Like every other person on Earth in the post-NANOWRIMO wasteland these days, I have a completed novel in the later drafts sitting on my PC; it’s currently going through the first reader cycle, and apparently needs a lot of work and some heavy rewriting (again) before I publish it. I recognize that having accomplished this does not make me special, but I will say it was a ton of work, and it took more than two months.
I have, however, horrible burnout; so while I was confident it was only a month or two away from completion, I’m currently worrying about whether or not it’s fixable and how long it’ll take to get through the thing- probably typical anxieties for this sort of thing. I’ve decided to take about a month, at least, to step away from it, in hopes that I’ll have a somewhat fresh outlook on it when I return to it.
What I’ve noticed, is that over the years my actual rate at which I rate hasn’t slowed, but my ability to write on a given day has; and that it’s almost never fun anymore. The task is a chore. Which is where NANOWRIMO comes back into play; before everyone on Earth was mobbing the publishers with crummy one-month first drafts at the start of December, writing was a really fun activity; it hadn’t been stripped of wonder and mystery by making it into a mechanical sport and supposed cash cow (it never was, and still isn’t for almost everyone) for everyone who can type words into sentences into vaguely coherent paragraphs on a word processor. You wrote because you were different and had things to say, in short. Mandatory American positivity and capitalism came along and made writing, and writing novels in particular, into some bizarro work festival once a year, and everyone who was serious about it beforehand got wedged into some insane productivity culture that ruined the whole process for everyone.
A ton of people who quite frankly have no business writing novels started doing it. I realize 99% of them burn out and drift away but now you’re not “a writer” until you’ve published a book, and a very successful one at that, which is nonsense; as someone who’s written almost every day, nonstop, in some capacity, since before he was 18, I think I should have claim to the title. But I don’t. No salable product, no social status. Imagine being a serious musician, and then every twit who wants to be a famous millionaire in the name of being worshiped and sleeping in at their beachfront mansion every day comes along til you can’t get any respect despite years of devotion to your art and demonstrable talent since, after all, you’re not a rock star, an obvious commercial success. What’s happened to the music scene has happened to the writing scene, and it’s despicable. It’s not how good you are. It’s how much money you make off it.
I don’t mean to hedge newcomers out, but I do mean to say this: if you’re making art as some sort of stunt to brag about, or to get rich and famous and frequently laid, please rethink your motives or get the hell out. The world has that in spades already, you’ll make more money elsewhere (ANYWHERE else, trust me), and frankly, you are killing art and the actual artists who don’t deserve to be grinding unrewarded in poverty to the ends of their lives. NANOWRIMO, if you’re considering writing novels for the right reasons, is a good way to gauge whether you can do it at a rapid but still unrealistic pace; you have to write seven or eight pages a day on average, which is doable, if not recommended by the sane. If you want to chase the money dream, I really wish you’d go do something else, like being a proper con artist.
I started writing before it was trendy, because it’s a large component of what I’m here on Earth to do. For me it’s an inescapable condition; I’d stop if I could, but I cannot. I fell for the get-rich-quick trap briefly myself, but I was a writer before that, and climbed out of the morass afterwards to take it far more seriously as a result- most people who take the bait never do. It’s not the influx of new people that bothers me so much as the influx of capitalist shills looking for easy money who ruin everything that have given writing fiction and literature a really bad name. Frankly I love helping newcomers who’re serious or even semi-serious along the way with writing (and photography, for that matter). One of the joys of being an artist is helping mentor the young ones who come along, and watching them grow as artists. What I don’t like is being hedged into the capitalist shill and/or “rebel” who actually just loves to party selfishly camps in the minds of others- or having to put up with those types.
They’re a large part of my burnout, and I feel when the serious get pushed out of the arts by the shallow, we all stand to lose something. For the authors or would be authors out there it’s the joy and dignity of the craft; for the rest of you it’s the quality writing that actually expresses something unique.
(for even more ranting about burnout from another angle, see this here in non-fiction)