Monthly Archives: October 2014

No No NaNo

With the month of November comes early nightfall, a certain crispness to the air, falling leaves, and lots of feasting. And of course, National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), when hundreds of thousands of people around the globe attempt to churn out the gloriously flawed 50,000-word first draft of the novel they always knew they had inside of them.

For the last four Novembers in a row, I have canceled social engagements, wiggled out of work obligations, and hunkered down in front of my laptop for 30 days. The net result is three out of four novels that – either despite their frantically paced origins or because of them – I’ve loved well enough to revisit, with one in particular that is now in it’s third draft.

Like many of my fellow WriMo’s, I initially took the NaNo plunge in the hopes that the Word Count is King rule would force me to produce first and edit second. And produce, I did. Before NaNo, I routinely struggled to craft a single paragraph without stopping to rewrite. After NaNo, I have thousands of unedited paragraphs languishing within lonely folders on my desktop, practically begging for a little attention. And therein lies the problem: while I have found the means by which to produce, I now have more material than I have capacity to edit.

Pay attention to me!

Pay attention to me!

In NaNo years past, I’ve been inspired by a particular story idea or a desire to experiment with plot structure or genre. But I’ve been scratching my head for weeks now, unable to come up with a compelling new character or storyline.

Then it hit me: Why on earth am I trying to dream up a new story when I already have three perfectly decent novels in various stages of neglect? What am I trying to prove by cranking out yet another first draft, that I am disciplined? That I can follow a ritual? I’ve already demonstrated as much to my friends and family by effectively disappearing for a month each year.

So what am I still trying to prove to myself?

The truth is that I don’t want to write a new novel. Not now, anyway. And I am perfectly okay with this realization.

Consider this my official announcement: I will not participate in NaNoWriMo this year. In other words, keep the party invitations coming.


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The Hole

I’ve been staring at the hole in my ceiling for two months now.

It started off as a discolored, half dollar-sized bubble of paint, and ended up as a 12”x14” roughly cut hole directly above my showerhead. I will spare you the trials and tribulations of condo living, and the pros and cons of stacked plumbing. Suffice it to say, my upstairs neighbor’s bathtub had a leak.

My go-to fix-it guy’s busy work schedule (followed by his two-week vacation) has left me with more than 60 days worth of shower time with the hole. And while Paul McCartney sang about how his hole “stopped his mind from wandering”, mine has had the exact opposite effect.

My daily view. Can you see Jesus's face in the S bend?

My daily view. Can you see Jesus’s face in the S bend?

Initially, my thoughts centered on the fear that a hundred spiders (or worse) would scurry out from the hole the moment I closed my eyes to rinse the shampoo out of my hair. Or a bloody hand would jut down and grab hold of me as I washed my face. But when neither of these things happened, I was able to relax and muse over the idea of Cold War-era spy cameras planted in the walls, of squirrels and other furry critters turning the crawl space and mechanical ducts into an enormous habitrail. I pictured gold bullion, property deeds, and first edition Superman comics carefully wrapped in plastic and stashed in the drywall throughout my building. I imagined childhood time capsules, teenagers’ marijuana stashes, empty liquor bottles, mummified armadillos, Creole gris-gris, Native American arrowheads, and Civil War buckshot…

Tomorrow, my fix-it guy is coming to patch the hole. It may sound crazy, but part of me is a little sad. That unsightly hole has inspired a range of emotions – from irritation to fear to amusement – and also provided the perfect opening for me to tell my guests a multitude of stories about the elderly shut-ins upstairs (did I ever tell you about the time my neighbor woke me up at 7am on a Sunday morning by repeatedly shouting Thank You, Jesus! at the top of her lungs?)

But it’s just as well, really. Because like anything we see every day, it’s only a matter of time before I no longer notice that the hole is even there.

Now, if only I could find inspiration in the creaky, steam-swollen floorboards surrounding my dishwasher. Oh wait…I think I have an idea.


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