Once again, it’s almost here. NaNoWriMo—
National Novel Writing Month.
November. The month to write. To write a 200-page novel in one month.
This is the opportunity for all budding novelists and those far beyond the budding stage to jump in and just write. Those of us who are willing to tackle the challenge will have to be willing to write really bad stuff. I mean no editing. NO editing. Just write. Free ourselves enough to turn off the inner critic, the one who is constantly telling us we don’t have what it takes, that our prose is on the par of an eight year old. And, hello? Grammar? Do you know how to punctuate? Do you understand verb tense?
This is the month where we mute that voice of criticism. We write. November 1-30, we are to put to paper a 50,000 word novel. That’s 200 pages. Two hundred pages of unedited and, yes, probably pretty sad writing. But that’s okay. We can go back later to rewrite and revise, to edit and correct, to make the prose sing. Okay, I’m on board. Except…
There’s a slight problem. Actually, it’s a big one.
Is that really possible? Can we not have any thoughts? Because, I really haven’t. Not one.
My brain is a symphony of white noise.
Is this just the lull before the month-long storm of writing begins? Perhaps. Or perhaps I have lost my ability for all cognitive function.
Now, I’ve felt things in the past week, for sure. I mean, I’ve felt plenty. I’ve felt sad over news of friends’ illnesses or loss. I’ve felt sorry for my grandkids when their grades didn’t match their expectations. I’ve felt pleased over the way my Quiche Lorraine turned out. I’ve felt annoyed at the wild hogs still thinking my place is their own private Ponderosa. I’ve felt irritated at our esteemed officials in Washington when once again they’ve ridden roughshod over the Constitution or over my inalienable rights.
But a thought? I don’t think I’ve thought a thought now for quite some time.
What does this mean? Can we actually go for extended periods of time without thoughts? Without thinking?
I’ve gone through the motions of my days. I’ve sat in hospital waiting rooms. I’ve laundered sheets and towels and clothes. I’ve planted perennials and herbs. I’ve changed bandages. I’ve answered phone calls and emails. I’ve listened to political pundits tell me what I’m supposed to think about presidential candidates and wars in the mid-east and the tanking economy. I’ve worked on reformatting my eBook. But think? Actually, formulate a thought of my own? Uhmmmm…no. Nope, haven’t had one of those.
Okay, so I just need to relax about this having no thoughts thing. About this lull I am in. I’m just going to sit back. Enjoy the peace of thinking nothing. It’s okay. It really is. It’s a Zen thing, right? A kind of peaceful nothingness. I’m gone. Out of here. Nirvana, baby! Or should I be worried about the tabula rasa that is now my brain?
I’ve tried to look at some of the contributors to thought blockage in my life. Television is possibly Numero Uno. I really don’t watch much television, except for news or certain specials. But news, itself—which really isn’t news, at all, but is rather a combination of the airing of dirty laundry and subliminal brainwashing—is an intense thought killer. The presidential debates have proven to be major thought killers. Weather—hello? I live in Texas. Definite thought killer. I have this ABC Player app on my iPad, so I can watch any ABC program from this past season. That’s pretty cool, except that most of the programs are time-devouring thought killers. I’ve tried sitting out in the garden to get some inspiration. I’ve tried reading great writers for inspiration. I’ve tried pulling weeds, napping, sipping fermented grapes, praying—alas, none have produced a single innovative thought.
This is Fall. This is the human season, the time when the sap of life drains away and leaves one dormant. Perhaps that is what’s happening. Maybe I’m just slowing down, moving toward that phase of hibernation, when I’m supposed to digest all that I have experienced this past season, when I am to process and make sense of all the world has had to offer. Come spring, perhaps I’ll have thoughts again.
No, sorry, can’t wait that long. November is Nanowrimo. National Novel Writing Month. Not the month to hibernate. Not the month to go into a Zen state. Not the month to have zero thoughts. The pressure to create is building, fomenting, keeping me awake at night. I’m definitely feeling the challenge and the responsibility to produce words. An albatross is the monster under my bed.
Okay, Thoughts will come. They have to come. One month, that’s all I need. One month of thoughts so that I can write this book.
I’ve thought of doing this novel-in-a-month thing other years, but something always got in the way—
Sloth, I believe it is called.
This November, I’m going to be productive. I can do this. I’ve already got a novel in progress. I have about 300 pages so far, and those three hundred pages are pretty much ready to “go in the box” as they used to say in publishing circles. I have no idea what the lingo is these days. Do the pages go in a box or on a CD or by way of Twitter. I really have no idea. The problem is, I need about 300 more pages to complete this story. November. 300 pages. I think I can. I think I can.
I know I can. I know I can. Bring on the storm.
But, first I have to have that one thing that eludes me, that lays just beyond my grasp. Robert Browning wrote “Ah, but a man’s reach should exceed his grasp. Or what’s a heaven for?”
Well, I am reaching. Now, if I could just grasp a thought.
One thought. Just one.