Write or Die

In these days before Christmas I’m reminiscing about the craziness that was last month.  Below is a post that appeared on my writing blog in the thick of finishing my manuscript.  Participating in NaNoWriMo in November was just the kick in the pants I needed to crank out more pages, faster.  It was a glorious, painful month and I miss it already.  Here’s to sticking to a (saner) writing schedule in the new year.


In this month of NaNo madness, I’ve taken to writing in the morning when my brain is fresh.  This is my habit Monday through Friday provided that my kids don’t suddenly forget how to do long division.  They do roughly every other week, so I try to stay flexible.  Weekends, however, are another matter.  On the weekend, The Husband is home during the day, wanting to hang out (naturally), and the vibe in the house changes.  But NaNo doesn’t change so I have to figure out a way to block out time on the weekends for uninterrupted writing.  The best way for me to do this is to select a location that is not my home and write there.

I am not cool so I do not write at Starbucks.  Instead, I write at the public library because, deep down, I never stopped loving school, and notebooks, and perfect pens with just the right flow of ink.  Today, though, it was raining and even the air was gray.  I really didn’t want to get in my minivan and drive to the library, which I knew would be populated with some pretty Muppety people.  I hope you know what I mean and that I say it with love.

I know myself, though.  And I knew that if I didn’t go to the library and sit down at one of those school-smelling wooden tables on the second floor and just endure the weird coughs and the people wearing shorts and long socks in November, I would never actually get my writing done.  Not getting it done is not an option during NaNo, I may have mentioned.

So I told The Husband that I would be going to the library for a couple of hours, if that was ok.  And, of course, he said it was because he knows he has to say that.  And then I repaid him by letting him know that it was ok for the kids to play the XBox the entire time I was gone (!) so that he could look up stuff about expensive Nikon camera lenses on his phone and not worry about parenting.  It was the least I could do.

I got to the library and out of the rain and somehow I just knew what awaited me on the second floor, inclement weather and people not having Internet and all.  The library’s first floor is the children’s floor and I love it.  It has an enormous tree mural and little tables with dwarf-like chairs.  It smells normal on that floor, for the most part, which is strange because that’s where the earnest moms with infants go for story time.  But today, as I walked through the front double doors, I saw almost no one.  And that would have been fine because I don’t always like people.  But in this case, the people who were on the children’s floor had vacant eyes and no kids.  This was a very bad sign.  The people on the children’s floor are always, always more normal than the people on the second floor.

Well, I didn’t wait around.  I stopped for the splittest of seconds to consider doing my writing in one of those teeny chairs but my heart wasn’t in it.  I made my way up the stairs preparing, in advance, not to make eye-contact with whoever was working the desk.  When I reached the landing at the top of the stairs I saw a poster that said that Silas House was coming to the library this month, and I took just a moment to love Silas House in my mind.  Then I walked past the front desk and dang it all I made eye-contact with the bearded man sitting there.  He was too young to be from around here and have a beard that thick and black.  I did not like it and I’m afraid my smile was as sweet and fake as those valentine heart candies that say ‘be mine.’  Only mine was saying ‘don’t acknowledge me’ as it so often does.

I had the choice to swerve to the left and sit in a desk cubby, nice and private, or to join the wide-open space of the long tables.  It’s not as easy a choice as I make it sound because, of course, I’d choose the privacy, right?  Not so fast.  The cubbies really stink and no one knows why.  So yes, there’s privacy, but there’s also the smell of rotting Trapper Keepers or grubby text books or elementary kid hair.  Still, I had noticed that there was a very old man with a long, stringy ponytail, two guys who looked like they hack computers, a lumpy lady with an extremely tight, glittery sweater and a haggard, pink face, a deaf lady who was Skyping using sign language but then also making the occasional whooping noise…I just needed the cubby to be able to concentrate.  Novel writing is hard.

I found the cubby that was one over from the one I really wanted.  There was a lady in the one I’d used last week.  I suppose I looked over my cubby to see what she looked like, to ascertain if I’d be able to write across from her, so it was my fault in the end.  Because she looked up from what she was doing and we made eye-contact for way too long.  I had no way to play that off, so I sat down and looked for a plug outlet.

I opened up my computer and started to type.  It’s the only way for me to get going.  But then, I am not lying, I smelled feet.  In this particular case I smelled feet that had been smoking cigarettes in someone’s deck shoes on a hot day.  It was the kind of smell that you go on smelling long after you’ve lifted the collar of your shirt to your nose to breathe your own perfume.  I thought to myself, No. I am going to get through this.  I lived in India for three years and I smelled some smells that shouldn’t even be legal.  If I can write 1,000 words while sitting in my kids’ jujitsu class, ignoring the screams from the Little Samurais, in particular, I can do this thing.

And I almost did.  But was it my fault that she started whispering to herself?  Sort-of yell whispering?  That was not my fault.

I knew I had to get out of there but I have a hard time being smooth in these situations, my sisters can tell you.  So I stood up, kind-of lethargic, like I didn’t even realize I was doing it.  I looked at the stacks around me because that made it seem like maybe I’d gotten up to look for a title.  Then I just grabbed my stuff and scuttled to a long table around the corner.  I felt bad because I knew she knew I didn’t want to sit by her.  I was just glad she was going to be in her cubby and I was going to be at a long table.

That seemed to work out for a second.  Out of sight, out of mind.  But then she came around the corner and saw me.  There I was just sitting at another table.  I couldn’t even fix a it-totally-wasn’t-because-you-smell-bad-and-loud-whisper-to-yourself expression on my face.

Oh well.  These things happen to me far too often.  I had to tell myself I’d wait and feel a little bit bad about it later.  As always, my motto these days is:  Write or die.

So I wrote.


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