The NaNoWriMo Dialogues: “When Haters Give You Lemons”

You: People are kinda mean.

Me: That is too true. I remember when I was in elementary school, this one kid used to make fun of me just because of the way I chewed, which I didn’t and don’t think was really all that weird, but it made me self-conscious about my chewing and so —

You: Hey, hey, focus up, blabbermonkey. This post is about me.

Me: Whoa, well, sorry. Who is being mean to you, little muffin?

You: Some people are really dismissive of NaNoWriMo.

Me: Some people are really dismissive of charity, health care, cats, ponies, creme brulee, gin, asparagus, Twitter, you, me, the kitchen sink. Collectively, as a whole, I think people are pretty cool. But you get some big-ass radar blobs of judgey-faced shit-snorkeling fuck-garglers, too. You have to decide if you’re going to listen to those poisonous crowds or, instead, ignore them entirely.

You: I’d like to ignore them, but it kinda harshes my mellow. It bludgeons my buzz.

Me: Then NaNoWriMo is indeed excellent training for being a writer, because nobody will respect you in the long term, either. Seriously: a career in any artistic medium can be a fine way to make money, but it is almost uniformly terrible at ensuring total respect from the world around you. I’ve been a professional writer for the last 16 years, and over half of them have been me operating in a full-time capacity. And not like, “Well, we’re eating ramen again this week,” but, you know, actual money. And just the same, I still have family members who do not approve of my choice to me a writer. I have family members who don’t even acknowledge the fact I’m a writer because, shit, I dunno. I’d probably do better in the respect department if I had chlamydia. On my face.

You: This is really not helping.

Me: Good. Welcome to reality. You need to harden the fuck up, Care Bear. You’re going to face down rejections. Editorial notes. Bad reviews. If you’re letting some NaNoWriMo critics knock you down a peg, you’re in trouble.

You: I just would very much like the respect of others.

Me: And people in Hell want Haagen-Daaz. Hey, I feel you. It pains me when people don’t dig on what I do or they use that to dismiss me in some way. Sometimes I think I’d earn more respect if I were a janitor or a sewage worker or a freelance hog inseminator. But it is what it is and at the end of the day I write for me — and, obviously, for the audience who wants to read the stories I slather onto the page.

You: All right, fine, so that’s for writing overall — but some jerks are particularly crappy about NaNoWriMo in particular. Like, they have these criticisms —

Me: Go on.

You: What are you, my therapist?

Me: I dunno, Captain Howdy, you tell me.

You: Like, there’s this one article on Salon — “Better Yet, Don’t Write That Novel.”

Me: That one’s a few years old. I’ve read it, sure. That article kinda sucks, actually.

You: Does it? Because it’s freaking me out.

Me: Why? What parts?

You: Well, I don’t want to “write a lot of crap.”

Me: Of course you don’t. Who does? If you were going to go build a chair — like, the first chair you have ever built — do you think it’d be the kind of chair you could immediately go out and sell? Ikea will buy it and call it SJNARGN and it’ll make you a million dollars? Do you think King Joffrey will sit on that motherfucker and not then ask to have your head cut off so he can kick it around like a soccer ball? No. That chair will be the ugliest goddamn chair you ever did see. It’ll probably be a safety hazard to you and everyone you love. But nobody says to the carpenter’s apprentice: “You shouldn’t build a lot of worthless chairs.” You have to build a lot of worthless chairs!

You: Worthless Chairs is the name of Scalzi’s new band.

Me: Are… you Scalzi?

You: No.

Me: Are you Rothfuss? Real or imagined Rothfuss?

You: No.

Me: … nnnokay, fine, whatever, moving on. Like I said before, you gotta write through the suck.

You: But aren’t I just committing more crap to the world? That’s what that Salon lady said. She said — hold on, lemme find it, ah, yeah, here we go:

“NaNoWriMo is an event geared entirely toward writers, which means it’s largely unnecessary. When I recently stumbled across a list of promotional ideas for bookstores seeking to jump on the bandwagon, true dismay set in. “Write Your Novel Here” was the suggested motto for an in-store NaNoWriMo event. It was yet another depressing sign that the cultural spaces once dedicated to the selfless art of reading are being taken over by the narcissistic commerce of writing.”

Me: Oh, right, because writers are never ever readers. If you can’t see me over here, my eyes are rolling so hard they just popped out of my head and the dog ate them. She also said this:

“Yet while there’s no shortage of good novels out there, there is a shortage of readers for these books. Even authors who achieve what probably seems like Nirvana to the average NaNoWriMo participant — publication by a major house — will, for the most part, soon learn this dispiriting truth: Hardly anyone will read their books and next to no one will buy them.”

Me: Again committing the idea that writers and readers are not the same people. Yeah, newsflash: in my experience, the Venn diagram featuring WRITERS and READERS has like, a 95.7% overlap. Moreover, I hate that bullshit about oh blah blah even if you do get published no one will ever read it so just stop now. Because what chimp-shit justification. First: she has no actual evidence that no one is reading books or even your books. Second: here, I can play that game with anything you might ever want to do: “Even if you do graduate from culinary school, you’ll never be hired by a real restaurant.” “Even if you do manage to learn accounting you’ll find that most companies won’t hire you because you smell. “Even if you do manage to learn how to sculpt or paint or write comic books or write novels or whatever you will soon learn the dispiriting truth that we all FUCKING DIE AND LIFE IS A FRUITLESS ENDEAVOR WHICH MEANS THERE’S NO FRUIT NOT EVER IT’S JUST A DEAD TREE LIKE A SKELETON’S HAND THAT WANTS TO PULL YOU INTO THE MUCK AND SMOTHER YOU IN ITS DREARY DEPRESSING MUD.”

You: I think you’re more upset about this than I am.

Me: Well, seriously, it’s just silly. Besides, it focuses on the wrong thing: publication. Like, yes, you can write to be published. You can write in the hopes of having an audience. But to get there, to connect with a publisher or to speak to an audience you still have to finish a book.

You: I just figured, hey, that article was written by a writer so, maybe I should pay attention. And feel bad about myself because, hey, another writer would know.

Me: But see, there’s another grim and ugly little secret: often writers will be the ones who criticize first. Hey, you know, I get it. I used to be kinda hard on NaNoWriMo. And I still recognize that it is one writing plan among many and it has lots of weird little “rules” and I’m not necessarily fond of the “win/lose” condition — but, you know, none of that takes anything away from me. Or my work. None of it removes the power from writing or storytelling. None of it harms the publishing industry. No, of course you shouldn’t be submitting your rough-hewn draft to publishers or agents on December 1st, and if you do that, someone should fire a howitzer at your genitals so that you may never breed. The actions of idiots should not be used to punish everyone else.

You: So, I should just keep writing.

Me: You should just keep writing. Haters gonna hate. I’ve said it before and will say it again: letting the haters occupy real estate inside your head is like asking a strange dog to shit in your kitchen. We’re hard enough on ourselves we don’t need to let other people stick us with knives.

You: When haters give you lemons… make haterade?

Me: No. Shove the lemons up the haters’ netherholes. THEN SQUEEZE THEM UNTIL LEMON JUICE FOUNTAINS OUT OF THEIR EARHOLES.

You: Whoa.

Me: Yeah.