OK, it’s actually 50,023 words, and the novel is NOT done! I am celebrating, though I don’t have a pie. It was going to be a cherry-peach pie from my favorite pie shop in Estes Park, but it’s too cold and too windy to trek up there, whine whine whine . . . . Luckily, I am apparently part Scottish, so I am “making do” with a drop of The Macallan, cask strength (59.3% alcohol), with just a hint of water. Water of life, right?
What I learned this month:
1. The New York Times is right — the English language is hard to destroy. But then again, I may have to change my mind if, say, Sarah Palin were actually to write her own book …
2. You can’t write if you don’t show up for work. I am perhaps most proud of the fact that I did not miss a writing day — although it is also true that some of those writing days were spent in bed, with sustenance brought to me at appropriate intervals by my loving family :-))
3. A little single malt Scotch helps make new neuronal pathways — trust me, I’m a doctor. A trained professional.
4. Write in a style with which you are most comfortable. I tend not to be interested in fiction written less than a hundred years ago — show me a book from the high Victorian era and I am a happy camper.
5. But because of (4) above, this novel is anything but tightly plotted (oh, wait, the motto was “No plot, no problem,” right?) or tightly written. Fortunately, it is also true that you cannot revise what you have not written.
Today, I listened to this poem by David Hollies, who died in September after nearly a decade of living with progressive dementia of unknown etiology. On his website, he wrote about finding this poem: “I must have written this sometime last year. I found it on my desk.”
Lost and Found, by David Hollies (~2004)
The first few times
Being lost was frightening
With the drama of change
Then, I didn’t know
That everywhere is nowhere
Like the feeling when a ocean wave
Boils you in the sand
But as time goes by
Each occurrence of lostness is quieter
Falling from notice
Like the sound of trains
When you live near the tracks
Until one day
When a friend asks
“How often do you get lost?”
And I strain to recall a single instance
It was then that I realized
Being lost only has meaning
When contrasted with
Knowing where you are
A presumption that slipped out of my life
As quietly as smoke up a chimney
For now I live in a less anchored place
Where being lost is irrelevant
For now, only when there is a need
Do I discover where I am
No alarm, no fear
Just an unconscious check-in
Like glancing in the rear-view mirror.
The Kid threw a tantrum tonight. True, it was nothing like the hours-long kicking and screaming sort of tantrum she used to throw when she was a tot, but it was a teenage equivalent. She fumed, she mewled, she huffed and puffed — and if she could have squawked, she would have. Finally, she stomped upstairs, and just like when she was a toddler, fell asleep. It was an interesting sight.
If I sound unsympathetic, it is because I am. Not because I don’t understand why she was mad and frustrated — I do — but because I think tantrums a waste of time. DH thinks I am jealous because I didn’t get to throw tantrums when I was a kid; perhaps there is a hint of truth in that. I do in fact know how to throw a tantrum, I just choose not to. It is a deliberate, on-demand act of emotional histrionics, and it is just plain silly. And on this day of all days, it is an extravagant indulgence: The Kid has it too good to even think about raging against her lot in life.
Does It Matter? by Siegfried Sassoon, 1917
Does it matter? – losing your legs?
For people will always be kind,
And you need not show that you mind
When others come in after hunting
To gobble their muffins and eggs.
Does it matter? – losing your sight?
There’s such splendid work for the blind;
And people will always be kind,
As you sit on the terrace remembering
And turning your face to the light.
Do they matter – those dreams in the pit?
You can drink and forget and be glad,
And people won’t say that you’re mad;
For they know that you’ve fought for your country,
And no one will worry a bit.
I have just spewed out 500 words describing the governess finding a letter, taking it over to the window, and daydreaming about the writer of this letter. No plot no problem, quantity not quality: it’s good to know I am taking all that to heart 🙂
The Chinese have a wonderful saying, used primarily by an older person to a younger person, which loosely translates to: “I am not worthy of ___.” Its purpose, of course, is to shame the younger person, though I am not sure of its effect given that these days, the sense of entitlement seems to be built into the human genome.
So, I present a classic example. My nephew, when he graduated from high school, managed to get into only one college (out of 20 or so) — and though it was his last choice (a state school), he only got in after a suspenseful 3 months of sitting on the waiting list. Which of course ought to have told him something about the disparity between his opinion of himself and the reality. But, his parents had promised him a new car, and the choice was between a sporty little black BMW or a sporty little black Infiniti. Not that it matters which he chose, but he ended up with the little black Infiniti.
My father, who never had a handout (he grew up during the Depression) and worked hard all his life, saw the sparkling new car when his grandson drove it home from the dealership. “I am not worthy of such a car,” my father said, when my nephew offered to take him for a spin. It has been six years, and I don’t think he has ever ridden in that car.
NaNoWriMo 2009 didn’t quite work out — I lost my way after 50 pages. It was nevertheless an interesting experience, so here I am, ready for 2010. The difference is a tweak of the attitude: I didn’t believe enough in just writing and getting the words out. I am full of words, but real life means real editing — all the time. So this year, I am trying really hard to just write, knowing that it really is about the quantity, not quality, and that just “showing up” everyday and getting the 1,600 words out there is the practice. How else do you begin to write? Of course, it helps that what I am writing this month is in a style most familiar to me — that of the standard three-volume nineteenth century novel. I have no incentive to be economical with words 🙂