The Queen of Last Chances

Filed under: Writing |

Today, NaNoWriMo begins. (NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month, an activity that many writers engage in in November, in which we aim to write 50,000 words in one month).

It is 9:43 p.m. Around July, I told myself I’d NaNo this year.  As August flitted away with vacation and school prep, and September was full of other things, I told myself I’d have to properly plot the rest of the novel I intended to work on. October was suffused with the growing dread of non-preparation. I was lost, frozen, a little dispirited, sidelined somewhat by health concerns.

NaNo dawned on a me that was sure my chance had passed me by. No outline. No re-reading of pages. No plan. As I woke up to excited NaNo tweets and word sprint calls far and wide, I gnawed on my writerly self-esteem like the rice cakes of doom.

God, rice cakes are gross.

Anyway.

Tonight, long past the time when it would be sensible to start, I was seized by an irrational exuberance. I’d been telling myself a whole lot of stories, locking a whole lot of gates for myself. I couldn’t write without the outline/the re-read/the perfect conditions. It was all bogus. I got ready to begin. Just as I did, at six thirty, when I hadn’t even had a chance to make dinner for my family yet, a friend dropped by unexpectedly for some writing help on something of her own. Dammit. Another delay.

But it was a perfect metaphor for life: interruptions are the rule, not the exception. When you haven’t come with all the gear, make do with what you brought. I didn’t bring my outline, but I brought my imagination. So I made do with that. My friend left, my son called me up for a ride, but then I got home, whipped up something fast, and not to writing.

I wrote. Were they stellar words? Maybe not. It’s impossible to gauge, in the same way that your newborn always looks beautiful to you. Maybe one day they’ll all get cut from the draft. But they’re real, and they’re there, because I let myself believe that the fat lady had not yet cleared her throat. Because it’s all a matter of perspective. Because winning is showing up, again and again, even when you’re afraid, or unprepared, or sure you’ll lose.

Happy NaNo, everyone. Write your heart out. I am filled with the irrational hope that it is never too late for anything or anyone.

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