Writing is hard. It is harder still when fighting battles with yourself. Yet this is belittled when November’s eleven-year fad NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) comes around. The idea is to write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days.
It has taken me three years to come close to 50,000 words for my thesis. Writers will be soon be surpassing that in a mere fraction of the time.
NaNoWriMo receives a lot of strong opinion, largely because it encourages quantity over quality. The official page freely concedes, ‘Make no mistake: you will be writing a lot of crap’.
Sometimes I have sympathy for the freedom a project like this provides, as adding quality to my doctoral thesis seems like a colossal achievement. Writers’ block is something that the world of academia often addresses itself.
I also loathe it for the way it can disregard the graft that goes into a small amount of writing.
Writing often delves into dark, private pursuits. This time last year, I was using my relative anonymity at a new university to write on dark matters. I am also looking to making ends meet, which is all I ever wanted until the PhD was completed.
Where I do engage with NaNoWriMo is that writing can be its own reward. I frequently start blog entries and discard them. The time would be better used by being at peace with your own work.
Clarity of expression, structure of argument, and flair of delivery are difficult to learn. You want it to come naturally, without tireless editing and re-arranging.
Most challenging of all is accepting one’s own quality control – a tenet vital to postgraduate research. For a slow and methodical writer, spending hours on short works is a risk.
One such risk is the decision to head to Germany this week for a private party, where I will be the UK’s only representative. I have to do this to crack a stigma that still haunts as vividly as a Weeping Angel.