Notes from the Trenches — Nano Why Mo?!

James Garside by Stijn Swinnen

I try not to whinge too much but if you ever see a post prefaced with the title ‘Notes from the Trenches’, when I’m a writer, not a soldier, and the only war being fought is against my own inertia; then that’s your clue that it’s just a little rant about writing and not necessarily fit for human consumption. You have been warned.

I’m sick to the back teeth of the outpouring of anti-nanowrimo sentiment from published and established so-called professional writers.

How precious. You’re entitled to your opinion, but please, shut up.

You don’t have to participate, you don’t have to approve, nobody is making you write a novel in a month, but why do you feel the need to piss on the parade of those who do?

It’s free to participate, it raises money for charity, and it encourages people to write and have fun. How can encouraging people to write be a bad thing?

Sure, they cry, but you’re making them think that writing is EASY and getting them to write BADLY. Well, so what? The biggest obstacle to writing well isn’t a lack of talent, it’s a fear of ‘writing badly’ so crippling that you don’t write at all.

The fear of failure and crippling self doubts that for many seem to go hand in hand with any creative act are something that I wrestle with every day. I aspire to be a published writer, but in the words of Kirsty MacColl, “you just haven’t earned it yet, baby”. I haven’t written long enough or hard enough, but at least I’m trying.

I applaud anyone daft enough to try and write a novel in a month, whatever their reasons for doing so. It’s a baptism of fire, and you learn a hell of a lot about the craft and about yourself as a writer in the process. It’s also a lot of fun.

I’ve encouraged many writing friends and former creative writing students to participate in nanowrimo over the years, and seen many of them blossom as writers as a result.

Not because what they wrote in that month was brilliant, but because it renewed their courage and enthusiasm for the hard graft of writing every day even when it isn’t fun and your friends aren’t there to cheer you on from the sidelines.

Nanowrimo doesn’t cheapen or degrade the noble profession of being a writer at all. If anything, it makes people realise just how bloody hard it is to actually sit down and write a publishable novel. And at the same time, how writers aren’t mythical beings who get to sit on a silver cloud imparting wisdom to the masses from on high. As much as they might like to believe otherwise!

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NCTJ-qualified British independent journalist, author and travel writer.


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