Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Chase Says, "Yeah, You Know That Novel? Finish It In 18 Years After You Work Like a Corporate Drone"

I've participated in NaNoWriMo since 2011.  The challenge of NaNoWriMo (or National Novel Writing Month) is to write the first draft of a 50,000 word novel in 30 days; this usually takes place in November.  Basically, it's the idea that since many people say, "I would love to write a novel someday," "someday" becomes today.

Now, I know what you're thinking.  Fifty-thousand words?  That's impossible.  It's really not.  It's difficult, but not impossible.  In four years, I wrote four novels and half of a fifth.  I wrote two in one year, and last year I admit, I crapped out at 25,000 words.  Finding time to edit is actually the harder part.

So, I used to get up in the morning and watch the morning news.  I used to watch the local Fox affiliate's Good Day New York mainly because this guy gets the weather right more often than not.  But then I realized how awful the rest of the newscast was.  It's not really news to find out what a spornosexual is, is it?  I mean, Russia destabilizing the Ukraine (supposedly)?  Trouble with Iran?  Not important.  A spornosexual is.

Dude is modest, right?
Image found here
So during the morning news, I would see this commercial.  Watch it yourself here.  I'll wait.

I don't think my reaction was rage, just mild irritation.  As a writer, society sends what I believe are mixed messages to me and others in my profession.  Writers such as Tolstoy, Shakespeare, or Joyce, the Giants, are seen as visionaries, people who have unique perspectives who've written books that have changed the world.  I wholeheartedly agree.

But attempt to follow in their footsteps, and people ask questions like, "What is your day job?"  "Do you teach?"  Don't get me wrong.  I know writing is a tough row to hoe.  I do teach to pay my bills as I try to get my portfolio edited and ready for the public.    But why be dismissive about writing?  Why automatically assume it's a secondary job?

Some people tend to think writing comes from no where.  That movie description you read on Moviefone or that copy on the back of a paperback novel had to be written by someone.  That someone may have a dream to write The Great American Novel, but there may be more important things he should be doing, according to the writer of this particular commercial.  While I didn't go into a homicidal rage over this commercial, I felt it was just another pinprick in my life, another dig at society in general telling us to go to this bank and get cheap credit, keeping us slaves to the credit treadmill so we can buy things we don't need, like a bigger house or a better car.

Now, I decided to post this video to the NaNoWriMo group on Facebook to see what kind of reaction it would get.  I was somewhat surprised.  One person thought because I had mentioned being offended, I had made some sort of connection that Chase was directly attacking NaNoWriMo.  I didn't.  I was offended as a writer.  But we agreed that the commercial itself was kind of clueless about what real writing was all about.

What surprised me were the "hobbyists."  These were people who write for fun.  The first comment I saw was: "Why do you find it offensive? It's a lot of how life goes, we all have a dream, but sometimes, a bigger one comes true first."  "Bigger" by whose standard?  I don't assume anything about the people I encounter on the Internet.  In fact, the only assumption I can make is this woman just enjoys writing for writing's sake and finds it fun.  I'm glad.  The question then becomes, how can one write fiction without the ability to empathize with the idea that some see writing the Great American Novel as more than just a dream for "someday"?

Writing is hard work.  NaNoWriMo tries to show people that, while hard, it is not impossible, the province of magicians, or the domain of geniuses.  Language belongs to all of us.  But we treat language like crap, and those who make their living using language as not worthy of any significant respect.  As I said, the commercial was just a way to pull at heartstrings to get you to take out a loan so your princess can get her prom dress and Sweet Sixteen Little Red Corvette, because you can't be a good provider if she doesn't have these things, and you have to put off your own dreams for hers.

Do we need more manipulation like this though?  Just don't be the guy who finishes one novel in 18 years.  Finish it in a month, the way you should.  Then slide it in the drawer if you want to.

But then slide it out every so often and ask yourself if waiting to edit your book for 18 years so you could afford that crap you never really needed was worth it.

Update: Apparently, the thread I put up in the NaNoWriMo group got a life of its own.  People apparently were okay with this commercial moreso than I was, mainly because they could relate.  My pleas to look at the fact that they were white knighting a major corporation using emotional manipulation to send the populace into debt was not heard, and I was accused of being insensitive to the elderly, mothers, fathers, feminists, pro-lifers, pro-choice supporters, pro-family supporters and the human race in general.  I decided to just leave the group before the pitchforks and torches came out.

One good thing came from this.  My hater count went up.

You damn right, they do.

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