It's nearly 4am and I just opened a cold beer. Since the wife and I threw a little dinner party a few weeks ago, the fridge has been set on its coldest setting. The kid's milk has been freezing a little bit, but the beer is just perfect. XM radio's X Country station has been playing for the past five hours. And I am relaxed.
About 29 days ago, I typed a few words in an empty Word document and wondered why I was even bothering. It had been almost a year since I'd sat at a bar at 5am with a new friend and he'd said, "Otis, you should write a book." At the time, I'd said, "A book. About what?"
That was sort of what I was thinking when I started a little 50,000 word excursion the kids call NaNoWriMo. That same day, another new friend I'd met near that same bar had called to wish me luck. He and I have spent some good time together over the past year. I typically avoid two-guy drinking nights, but it's always felt really natural with Pauly. After his call, I vowed to myself that I'd finish NaNo. Whether I actually believed my vow was a different matter all together.
So, over the next 29 days, I told myself a story. I watched it develop in black and white on my screen. Eventually, I was laughing at myself and sometimes typing faster than my brain could think. It was among the most natural of processes I've ever experienced.
I won't lie. There were a few days (and, in fact, almost an entire week) where I thought I wouldn't churn out the required amount of words. Even as late as yesterday, I was discouraged. And, yet, when I sat down to write today, I loved what was appearing on the screen.
In the end, it's not really about the word count. Yes, I crested (just barely) the 50,000 goal. But, that really wasn't the point. As Pauly told me on Day 1, "it's about sitting down to write for the creative every day." I didn't quite make it every day, but I came close.
And it was about more than that. It was about proving to myself that I have a book in me. What I've written won't be a National Book Award winner. In fact, chances are pretty good it won't ever leave my computer.
But, you know, there is a part of me that loves the tale I crafted. It's just a fun story and it's a story I wouldn't mind other people reading. In fact, I'll admit, despite the fact I've always been loathe to describe myself as an 'aspiring author' there has been a part of me that has fantastized about cleaning up the stuff I've written and submitting it to a publisher or agent. That may just be the beer talking (it's empty now and I'm going to get another before I go on any more).
---back from the fridge and the second beer tastes better than the first---
In fact, the story isn't even finished yet. I figure it's going to take another 15,000-20,000 words to get to the logical end of the tale. After that, it's going to need a few months of re-writes and editing before anybody but me could understand it. And I'll get to it. Probably sooner than I think. But for right now, I'm going to sit back and realize that I did something I didn't think I could do.
The other day, the wife and I were in Home Depot and I was marveling at a giant and powerful shower head in the bathroom section. As I pined for it and lamented my lack of handyman skills, Mrs. Otis said, "That's your biggest problem. You don't ever think you can do anything."
As usual, she's right. I'm rarely certain I can do anything until I'm forced or force myself to do it.
November has been a rough month for a lot of people close to me. While I lamented some poker losses (typical for me in November, by the way), some dear friends endured some of the worst possible circumstances I can imagine. When you see stuff like that happen, it makes you realize how much humans can endure if faced with the right set of circumstances. I think the converse is true as well. It also teaches you how much we can achieve if we allow for the idea that we can actually do it if we try.
It occurs to me that I might be being a little grandiose about this (as is my 4:18am beer-sodden wont), but I don't feel like apologizing for it.
So, I achieved something. And that makes me happy. One thing I've learned in the past couple of years: embrace happiness when it presents itself, because most people don't get the chance.
While I don't feel like enduring the laughter an academy speech would induce, I do want to thank Pauly for his encouragement and my wife for going to bed alone nearly every night this month. One thing I've found: when you find people who believe in you, you have found your true friends. I've never believed in myself, but I've been fortunate to find a wife and some friends who do.
Also, a couple of congratulations. Fellow blogger Human Head finished Nano a few days ago. And it looks like Joe Speaker has made an eleventh-hour rally to get close to the mark. I met both of these guys in June and felt an immediate bond with them. I actually tried to hug Speaker during one tender moment. I'll be seeing them in just about a week and I'll warn them both that I might be hug patrol again.
That's it, folks. Thanks for all the comments of support. I'll now return my writing ambitions to the offline word and get back to posting pictures of L'il Otis. And, if I should be so lucky, maybe I'll get to talk more about this little project someday.
Until then, I'll leave you with one last snippet from the book I call Grab:
Reek was high. It was the only way he could stomach the “Fleet Foot Insoles” infomercial flickering on the TV screen. Sanchez stood at the side of the 15-inch TV and adjusted the rabbit-ears.
“We live two fucking miles away from the TV station and I can’t see shit,” he said.
Reek giggled. “Hurry, you might miss the testimonial from the grandma who just tried Fleet Foot for the first time.”
Sanchez stopped for two seconds and looked up. “Fuck you.” Then he disappeared in the direction of the kitchen.
For the past four hours, Sanchez had been bouncing back and forth from the window to the TV. Every time a car passed on Nature Trail, Sanchez would flatten himself on the couch and hold his breath. After the third time, Reek had rolled a joint.
“Why don’t we have cable? Or a damned satellite dish?” Sanchez had returned from the kitchen with a large sheet of tin foil. As he wrapped it around the antennae, he said, “More than half the damned population has six hundred channels and I can’t watch a freakin’ infomercial.”
Reek inhaled deeply, held it, and then let it go. “One word, my friend. Vixen.”
Sanchez waved his hand a “wait, don’t move” motion. The picture was as clear as it had been in hours.
“Looks like you got it, buddy.”
The old lady on the screen told them how comfortable and supported her feet had felt since she tried Fleet Foot.
Sanchez turned to Reek. “You know Fleet is a brand of enema?”
“How would you know?”
“That doesn’t matter. What’s curious is what was going through the marketing guy’s head when he came up with the brand name. I mean, was he thinking of fleet in terms of a group of boats? ‘Cause, if so, that’s just not an image I think he’d want customers thinking about. An entire fleet of ass boats is just not good branding. Then, there’s fleet like ‘moving really fast.’ Again, just not something you want to think about when you’re talking about your rectum.”
Reek’s smiled spread across his face and he was convinced Sanchez had picked up a little contact high. Might do him some good, he thought.
“What makes it worse, is the Fleet Foot company actually has a decent brand. I mean when you think about feet, you’d be happy if they were moving fast. Especially if you were an old lady, right? Thing is, there are people out there that see the Fleet Foot commercial and won’t think of anything but squirting water up their butt. A damned shame.”
If Reek didn’t know better, he’d think Sanchez had fallen victim to the meth craze that had been sweeping The Trail in recent years. Seemed like half the people who lived within a square mile were either cooking the stuff in the trailers or staying up for three days tweaking on the stuff. Reek hadn’t tried it. Although he’d liked speed in his younger days, he’d been able to avoid the crystal. He was even thinking about quitting the grass. But not until Sanchez calmed down.