Every now and then I like to put up a writing related blog. After all, that is what most of us are here to do, sharing our thoughts and feelings about the things we love, and sometimes even more; our personal stories, are deepest secrets, and our affinity for boners.
I think a lot about writing and what it has done for me as a person. Although approximately none of you will probably ever be unlucky enough to meet me in the flesh, most who know me through writing first and then meet me in person after are usually quite surprised at how different the real life Manchild is from this guy right here. That's because it is far easier to articulate exactly what is on my mind through writing - and I do write about everything on my mind - then it is to do it in person. I can hardly find the right words otherwise, although it is also a detriment to speak through writing alone because I barely have time to filter out any of the real more nasty crap that collects in my brain, instead opting for a "blurt it all now, apologize later" route which hardly shines a positive light on the strength of my character.
The fact is that writing is something I have grown comfortable with as both an artistic exercise and a cathartic one. It has become a part of my daily routine. Whether I am yamming about nonsense on Twitter, or posting irrelevant quips on Facebook, typing up a piece here or on my own blog, I am always writing. It is something I do just about as often as I take a dump in the morning. And as a result, I have become reasonably skilled at getting a point across.
For the month of November, that is all I will be doing, because it is National Novel Writing Month. I don't know how many of you are just as interested in writing stories as you are writing blogs and opinion pieces, since the two are thoroughly different practices, but I wanted to talk about NaNoWriMo and why it is a good thing, regardless of its many detractors.
I like to spin a good yarn. I have had a couple of things published here and there, and although my success rate for doing so has been abnormally high, I also don't submit my work very often. Fiction is mostly a hobby on the side, one which is obviously directly in line with my tendency to write, but not necessarily a large portion of what I do. I love stories, big and small, in books films and video games alike, but they aren't something I am particularly comfortable writing. And NaNoWriMo, which has you writing 50,000 words in a month, is no small task for someone who doesn't often sit there and attempt to pen out their Magnum Opus of Great Canadian Fiction.
So why do I do it every year? Why do I do it when I know I'm usually going to fail, or that the stories, which are of particularly low quality due to the time constraints and lack of pre-planning are never going to amount to anything?
Practice makes perfect.
I have known a lot of people who were interested in a topic, say sports, or of course video games, and wanting to involve themselves somehow in the industry but not really having the talent to get into the fray and become either an athlete or developer, decided they want to take the journalism route instead. One guy in particular had never written a word of anything in his life. And while he is spending an enormous amount of money and time on courses in order to do so, I honestly wonder just how successful you can be if you haven't invested the years of time it really takes to be proficient with such a skill?
There is an overwhelming focus on "education" these days, with "education" implying that you will hand over a wad of sweaty bills to a teacher or professor and suddenly become a master in whatever art they are striving to teach you. People go to school almost exclusively because they are afraid of the stigma they will face if they don't; peer and parent pressure, mixed with the desire to meet others expectations drives droves of kids into a learning environment where they aren't interested in learning anything. Many of them will pick "cop out" topics like Psychology and Philosophy for a lack of real passion in anything else, and will pay themselves out of house and home, only to finally return, sometimes ten years later, when they are a little wiser and actually have something tangible in mind.
Personally, I thought it was a racket when I was in high school and wondering what I wanted to do with my life. I realized that whatever it was, I wasn't sure of it and didn't want to invest deeply into post-secondary until I really knew what I wanted to go for. Sometimes the simple act of being involved in that system can inspire kids, can teach them about professions or endeavors they otherwise may not have known about before they went to College or University, but much of the time it doesn't; and as someone with absolutely no financial support from parents or other family, I simply didn't want to take the risk. I knew I loved writing back then, but wasn't sure about doing it as a career. And frankly, I'm still not sure.
While I'm not judging anyone for being proactive or ambitious here, I have to wonder about passion sometimes. How do you know you want to be a writer if you've never sat in front of a computer for hours on end attempting to write, sharing your work with others, and bracing yourself for the inevitable criticism to come? How can you say your passionate about something if it isn't a complete obsession, a need, and if you have put no effort in to do it every single day, and to get better despite the lack of tools at your disposal?
That is what payed education is; a tool. I have heard of a lot of people flaunting their credentials, especially when they are called out for being poor at what they are supposed to be geniuses at. But the simple fact is, nobody with half a brain thinks that working your way through a course automatically equates to success in that field. You have simply been given working tools with which to further your skill; how you implement them relies completely on you, and your passion to succeed in your given field.
As with all artistic practices, writing is absolutely no different. You say you want to be a games journalist, a novelist, a sports writer? Well then do it. Start now. Today. If you are saving up for a journalism or creative writing course, keep saving, and do what you think you need to do to improve. But in no way will you improve faster than constant practice, failure, defeat, and savoring in the rare few real successes you will see throughout your career as a practicing writer, even if it is not a career in the payed sense of the word.
That is what projects like NaNoWriMo are good for; failure. You are going to write your ass off, there is a great chance you won't accomplish anything, and there is a definite possibility you will fail to achieve your goal by the end of the month. But what it will get you doing is writing every day; putting up with the frustration of writers block, and making you think actively and write on the spot. The biggest problem with writing is not having anything to say. NaNoWriMo doesn't care if you have anything to say, it just wants you to say something, and like a kid hanging out in a College taking Psyche courses and realizing just by being there that he wants to be an Engineer, you will
get bigger ideas, you will
be inspired, and all that practice will have one definite benefit; you will get better at writing, just through the act of trying.
I'm going to do it this year again. I probably won't succeed. But I will become a little better at what I do. Just like every time I write a blog for Destructoid, I get a little better at blogging. So no matter how much you think you suck, no matter how discouraging it can be do be criticized by others, just remember this; it's all part of a long and tedious learning process. You will not get better at writing simply by reading materials about how to write. Only practice can bring that.
If you are a blogger for this site who wants to someday become a legit GERMS JERNERLIST, consider this place your education. Consider your payed education to be a toolbox of knowledge to put to work furthering said education.
And most importantly, write, write, write, write, write. Because that is the only way you will ever get better at writing, period.
(For anyone interested in NaNoWriMo, here is the link
. The shenanigans start tomorrow. By making an account you can upload your stories and update your word count, find people in your area to communicate with, and sign up for motivational emails to help you stay on track. Good luck, and if you are participating, let me know how it's going for you!)