I’m not sure how many of you know this, but I’m a writer! And I’m participating in National Novel Writing Month for the third time — you can learn more about my project here.
Anyway, I thought it would be fun to make a photostory showing what my life is like in November. Really, this is just another way to procrastinate writing my novel. I’ve spent about five days putting off writing by working on this photostory instead. But that’s beside the point.
I wake up on the couch where I’d fallen asleep the night before. A blanket is tangled around my legs and my laptop sits on my chest. Stale food from yesterday’s midnight snack lies on a plate on the floor. I stretch, rubbing the gunk out of my eyes.
What will I do today? I wonder. Maybe I’ll go skateboarding with Tracy or work on my Tumblr blog.
And then: NaNo. The thought crashes down on me and I scrunch up my eyes, like not being able to see will make it go away. It doesn’t.
I first heard about NaNoWriMo from a boy in my English class. “You write a novel in a month, and then you have the rest of the year to edit and think of a new story.” He’d made it sound so easy, as if it wasn’t a big deal. And maybe it wasn’t for him. Apparently, he’s participated — and won — every year since sixth grade. But I’m finding it quite difficult to make myself write everyday. The month is almost over and I’ve still got a few thousand words left.
I moan. I don’t want to write today. Just twenty-four hours to rest my mind and fingers, is that really too much to ask?
Maybe taking a shower will help clear my head. Eyes half closed, I flop off the couch and plod upstairs to the bathroom.
The hot water welcomes me like a hug. Steam rises around me, making dew appear on the tiled shower walls. I’m almost fully relaxed, water drumming on my shoulders, worries washing down the drain, when I begin to count the droplets as they plop against my skin. Five, ten, fifty, a hundred. I imagine that each one is a word I have to write. Soon, all my anxiety about not finishing in time pours back over me.
I shut the water off. I need to get back to my laptop and fictional world.
Wrapped in a towel, I pad into my room and sit on the bed. Water drips off my hair and trickles down my spine, making me shiver.
Write! my brain urges.
Procrastinate, I reply, grabbing my phone from the bedside table and scrolling through social media. The first post I see is by the legendary writer in my class: “Just finished #nanowrimo with a few days to go! #writer #50k” I groan, shoving my phone under the pillow so I won’t be distracted by it. I should be happy for him, but the update just reminds me that I’m falling behind on my own novel.
Coffee might kickstart my creativity. I throw on some clothes, toss my phone and wallet into a bag, and head to the front door. I grab my skateboard from a bin in the hallway before slipping out.
Cruising down the sidewalk on my skateboard, I picture my characters in my head. There’s Taz, an alien with long blue hair who will do anything to help his twin. Zen, his brother, who becomes infatuated with a girl from Earth and crosses the galaxy to find her. And, of course, their best friend, Lulu. She’s brilliant and a bit eccentric, and goes to the new planet with the brothers to keep them out of trouble.
I know and love these characters, so why can’t I get put their thoughts and adventures on the page?
The chilly November morning offers no answer.
I prop my skateboard up on a bike rack and stroll into the cafe, inhaling deeply. The aroma of coffee and cookies is heavenly. A bored girl stands behind the counter, sighing and tapping the surface with her glittery fingernails. She perks up immediately when she spots me. “Hi, I’m Claire, what can I get you?” she recites, smiling.
“Hey.” I study the menu mounted on the wall behind her. The special today is peppermint hot chocolate. That sounds delicious. “Can I have the special?”
“Sure thing!” she beams. “It’ll be just a moment. Can I have a name for the order?”
“Wow, that’s such a nice name!” she gushes. “It fits you perfectly.” This girl is so friendly, I can’t help but like her already.
“How’s your day been?” Claire asks while she fills a paper cup with cocoa. She sounds genuinely curious.
“Oh. I’m a little stressed,” I confide, fishing a few dollars out of my wallet. “I’ve got to write a lot today for NaNo. Have you heard of it?”
Claire’s eyes light up. “Oh, yeah! They’re doing a NaNo thing today at the library. A lady came over this morning and order a ton of drinks.” She points to a flyer on the wall that promises free coffee and snacks. “You should check it out. I was going to do NaNo this year, too, but I’ve already got work and college taking up all my time.”
Free food? I’m definitely going to stop by the library on my way home. It’s just a block away. “Yeah, thanks, I’ll do that,” I say, taking my cocoa. I raise the cup to my lips. Chocolatey, minty goodness fills my mouth. “Have a good day, Claire.”
The library is quiet, as always, and nearly empty. There’s just a girl browsing and a middle-aged woman on the couch with a notebook in her lap. A writer, I guess, here for the refreshments. A plastic cup rests on the cushion beside her, and a repulsive plaid bag leans against the couch by her feet.
