NaNoWriMo: Day the First

National Novel-Writing Month–NaNoWriMo–began at the stroke of midnight (local time) all over the world this morning.  Here in Columbus, tonight is the Buckeyes vs. the Fighting Illini.  Two events, poles apart.  The irony does not escape me.

I was at the computer at the stroke of midnight, but there was no way I could have cheated.  As the clock struck 12, I was in pitched battle with Word 2010, trying to set up a document format that is to my liking.  It is during times like these that I love my typewriter even more, and, were a word-processed document not required to “win” NaNoWriMo, I would be doing the project on my Royal Royalite.

This year, I am going off the rails a bit.  The “No” in the above portmanteau stands for “novel,” but this year I am composing more of a memoir.  I have written in past blog entries about my friendship with Robert Lowry (1919-1994), a Cincinnati native who enjoyed some literary success in the years after World War II, and whose destroyed his career with alcoholism, mental illness, and anti-Semitism.  The working title is Alone With 26 Letters, which is a line from the afterword of Lowry’s an american writer at the end of his life, a collection of autobiographical poems he wrote in lieu of a memoir.

After years of never finishing a manuscript that went on for chapters and pages, I have decided to start again from the ground up, and write a memoir, hopefully not one where the pages will multiply like tribbles with no end in sight.

(I realized how rudderless the original manuscript had become when Steph and I–we were still living together at the time–could never agree whether I was writing a biography or a memoir.  This time around, there is no doubt.  This is a memoir.  I will be filling in background from Lowry’s own writings and from other sources, but the story will take place mostly through my eyes.)

I also confess that, other than this blog and my diary, the only time I seem to do any writing is during NaNoWriMo.  I don’t know what has been causing this block.  I didn’t finish the manuscript that I began last year, which is ironic, since Susie was insisting I email chapters and sections to her nightly, both before and after.

More ironic is the fact that I knew my subject matter: It was NaNoWriMo, although I called it a different name, which was also the title of the book: 50K in Thirty Days.  The story followed a middle-aged widower and his teenage daughter as they embark on the project, including its effect on schoolwork, relations with peers, etc.  (Susie was especially fond of the parts of the plot that involve the daughter and her girlfriend, who is not inclined toward literature and who is an effective, albeit annoying, counterpoint to the daughter’s single-minded pursuit of the goal of writing.  Susie was especially annoyed that I never came to the part of the novel where Hannah, the daughter, comes out to her grandmother and extended family at Thanksgiving dinner.)

And I have more free time than ever, since I am essentially living in bachelor quarters again.  Yes, I am almost constantly tired from not sleeping enough, or from sleeping very poorly when I do.  The best advantage of my job is that it is one I can leave behind at 5 p.m., and not even have to think about until 8 the following morning.  My health is relatively good, although the time to check on the aneurysm will be coming around later this month.

The extreme example, which I try to remember, is Ulysses S. Grant.  He was a horrible President (The Ohio Presidents, with the exception of William Howard Taft, are a pretty sorry lot overall), but in the last year of his life, while broke and dying of throat cancer, he was able to write through excruciating pain.  He wrote his Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant so that his family would be financially comfortable.  He wrote the final lines less than a week before he died.

Former President Ulysses S. Grant writing his Personal Memoirs in Mount McGregor, N.Y. in 1885, while terminally ill.

Former President Ulysses S. Grant writing his Personal Memoirs in Mount McGregor, N.Y. in 1885, while terminally ill.

Another concern has been how much I have let clutter overrun the place lately.  If my domestic conditions were like The Odd Couple, I would forever be Oscar Madison.  But my lack of energy and drive has worried even me lately.  I am not ashamed of the rows and rows of books and records–they’re almost my trademark.  However, I have let papers, unread magazines, laundry, and other detritus invade the “public areas” of the place until I have to go to the library or at work to find a surface clear enough to use a pen and paper.  And, of course, I am forever on the mañana plan when it comes to keeping the place neat.  I don’t know if that will affect my creativity and my ability/desire to write, but it is a good first step.

Yesterday I declined the invitation to go to the monthly Critical Mass ride, mainly because it was just too wet and cold.  I think this marks the beginning of the time when I will be wearing my black, down-filled long jacket more frequently.  I have been on the ride twice, and both times thought I would collapse before it reached its end, but so far I’ve been able to hang in and make it through.  Yes, I would be feeling pain and exhilaration at the same time, but I was always glad I went.  In addition to not wanting to ride in the rainy weather, I believed I would be too exhausted to be able to type or focus.

Maybe I should follow the example of Schroeder, in this Peanuts strip:

I've never been an athlete, but I wonder if Schroeder has the right idea, even though he and I love different keyboards.

I’ve never been an athlete, but I wonder if Schroeder has the right idea, even though he and I love different keyboards.

Today, I am 88% to my daily goal.  The contest requires 50 thousand finished words in order to “win,” so 1667 per day is a good rate to follow.  While the Buckeye fans are at the ‘Shoe watching the game against Illinois, it will be a good time for me to be trying to get the final 200-odd words in to be able to stay on track.

And maybe even try to make my living quarters presentable.  Who can say?

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