Cat hiding in a grocery bag
In this day and age of deregulation and trail-blazing venture capitalists and sink-or-swim tech start-ups and SILICON VALLEY IS TOTALLY THE NORTH STAR OF OUR NATION, I am the least sexy or trendy thing a young 20-something could possibly be: risk averse.
In all areas of my life, really. I live right outside of Philadelphia, known for its craft brew beer snobs and foodies. I eat a plain, bland diet and drink almost never, because though I am young, I know my organs aren’t necessarily the best!
I don’t party on weeknights, or even on weekends. I rarely stay up past 11PM. I am risk averse. I do not like taking risks.
Now hold the phone, you’re saying. You write a highly profane and also kind of radical blog, full of social justice and whatnot! You write music in weird time signatures and genres nobody wants to listen to! You named your band something stupid like Badger Everglade! You take creative risks!
Well, sort of. This brings me back to NaNoWriMo.
I first learned about National Novel Writing Month in my junior year of high school, when my amazing Physics teacher told me about it. She was the kind of teacher we all remember — took a special interest in me, would pull me aside after class to show me neat things like a newspaper article about a local Dali exhibit, or some drawings she was doing in an art class she was taking. Man, while I’m digressing, this teacher was talented not only in getting me jazzed about physics, but also in playing piano and making art. A renaissance woman. My hero. ANYWAY…
Every subsequent year, November would go by and I would consider it for a moment. After all, I’d been told before that I was a good writer, and I eventually became an English major, and I eventually eventually became a professional writer and editor of small-form copy, and I eventually eventually eventually became a modestly successful blogger (I mean, people other than my friends read Stretchmarklandia), so why not write a novel?
Because I was scared as shit. Because novels are, like, hundreds of pages, and that’s a lot to commit to if you’re unsure of your own talent, or the worth of your ideas.
Let’s take a trip back to seventh grade. By that time, I’d been playing piano for nine years, because I’m somehow a mediocre music prodigy. I started figuring out songs by ear on piano when I was 3, but I was never committed enough to be a good pianist. Just, ya know, decent.
By seventh grade, I’d tossed around the idea of writing music plenty of times. After all, I’d been hearing music in my head for years, and I knew a thing or two about theory and what sounds pretty and whatever. I’d also been writing shitty child poetry for years, having published a bunch in my fourth grade student newspaper. So I was pretty serious about the whole creative process thing.
I was scared, though. Writing music was scary! How would I come up with new and worthwhile sounds when Beethoven had already lived and died? Shit, I wasn’t up to the task.
Until some other kid — an eighth grader — showed me some of his own original tunes on piano.
I heard them and thought, “I could do better than that,” because I’ve always been an egotistical prick. In fact, I went home that day and figured out that kid’s songs by ear, adding my own embellishments. “Shit, I’m Mozart showing up Salieri,” I thought. “I need to write my own music.”
And that’s when I started songwriting. I just needed to see that somebody else wasn’t too chicken shit to do it.
My fiance is a writer. He’s been encouraging me to write something long-form since we started dating, but I kept insisting that I couldn’t — “I just can’t do fiction,” I said. “I’m too much of an editor. I write too slowly.” “You just want me to become famous so that you can be my Real Housewife of New Jersey.” You know, the usual round of excuses.
But Chris is sitting on a 300-page manuscript that he started writing one NaNoWriMo two years ago — at the same time he was applying to grad school, finishing up a tough semester, freelancing at an insane rate, and not even dating me to feel better about all the stress. And I’m not going to lie — it’s made me jealous as all hell.
So, among many other romance cliches, my fiance has inspired me to do NaNoWriMo this year. Unlike with the kid who spurred me to start writing music, I’m not trying to outdo Chris — dude’s way too talented. But Chris finished his 50,000 words during a tough period of his life, and dammit, I’m going to do the same. Despite the stresses of purchasing a home, moving, dealing with annoying health problems, etc., I’m going to write those goddamn words.
Because somebody showed my risk-averse ass that it is possible.