It’s mid-November, and for all of the folks diligently plugging away with National Novel Writing Month, that means 25,000 words. Maybe it means having reached that mark and a little bit of triumph or a sense of security against less productive days or weeks. Maybe it means a renewed sense of determination to catch up to that fleet wordcount bird. Whatever it means, NaNo swabbers, sail on.
In the first sixteen days, I do have a count for what I’ve done so far: a little more than 18,000 words. Like I said before, I’m not really trying to hit the 50K mark in earnest, and I’m certainly not aiming for a complete draft, but simply having the everyday connection to the project has made a huge difference. I’ve even hit the point at which I get impatient for the next bout of writing as soon as the current day’s is over.
One cost of that is feeling like I’m wishing time away, something I try very hard not to do. For one, time is already speeding along, every year seemingly faster than the last, and while in a conversation with the young woman who cuts my hair, we decided that every year feels that way. Every year is going to feel that way. There is no point at which the clock finally seems to settle. For the other, I need those daytime hours; it’s mid-November, the tipping point of the semester.
(I actually counted the other day: we have only twelve more actual class days before finals week. It doesn’t bear thinking about.)
Though the leaves are still stubbornly sticking here and there in thick clumps of gold and red—a stubbornness I much appreciate—there’s no pretending there’s much autumnal left. Some Thursday “raindrops” drifted down and spattered small crystals across the windshield, and some high enough hilltop nearby sent out cars dusted white on Friday morning.
I talk about the weather all the time. I complain about it, too, because I’m always cold, the kind of cold that doesn’t warm up, no matter how many layers I add, no matter how I move. But even when the weather is hot and lovely, even when the weather is so room-temperature benign that the very air is beige, I want to speak of it. It fascinates me. Maybe, too, at this time of the year, I want to make conversation from it and find what’s interesting in the alchemy of moisture and temperature and the wind’s list so I won’t hate it so much. If I’m busy looking at how the first wet flakes fracture, I’m not as busy feeling something shiver loose in my chest. Every year is a struggle not to lose each long night entirely. I try, again, to take Annie Dillard in her winter at Pilgrim Creek to heart:
It is winter proper; the cold weather, such as it is, has come to stay. I bloom indoors in the winter like a forced forsythia; I come in to come out. At night I read and write, and things I have never understood become clear; I reap the harvest of the rest of the year’s planting.
There’s nothing that will get me to write at night, I think, but the same happens in the chill, dark mornings, when the only sounds are sleepy cats moving to take my warm spot on the bed and the shower kicking on in the next apartment. Some days, too, what blooms in that cold morning space grows on through the day, picking its way clear in the minutes between meetings or while I drink an afternoon tea. It’s important to remember: the novel is both greenhouse and plant, as am I.