Don't Dismiss Your Dislikes

Thursday, November 07, 2013
Are you a Longfellow, berets
and roses kind of writer? Or something else?
Photo credit | Elizabeth K Humphrey
I'm a serial NaNoWriMo signer-upper. I don't always compete. Sometimes, like this year, I've yet to put down a word despite all my incredibly good intentions.

I encouraged a friend we'll call Joe to dive in this year. And he encouraged himself. We would motivate each other. Then a deluge of paying work came my way and I've had to bow out. But I am cheering from the sidelines, which takes a lot less time than writing an entire novel in a month.

Recently Joe viewed some videos of people who signed up for NaNoWriMo. Folks were admitting their fears and sharing encouragements and  motivations. A nice enticement for people on the fence to join in the month-long marathon of writing a draft of a novel in 30 days. But for my sexagenarian friend, who has been a published writer for decades, the videos had the opposite effect.


Because Joe didn't identify with the folks he saw. There wasn't a participating writer he identified with. He wasn't sure he wanted to go the distance with hundreds of thousands of people who didn't fit into his group of writers. Reading and writing is so personal. If you don't like a book after fifty pages, don't you have a pass to move along to something you do like?

Which brings me to my photo. I was trying to think of how to illustrate a writer who I wouldn't necessarily feel a kinship with--would it be someone who recited Longfellow holding a rose and wearing a beret (see photo)? That's not really the type of writer I like. Come to think of it, I've always had difficulty finding ways to describe myself and where I want my writing to fit, until I talk about my dislikes. (Have you ever heard, "I didn't like the character in that book, so I put it down and now I can't pick it back up."

It can seem a negative exercise, but to reach out and try something and then know what you don't like about it (such as, "I don't identify with this kind of writer and don't think I belong here") is essential and constructive for a writer. You should know what you--and your characters--don't like, as much as you know what you do like.

Joe is deciding whether to continue NaNoWriMo at this time. He may continue and just keep his blinders to move forward. Deadlines are a great motivator.

When I have participated in the month-long event, I appreciated the community, but with three kids, a job, and freelancing, I more often than not find that I put into the community what I'd like to. Which is another one of those things I don't like. I'm the kind of writer who likes to participate. If I can't give 100 percent, then I'll sit on the sidelines.

Even on the sidelines this month, I don't think I'll be alone, but I do think I'll learn a lot about what my characters and I like and don't like. I might even try reading some Longfellow and wear a beret.

Elizabeth King Humphrey is a writer and editor living in North Carolina. She recently let her favorite magazine subscription lapse and is simultaneously feeling guilty and incredibly free.


Margo Dill said...

I'm OFFICIALLY doing NaNoWriMo for the first time this year, and I am finding it very freeing. I am getting a story down that's been in my head for years. It's great. I don't watch or read much of the extra stuff they have. I don't have time.

Renee Roberson said...

After years of saying I was going to do it, I officially signed up this year. I'm a little behind because of freelance work, but I should be able to catch up this weekend. Like Margo, I really don't have any need or desire to participate in the extras--I'll be lucky if I can finish the 50,000 words and need to focus on that first! Writing marathons are the only way I get books written:)

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