An ML’s Reply

by syaffolee

It was on this day back in 2001 that I started blogging. In some ways, it was probably a crazy idea to start yet another writing endeavor when I was already trying to write 50,000 words in a month. But there is some truth to the idea that you can get more accomplished if you pile on more work. It’s only when you have nothing to do that you don’t have the impetus to finish anything.

I have this sort-of annual tradition of complaining for a blogiversary post. This year is no different. My complaint this year: cynical wrimos on the forums who claim that municipal liaisons are peppy cheerleading enablers for the self-indulgent, snowflake mentality of young people today. Fortunately for the older folks, these cynical wrimos are my age, perhaps a little older. They claim to be more sophisticated Gen X’ers* who know how Nanowrimo should be done. Just write, they say. And stop looking for validation about your silly novel about sparkly vampires.

Personally, I don’t really think they have any grounds for complaining when somebody else in that same age forum started a post about how horny they get when they’re writing.

I have no problem with the notion to “just write.” That, to me, is what Nanowrimo is about. It’s about getting that first draft down. Everything else is just extra. The forums, although now a fixture of the event, is not necessary for having the Nanowrimo experience. It’s definitely not about what you’re writing or how you’re writing it.  The only thing required for a Nanowrimo experience is to write a 50k novel. I’ve been around long enough that I remember Nanowrimo not having any forums or MLs. And I still wrote a novel without any fuss. There’s a lot going on in the current forums that simply don’t interest me any more and most of the time, instead of complaining about it, I ignore it.

Anyways, on to the accusations that MLs are hyperactive wombats sniffing the crazy pants. First of all, MLs are not all the same. Some are super organized. Some are very laid back. Some might seem like they inject themselves with pure sugar every morning. And some are so uber cynical you’ll wonder if they have a stick permanently wedged up their butt**. Perhaps you don’t get along with your ML. That is fine. Some personalities don’t mesh no matter the situation. But that doesn’t give you the leeway to paint all MLs with the same brush. We are not all wombats***. Second of all, they are volunteers. I can’t speak for all MLs, but as an ML myself, I try very hard to make the Nanowrimo experience for participants in my region the best that I can. Nanowrimo has been very good to me and I simply want to pass on the awesomeness. I want everyone to succeed in their goal to finish their novel. And if it takes candy bribes and manic writing sprints to get people to write, then I’ll do it. Maybe even some MLs will go through the trouble of dressing up in a chicken suit to convince people to get writing, but that is their prerogative. MLs aren’t required to do anything, really, except to organize a time and place for write-ins and perhaps give out Nanowrimo stickers if they’ve ordered the kit from HQ (and even then, this might not happen, depending on the vagaries of the post office).

I don’t want to exclude anyone, but I think people have to keep in mind that write-ins are very specific types of events. Depending on the ML and the participants in a region****, they can go from intense writing sessions to social free-for-alls. If you find out that what goes on in a write-in doesn’t jive with you, this absolutely does NOT mean that you are doing Nanowrimo incorrectly. Or, for that matter, that the attendees at the write-in are doing Nanowrimo incorrectly. Keep in mind the main goal of the event: write 50k in a month. Writing is an intensely personal endeavor. And your experience of Nanowrimo is dictated by you and not anyone else. If you want to slave away on your novel in a cold, lonely garret or want to organize your own personal write-in with a different emphasis, then terrific. Go for it.

And if your regional ML is acting all controlling and refusing to let you organize your own write-in, then it’s probably time to send a note to Nano HQ detailing your complaints. Otherwise, if the MLs seem to be catering to all those silly whippersnappers rather than to the older folks simply because there are apparently more of them, then speak up and help make things more inclusive. MLs, on top of writing that novel, are going to school, having jobs, taking care of family and a whole bunch of other things.  They are stressed and may not realize that you are uncomfortable at these events if you don’t actually tell them.  And above all, MLs are not paid to do any of this*****.  Cut the free help some slack.  If you want to make your own experience of Nanowrimo meaningful, then actually do something about it instead of ranting about it into the electronic aether.

*I don’t get it. Why do they consider themselves Gen X’ers when some of them aren’t that much older than Britney Spears?
**I can say these things since I’ve been accused of all of them at one time or another.
***Some MLs might be cyborg ninja monkeys, but that’s another matter.
****If your region is a college town, all I can say is: what do you expect? If you want to attend a write-in without those supposedly hormonally-charged, emotionally insecure, and socially awkward twenty-somethings, organize a write-in yourself. Or at least ask the ML for an additional write-in. If you can’t be bothered to do any of these things, well, sorry.
*****Yeah, I am definitely not paid to do any of this. In fact, I probably spend quite a bit of money trying to make Nano happen in my region. And if any of this helps at least one person to realize their writing dreams, then I’ll say it’s worth it.