My husband is participating in NaNoWriMo, an acronym that translates into human speak as National Novel Writing Month. Participants pledge to write a novel of 50,000 words in one month. That’s sort of like condensing the time it takes to have a baby from nine months to four weeks, with a minute or two at the end for hard labor or editing.
He confessed he'd signed up using the tone of voice he ususally reserves for admitting that he ate the last of the Halloween candy while I'll digging under the couch cushions for a Snickers wrapper that still has a smudge of chocolate left.
“I’m doing NaNo”
“Isn’t that something kids say to taunt their friends?”
He's hunched in front of his computer like a cat in a rainstorm. Scattered notebooks and assorted pens and markers cover his desk. My husband has a serious attachment to office supplies, but I can’t really blame him. I have feelings for fountain pens and sticky notes that verge on obsessive. He peers at me around a mound of wadded papers. “Not Nonny Nonny. It’s Nano.”
“That sounds like an old Irish drinking song. I’ll have whatever you’re having.”
“You’re not listening,” Bill begins to buff his head rapidly with one hand, a gesture that indicates one more well-timed remark will turn him into a spitting mess. Let's watch the fun.
“Is that some sort of mystical religion?”
“No it’s. . .” He’s sputtering.
“Don’t let Madonna know. You’ll be wearing matching bracelets in no time.”
It’s cruel, I know, but the man was so tense, he couldn’t cross his arms without shooting the wax from his ears. There’s a certain amount of nerve involved in agreeing to write the Great American Novel in less time than it takes to pronounce the name of the author of War and Peace.
If you think Halloween is scary, you should try living with someone who's trying to write a novel in a month. Screaming banshees and headless horsemen are nothing compared to a man poised at the line of scrimmage who realizes his plot is still on the bench.
If he spends as much time writing in November as he did jotting down plot points last month, he’ll have a long enough novel to divide into a trilogy, two screenplays, and a set of leatherbound reference books.
According to the rules, bylaws, and official list of stuff to do, he could outline til the consonants come home, but he couldn’t write a word of the novel until the clock ticked us into November. Last night he was so full of metaphors, he couldn’t sneeze without blowing adjectives all over the monitor. I expect before the month is up, we’ll have to call Vanna to buy back some vowels.
In the meantime, I have to find something to occupy my time to head off my obsessive interest in this project. Perhaps I’m just remarkably intuitive, but it strikes me that somewhere around the 372nd time I inquire about his progress, he just might bounce his Webster’s off the part of me that makes the best target.
So for the next month you can find me working jigsaw puzzles and slinking nonchalantly back and forth past his desk trying to steal a peek at the computer screen.
And you can find him buffing his head.