, and rightly so: the idea is ridiculous. There are people who specialize in these things. They are called actuaries. There are also people who specialize in selling car insurance (called geckos), in flying airplanes (called my sister), and in analyzing stocks (called "Shit, why did I waste my money on an MBA?"). They do these things because they like to, and because they do them, you don't have to.

There are also people who work their asses off to specialize in novel-writing in more months than just November, and they deserve some fucking respect. So let's celebrate "National Write a Novel Month" by going about our own damn business, shall we?

With Love,

S. Misanthrope

*As Anton Ego says in Ratatouille, "Not anyone can be a great cook, but a great cook can come from anywhere."