One thousand words. This November, I will be trying once again to write Fifty Thousand Words in Thirty Days. Also known as National Novel Writing Month. (Also known as NaNoWriMo). For anyone with a calculator, you can easily figure out that this means I must write no less than an average of 1667 (rounding up due to a repeating decimal) words each and every day in order to succeed. This sounds pretty easy at first glance, I mean it is no big deal to type that much in one e-mail for some people. (And you know who you are don’t you? Of course that is better than those who are not yet aware that they can actually type in an e-mail message and think that hitting “Forward” is the only way to communicate via computers and the Interweb thingy…) But typing that much EVERY DAY is something just a bit different. Realize that if you have one of those days where you are busy from sunup to sundown, and never have time to sit down at the keyboard and hammer out your days allotment you will find yourself then next day having to type 3334 words to catch up. Then after two days of non-contribution you will be facing a defecit of no less than 5001 words. Now typing 5000 words in a single day is something that is seriously daunting.
Of course, the savvy Nanovelist has learned to take advantage of the occasional lazy day at work and any sporadic bursts of creativity to pad the daily average whenever possible. On some days the words just flow and you can curse your fingers for being so slow that you can’t keep up with the story as it unwinds directly from your imagination. You have hours of time to do nothing but sit and type and you pass that sixteen hundred sixty seven word mark before the carpal tunnel pain even begins in earnest. In a situation like this, do whatever is necceesary to avoid stopping. Keep typing till the well runs dry even if you have to bring your laptop in the john with you. (True story my friends…) These moments of literary feasting are what will carry you past the days of famine.
Writer’s block is what the world generally calls this situation, but sometimes it is worse than that. Sometimes it is merely what we like to call Real Life. Meaning your space interceptor squadron is just about to run down that wily and dangerous smuggler once and for all and your three year old informs you that he has to use the potty. Now this is a serious dilemma. If you put down the keyboard at this moment, you may lose momentum and forget where you were. Precious moments will be wasted as you struggle to find the groove you are in after taking care of this supremely important human need. Of course the consequence of delaying a request from a small human like this who is still learning that it is possible to exert some control over such functions is much worse than failing to remember how you were going to corner the bad guy. So you push back from the keyboard only to discover that this small human has also yet to learn the difference between “present tense” and “past tense’.
So when you finish cleaning up the “past tense” all over the floor and finding new clothes for the aforementioned human being in training (which of course were not in the drawer where they belong but rather in the dryer since this particular human being in training confuses present with past quite regularly these days) you pop in a Blue’s Clues video for him and get back to work. After staring at the screen, re-reading your last couple of paragraphs looking for that dropped thread of thought you finally place your fingers on the keyboard and….
The two oldest kids begin screaming as if a whirling vortex of time and space is about to consume them and banish them to a far corner of the universe. Of course, the real problem is much simpler: he is holding a pencil. Not just any pencil, but THE SPECIAL PENCIL THAT SHE GOT FROM HER KINDERGARTEN TEACHER ON THE FIRST DAY OF HER FIRST YEAR OF SCHOOL AND IT IS MY SPECIAL PENCIL AND HE IS GOING TO RUIN IT AND HE WON’T GIVE IT BACK TO ME AND IT’S MINE MINE MINE!
Of course this particular writing utinsel has spent the last four years stuck in the penci and pencil holder on the counter next to the phone. In fact, she had, up until her brother had the temerity to actually touch it, forgotten about its very existence. However, now that he has touched it the spell of forgetfulness is broken and SHE MUST HAVE HER PENCIL RIGHT NOW!
She lunges for the pencil and her brother, suddenly equally enamored of this precious artifact from Ms. Hunt’s private collection yanks it away, the jagged edge of the broken lead missing his eye by mere fractions of a millimeter. Then the sister gets a hold and the real fight begins. I am sprinting as fast as I can to break it up, nightmares of Child Protective Services grilling me about how I allowed my child to lose an eye settling in a lead ball in the pit of my stomach. My voice cracks as I try to match their squealing in volume, threatening dire consequences which that same social worker from the earlier nightmare would be very interested in hearing. Then it happens, the struggle for ownership is simply too much and the Dreaded Event occurs. No, the perfect eyesight which I have thanked heaven for so many times remains intact. But The Precious Kindergarten Pencil gives way under the strain of two equally frantic children and snaps in two.
To my son, this event is nothing more than an annoyance. He only wanted the pencil to poke at a bug out on the front porch in the first place. Now that it is broken, he is content to choose any of the other fifty pencils in the holder to torture the poor unfortunate cricket that he has captured.
On the other hand, my daughter is instantly mortified. Death is the only fair sentence for desecration of an artifact so precious and rare.
After calming the trauma of losing such a rare possession (which we soon found was not THAT pencil anyway, after she finished crying) I can now return to my story. Once again, I re-read the last few paragraphs, stare off into space as if I can actually see the small fighter ships converging on the crippled freighter from here in my living room, I place my fingers on the keyboard…
And my dear wife comes home. Naturally, this is a joyous event always, and always will be forever and ever and ever (I am not sure she reads this stuff that I write but you never know…) and ever… I jump up and cheerfully greet her with a hug and a kiss. Or at least I try to convey that emotion without removing my fingers from the keyboard and smiling.
“Oh, I see you are working on your novel. How is that going?” She asks, her smile masking her real emotions every bit as well as mine.
“Pretty good, I am really on a roll here, I should be able to pad my average and have some breathing room for the next few days.” I say, hoping that she catches the implied promise that I will not be pining for the keyboard for at least a minute or two if she will only let me finish this part right now.
“That is great dear. Only… I had kind of hoped to spend some time with you tonight…”
As I save my file and close my laptop, I reflect on how difficult it can be to actually type that “easy” one thousand, six hundred, sixty seven words each and every day of the month for a full thirty days. Real Life is truly the worst obstacle to overcome when attempting to create a new world from nothing more than imagination.
Oh well. There is always tomorrow, when she has a hair appointment. That should give me at least a couple of hours of uninterrupted typing…
(After all that, I have only written 1400 words. See what I mean? Not as easy as it sounds!)
Monday October 15, 2007 - 03:48pm (EDT)
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