I cross the room, the thick carpet swallowing the sound of my footsteps. There’s a table with plates, cups, and a box of teabags by the shabby couch. To my dismay, all that’s left is a bruised apple and a half-eaten granola bar. I wrinkle my nose. There’s no reason to stick around.
“You, girl,” calls the woman on the couch. She has bangs cropped too short, unflattering coke bottle glasses, and a vibrant, busy sweater. She looks just like the kind of person who would write a 50k novel by hand and make you feel bad about doing yours on a computer.
“Me?” I take a step toward her. What I want to do is get out before she can begin her rant on how technology has ruined my generation, but I need to be polite.
“Are you a writer?” She blinks at me, her glasses magnifying her eyes to nearly twice their normal size.
“Yes, ma’am.” I angle my body toward the door, hoping she’ll get the hint and let me go.
“How far along are you?” she presses, leaning forward. Talk about nosy. “I’ve already reached my word count, but I haven’t finished the plot yet.”
I’m too embarrassed to say that I’ve only written ten thousand. But if I suck it up and tell her, perhaps she’ll leave me alone. “10k,” I mumble.
When she scowls, she looks almost as ugly as the red schnauzer bag on the floor. “Hmm. You’re not going to make it, honey. It would take a miracle.”
I bite my tongue to keep from announcing that my goal is only 15k, so I’m actually not that far off. Instead, I nod, give her a forced smile, and get the heck out of that place.
At home, I stash my skateboard in the garage and curl up on the couch. I wake up the laptop and stare at the screen, at the blinking cursor that mocks me silently every time I let it sit there. Not today, cursor. My eyes skim over what I wrote last night before dozing off. The alien trio has just flown away from their home on the moon Titan.
What was I thinking? I cringe at a particularly poorly worded sentence, jamming the backspace button. Great, so now I’m even further from my goal than before I sat down.
I need a break.
While I’m wandering around the house, I spot Nevaeh’s guitar resting on Caroline’s duvet. Sometimes she’ll come up here and play a song for Caroline, to get her opinion on it. Nevaeh is really good, like some kind of child prodigy. I wish I could play guitar like she can.
Well, I tell myself, no time like the present. I sit on the edge of Caroline’s bed and settle the guitar into my lap. My fingers press the strings against the frets, plucking out a tune. It’s twangy and sharp and headache-inducing.
My mind drifts off, reminding me of everything I should be doing instead of messing with Nevaeh’s guitar. Chores. Homework. NaNo. I don’t want to do any of those, but I’m definitely going to save writing for last.
I decide to do homework first, so I don’t have to stress about it when I return to writing. I drag my backpack up to Caroline’s room, which I’ve dubbed homebase. Chewing on the end of a pencil, I spread my papers out in front of me and tackle the first problem.
Thirty minutes later, I’m nearly bored to tears. But anything, including homework, is better than facing that cursor, blinking at me like a smug cat.
Two girls decked out in flamboyant ballgowns swirl into the room, springing onto the bed. Their bouncing makes the guitar leap around with them.
“Parker!” Ellie and Emily sing together. “Come play with us outside!”
I climb to my feet, glad that my sisters interrupted me before I could get started on chemistry. “Sure! But outside? Won’t you be cold?”
“Nope! We’ve got cloaks and fire powers!” Ellie giggles, as if that explains everything. Her strawberry curls bob around her as she jumps. “Come on, Parker. We’re princesses, you’re the knight, and you’ve got to come kill a dragon before it kidnaps us!”
Emily and Ellie dash for the stairs, their voluminous skirts flying out behind them.
The “dragon” turns out to be Alaska, Saige’s mare. With an old-fashioned shawl around my shoulders, a toy sword in my hand, and childlike excitement in my heart, I pretend to fight off the dragon/horse. Emily and Ellie huddle on the ground behind me, fake crying, while Alaska watches us with curious eyes. She looks like a scientist observing a new species.
Once the game is over, the two princesses safely returned to their castle, I face my responsibilities once again. I finish my homework, clean my room, the bathroom, and then the entire first floor. Then I try to make myself a pizza, accidentally setting it on fire in the oven. I have a bowl of cereal instead. I distract myself with tasks all day, but the nagging voice in my head remains, begging me to write.
Eventually, I’ve procrastinated as long as I can, and I find myself returning to the laptop. I give myself a pep talk: You can do this, Parker. Just a few hundred words. Meet today’s word count. It can be absolutely horrible. All you have to do is write.
OK. I wake up the laptop, fingers poised above the keys. Write, write, write. And then I do, and the angels are singing. A word appears on the page: The.
I wipe the sweat off my forehead, exhausted. I deserve another break.
So I just wrote nearly 2k. That’s great, but it probably should have been for my novel, not my blog. Oh well.
Have a good day!