Nov
17
2014

The Spirit of NaNo: The Gap Between Taste and Skill

The tormented writer is a trope in fiction for a very good reason. Namely, it’s true. We’ve all been there, and during one of these phases, one of my tribe showed me this video by Ira Glass.

Ira’s perspective encapsulates the spirit of NaNoWriMo. Nano isn't about turning out the next bestseller book in 30 days. Most of us don’t have that level of skill yet. It is about having both a deadline and a support group to help you reach your goals. NaNo isn't about the story, but rather the storyteller.

There is comfort in knowing that Kevin J Anderson once won the writer with no future award by arriving at a convention with the most rejection letters by weight. With 51 international best sellers, Kevin has become one of the biggest names in science fiction and fantasy and has published more than 125 books with over 23 million copies in print. Using their know-how and experience, he and his wife Rebecca Moesta founded the WordFire press and the Superstars Writing Seminar. In short, he is my model for a successful writer, and yet even he started his career struggling with rejection. Turns out, if you write over 125 books, you get kind of good at it. Skill is simply a matter of dedicated and purposeful effort, driven by good taste.

Writers evolve from readers. It is our love of stories that drive us to create, and as Ira Glass noted, we start with good taste, but a low level of skill. This disparity torments young writers, but so long as we keep writing, the battle isn't lost. It takes hours of practice and a stack of failed manuscripts to learn the craft and skills necessary to write the first bestseller. Once that landmark is reached, it is simply a matter of reusing what you've learned to write the next. Rinse and repeat until you have a career.

As we approach the end of NaNo, don't give up because your skill doesn’t live up to your good taste. Take comfort in knowing that it takes years for most of us to work our way out from that place. Whether you're on track, a little behind, or haven't really even started yet, remember that no words are wasted. Keep writing, and one day, your skill will catch up with your good taste. The struggle will make the victory all the sweeter.

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