Is it really that time again? No, not Christmas—National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo for short. Hard to believe we were just celebrating all things spooky just two short weeks ago. And now it feels like November is already half over. As a person, I feel shocked and awed at how fast the seasons’ve changed; as a would-be novelist, I can’t help but feel a twinge of melancholy laced with regret. But not for the reasons you might think.
While it is true I haven’t managed to finish, let alone publish a novel of my own, that is not the burden weighing on my soul today. It’s the feeling that I, and perhaps novel writing itself are inherently flawed. You see, when I was younger I used to wonder if I was a bad person because all I wanted to do was write stories. I felt as if my passion for literature, movies, comic books—entertainment as a whole, really—was somehow a selfish thing.
Just look at everyone else, I thought. Veterinarians, military officers, missionaries, even construction workers. How could I possibly consider myself an equal to them? To those people who actually tangibly contributed to society? For a long time, I worried about whether or not people would ever read a single word I wrote. And now, I worried about whether or not I was a failure for the simple fact that all I wanted to do was write stories.
That was until I heard the single greatest quote that I could’ve possibly imagined, and from one of the most legendary people of the last century: the late, great Stan Lee. When asked about this very same feeling, this is what he said:
“I used to be embarrassed because I was just a comic book writer while other people were building bridges or going on to medical careers. And then I began to realize: entertainment is one of the most important things in people’s lives. Without it, they might go off the deep end. I feel that if you’re able to entertain people, you’re doing a good thing.”
Years later, this still gives me chills. Someone so influential, so great struggled in a similar way as me. What’s more, he found a way out. He got to the heart of what it is to be a writer—no, more than that. Reading, writing, drawing, directing. Anything having to do with content creation, or as Mr. Lee said “entertainment”. All are valid, for all enable us to retreat from our lives—whether extraordinarily bad, ordinarily good, or anywhere in between.
As NaNoWriMo comes to a close, many of you participating may feel like giving up. You may feel that all of the work you’ve done will never come to fruition. If that’s you, let Stan Lee’s words ring true in your mind. Let him remind you of the true importance, of the true beauty of storytelling. Let it guide you. Let it carry you through to the end. And if you aren’t participating, I implore you: take these words as you read, draw, or create in whatever way you see fit.