It’s officially that time of year again folks – Halloween costumes, grown adults behaving like frat boys of the worst taste, and novelists hyperventilating over their laptops in coffee shops around the world. Yes, it’s the end of October. I’ve already attended my first meet-up with 757 Wrimos and we’ve got write-ins and motivations planned throughout the sprint to 50,000 words. [for those who don’t know, Nanowrimo is National Novel Writing Month and involves overdosing on caffeine and attempting to write 50,000 words of a novel in the 30 days of November].
Of course, in all my prep and excitement, I forgot to actually keep writing and have been pushing myself to try new exercises and prompts in hopes of hitting the ground running come midnight on the first. The following is the results of a couple of those frustrating jaunts [all written from the first person perspective of my NaNo’s main character, Liz], and I’d love to start a discussion about writers block and how you all overcome it. So let me know what you think of my progress and let’s get some tips together for next month when we’re all insane and weak and angry and so full of words and art that we couldn’t be happier…
And I suppose this is the beginning:
I’m 17 years old, wearing pajama pants and pearls in my first class. The university is small but still bigger than anything I’ve ever known and I chew on my pen top, out of character. Three other blonde Republicans pick me out of the crowd – I will never learn how we do that to each other – and we huddle close in the front. Liberal professor and 200 dread-locked fellow freshman, and we’ve nothing to hold on to but each other.
The class is split up into groups, I’m partnered with my conservative mob and a boy that one of them knows, also in pajama pants. He asks if we can study later and gets my name wrong when he tries to come to my dorm. From that evening on, coffee and poli. sci. 101 make up our nights. Adam Sandler movies, shared dorm twin sized beds. And freshman year begins in a blur.
I am 25 years old, and the alarm is going off at 7am. It’s too early, you mumble, and roll over to hit snooze, your arms coming back around me. I am sighing, and warm, and when the alarm goes off again and you must get up, I simply can’t believe the time has come.
Self-imposed exile is noble, so they say, but it feels like being dragged down the street by a Ford F150 while you’re making it happen.
Chewing on my already chapped bottom lip, I queue up to go through security and stare into space, enjoying the feeling of slipping and sliding around in my own skin, the high that I won’t be enjoying again for however long I need. Ever, if things go according to plan. If the plan holds, the path stays steady, I will never again float above my own body. Never again lie next to an old friend in a parking lot bundled up in parkas and giggling madly at the cars and the sky and the fact that at any moment we could be run down. Never again breath easily. Never again sleep soundly. Never again curl up in the comforting arms of a stranger whose name I won’t know in the morning. Never again drink deeply just because the whiskey burns like it does. Never again traipse up the east coast for a fix and a random party at a house in New Jersey. Never again destroy a friendship over a baggie of white dust or a bottle of tiny – so tiny – pills. Never again clench my teeth so hard they feel like they’re falling out. Never again leave a post-it note declaring my love to a man I hardly know anymore. Never again take the train home in the middle of the day because I’ve only just figured out what time it is and where I am.
I slip out of my flip flips – Summer comes early in Washington, didn’t you know? – and move through the airline security metal detector, confident I’ve nothing on me that would arise suspicion. I had cleaned out my pockets, flushed my stashes, left leftover pills with friends who might find better use for them than I could in this new life I’d chosen. Chosen. This was my choice, I tell myself over and over as a mantra as music blasts through my blown ear buds, drowning out noises of tearful goodbyes and family reunions at the gates I pass heading toward my own. I just need to get on the damned plane. I just need to be strapped in and officially have no ability to turn around, get back in the cab, go South to DC and just stay. Curl back up in a hotel room that isn’t mine and just cling to what little life I have left. I need to be fastened into my seat so that I don’t hop another plane – any other plane – to another city, North, West, it doesn’t matter just not South. Not exile, not Conway, South Carolina where my worried parents wait for their mid-twenties, college educated, idiot, addict of a daughter. I am a plane ride and two highway exits from no longer existing in my own world – this world of dingy clubs and live music and thick, choking cigarette smoke and martini bars and owning any room I walk in to. You can’t walk down the street in Conway, South Carolina and listen to conversations in Russian, you can’t run in to the President’s motorcade on your way to work, can’t smirk and laugh at the interns who think they’re going to change the world. No one in Conway, South Carolina is trying to change the world. Besides maybe my mother, who believes that this latest attempt will be the one that sticks. AA, luxurious vacations, career changes, relationships ending and beginning, concerned friends and roommates, an anxious family – nothing has ever worked before, so why not try the Castaway approach? Nothing but a volley ball to talk to for however long I’m there – because really, other than my parents and their cat, which hates me, there is nothing to do and no one to talk to in Conway, South Carolina – and maybe I’ll finally crack.
Two weeks later I’m packed up again and scowling as my mother cries – Conway, not so much for me, it seems, and I’m in Virginia – three long hours from DC and my life and my job and my reality. A military town, surely that’s a safe haven. Surely military housing is drug free and there are rules imposed upon those who live there and I can find a quiet day job, shuffling files in an office from nine to five. Surely. This will work. Surely, the ache in my chest and the soreness in my jaw, the leak in my throat and the fire that burns across my brain every time I open my eyes to daylight… Surely these will abate here. Finally. Surely.