I wasn’t ready. I’m never ready.
November is National Novel Writing Month and somewhere in the midst of choosing costumes for kids, helping my wife turn a garage into a haunted house for a 7-year-old’s birthday party, and yet another round of client-based travel, I realized that it was high time for me to come up with another concept.
I was dreading the time though, hating the idea of writing a new book: I had finally gotten all versions of my novel The Road to Hell complete and available (you can buy them here or here). I was riding high on the idea that I could sit back and work on marketing my new masterpiece but here I was, faced with another November and already 5 days behind. I was seriously considering bowing out this year until I was reminded of a conversation I’d had with my son a few months ago.
I love movies and one of my great escapes is going to them by myself. Movie theatres, like airplanes, are among the few places in the country you can retreat to and be untouchable. No calls, no texts or emails—hey, the sign on the screen says for me to turn off the phone. You can escape your life and, for 2 hours, watch someone else’s adventure. On a night where I needed one of those escapes, I went to see the latest Planet of the Apes movie and convinced my 12 year old son he should go too. But it was 10pm and he’s scared of the dark. Still. (Somewhere along the way, I’d made the comment “the freaks come out at night” and The Boy took it to heart.)
He was scared that we’d go to this movie and something horrible was going to happen. Now I have a self-diagnosed Superman complex—I always believe that I can do anything and will be all right. This kid does not. Anyways, we make it through the movie unscathed and he realizes that sometimes taking a chance is worth it. Happy ending, right? That’s what I thought and I was riding that parental high. On the way home, he’s asking me all these questions about movies he wants to see but is wondering if he will get in trouble if he watches them. Basically asking me permission. Now, personally, I’m a fan of asking for forgiveness, not permission. Screw permission—asking for permission is restrictive to me; forgiveness is all about acceptance: I did it, what are you gonna do about it? And I’m not talking Debbie Does Dallas, this is about stuff like Hot Tub Time Machine and Scarface—stuff you don’t necessarily want your 12 year old watching but 12 year olds want to watch. So I finally pull over and tell the kid, “You know, some of the best experiences of my life have been because of two words: fuck it. Stop asking for permission for little stuff. You wanna watch the movie, just watch the movie. Just be big enough to deal with the consequences.”
The Boy: “But Mom is gonna be mad!”
Me: “You’re watching movies, dude, not doing crack—I think you’ll be alright. Live your life. You only get one.”
Which brings me back to NaNoWriMo. Now some of you might be thinking: why in the world would I try to write a novel? Much less in 30 days? The answer is, Why not? It’s part of living, part of joining that rare percentage of people who break up their mundane, routine lives with a little bit of “Fuck It.” The 30 days are going to pass anyway. What if you had something impressive to show for it? 50,000 incredible (or horrible) words on a page, the first draft of a novel. Your novel. Something you can cross off your bucket list.
You might also be saying, “Chris, you clown, it’s November 5. At a rate of 1667 words a day, I’d have to write 10,000 words just to be on goal by tomorrow.” Fair point. You could write 2500 words a day (that’s 2 ½ pages) over the next week and you’d be on track. My daughter is writing that much and she’s in the 4th grade. You write more in emails everyday. Or you can do what I did: I cheated. A little. There is always a story percolating in my head (usually there are a few of them, each one clamoring for my attention). Chances are, you have one swimming in there too, whispering in your ear. What NaNoWriMo offers me, and you, is a reason to pluck that bad boy out of my noggin and give it a life.
November 30 is going to come because, as Ben Stein said in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, “Time waits for no man.” Two little words are all that stand in your way.