Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Do you need a REWARD for doing NaNoWriMo? (A RANT!)

Editorial Note: I started writing this last night with the intent of posting in on this blog, but then I decided to post it to the NaNoWriMo forums instead. There have been a lot of interesting responses to it already so I thought I'd go ahead and share it here as well.

What’s this whole obsession that our culture has seems to have with “getting something?”

When I tell people about National Novel Writing Month - that a couple hundred thousand people around the world set out to write a 50,000 word novel in the Month of November - the most common response I hear is the question, “What do you get if you finish?”

What do I get? I get the satisfaction of writing a 50,000 word novel! I get the joy of knowing that I took on an enormous task and completed it! I get fun and camaraderie and a huge sense of accomplishment! I get the bragging rights for the rest of my life that I wrote a novel!! Do I need more than that? Apparently, according to most people, I do - or at least I should. Apparently, according to some new rules of polite society that were invented when I wasn’t paying attention, I should be rewarded for my own participation - by my own free will in a program that lots of other people have volunteered to organize and produce - with something tangible like money or a car or a trip to Disney World. Really? Really?? Yep.

It’s like when I used to tell people that I volunteered for Habitat for Humanity. (You know - the organization that brings lots of eager volunteers who know practically nothing about building anything together with a few knowledgeable crafts-people who act as nervous foremen to build houses for low-income families.) People would look at me like my skin was made of green Jello. “You mean they don’t pay you anything? And somebody else lives in the house when you’re done? What the heck are you doing that for?” They just couldn’t understand the concept of doing something for the pure joy of helping someone else with no need for reward or recognition whatsoever.

I’m even seeing a similar behavior in my students. When they ask a question about something related to what we’re discussing in class, I’ll often refer them to resources where they can learn more about the topic and find the answers for themselves (so that they’ll actually remember what they learned past lunch). What do you suppose their response is invariably? “What do we get if we do? Extra credit?” Extra credit? Extra credit?? The sheer knowledge that they learn that may boost their grade on the next test or lead them to a great career or save their lives the next time they’re swimming in shark-infested waters isn’t enough; they want extra credit!!!

Listen up people: we NaNoers (that’s short for National Novel-ers) do this for FUN!! We don’t need anything else! Just participating is a reward in itself. Guess what - we don’t even need to WIN to have fun! Just being part of the whole thing is enough to make us come back year after year to PLAY. HA!! Take THAT you self-absorbed, materialistic world!!! HA!!!!

Okay, so I seem to have gone off on a bit of a rant… But my question still stands: where did this attitude come from?

Clearly I’m not the only one who thinks that the reward is in the doing and not the receiving. If I was, there’d be a lot fewer posts on the NaNoWriMo forums than there are already (11 days before the event even begins) and there would be a lot less that $75K in the bucket that supports the event itself and all the great programs that OLL sponsors (the bucket that will hopefully get much, MUCH fuller as our word counts grow larger).

Thanks Fellow NaNoers, thanks OLL staff and volunteers, thanks MLs, thanks supporters, sponsors and everyone else. It’s nice to leave that wacky externally-fulfilled world behind at the end of the day and come “home” to a community like this where the general feeling is that giving is better than receiving, that being part of something like this is just too much fun to miss and that we wouldn’t want it any other way.

Happy writing,

1 comment:

  1. I have to say THANK YOU! I don't understand this need to be rewarded for everything we do now days and the fact that the majority of people won't lift a finger without said reward.

    I've stopped telling people that I write just because every time I do I get looks as though I have suddenly grown a second head and it has fangs. "Why write when you could be sitting on your butt in front of the TV?" *rolls eyes*


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