NaNoWriMo…aw jeez

“Words are flowing out like endless rain into a paper cup,
They slither while they pass they slip away across the universe” – John Lennon

I’ve decided to give NaNoWriMo another shot this year.

For the uninitiated…what the blue hell is NaNoWriMo (and no, I can’t ever pronounce that right, just ask Pat Flewwelling who laughs every time I try, then effortlessly rolls it off her tongue)?  Well, it’s not “Nanaimo Bar” month as I typically refer to it (though, thinking about it, that would be a great month, wouldn’t it?), no, NaNoWriMo is short for National Novel Writing Month…”thirty days and nights of literary abandon” according to the official website.

It’s actually a bit of a misnomer, as it’s more than national at this point.  It was started in July of 1999 (yes, July instead of November) in the San Francisco Bay area and there were 21 participants.  By 2010, that number had grown to 200,530 participants (and, I’m guessing, not all from the San Francisco Bay area).

What is NaNoWriMo?  Well, from the website, it states:

National Novel Writing Month is a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to novel writing. Participants begin writing on November 1. The goal is to write a 50,000 word, (approximately 175 page) novel by 11:59:59, November 30.

Valuing enthusiasm and perseverance over painstaking craft, NaNoWriMo is a novel-writing program for everyone who has thought fleetingly about writing a novel but has been scared away by the time and effort involved.

Because of the limited writing window, the ONLY thing that matters in NaNoWriMo is output. It’s all about quantity, not quality. This approach forces you to lower your expectations, take risks, and write on the fly.

Make no mistake: You will be writing a lot of crap. And that’s a good thing. By forcing yourself to write so intensely, you are giving yourself permission to make mistakes. To forgo the endless tweaking and editing and just create. To build without tearing down.

These are the things I like about the whole process.

  1. You don’t really have time to think.  50K words in a month is about 1700 words (or about 7 pages) a day, every day of the week, for a full month.  So there’s no agonizing over things, there’s no going back and editing what you’ve written before moving on.  There’s just moving on.
  2. You don’t have time to “fall out of love” with what you’re writing.  Good or bad, it’s your project for the month.  And it’s only a month, so if it does suck, well, there’s always December.
  3. It makes you come in with very few expectations. Like they say, this approach forces you to lower your expectations, take risks and write on the fly…and you will write a lot of crap.  My favourite writing quote comes from Ernest Hemingway: “The first draft of anything is shit.”  He’s right.  But I think this is a typical excuse for most beginning writers…”I tried to write it, but it was just awful.”  Okay, let it be awful.
  4. It gets you in a habit.  If you can pound out 7 pages a day, you could, in theory, pound out about six rough drafts in a year.  Now you’re entering Stephen King output, baby!  In all seriousness, if you can find a rhythm, get into a habit and not obsess over what has come before, you’re in a good place to make some decent progress with your writing projects.

I was leery about starting this blog back in May.  I’d tried to maintain another blog and it was open for a couple of years and I think I may have done 12 blogs in total?  Something like that.

So, even as I was writing my first blog, there was a voice in the back of my head that kept saying, “You bombed at this once, what makes you think you’ll do any better this time?”

And yet, here I am, six months later and almost 80 blogs under my belt.  I’ve found the time to write them, I’ve found the time to comment back to the commenters, I haven’t run out of ideas and I’ve found out it can be fun.

So can any writing project if you don’t take it too seriously.  Have fun with it.  Lower your expectations.  Decide to be okay with writing crap occasionally.

That’s what NaNoWriMo’s all about.

Let me know if you’re participating.  I’ll be posting my progress throughout the month.  Hopefully you will too.

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Halloween

Back when I was in college, there tended to be pub nights for damn near anything.  Seriously.  Is there a “Y” in the day?  Let’s have a pub night!

But one of the biggest ones was always the Halloween pub night.  Not only could you get bombed, but you could dress up to do it.

Which makes me stop and wonder, all these years later…why exactly did I go to pub nights?  I’ve never drank.  I’m a terrible dancer.  And I’m pathetic when it comes to picking up women.  I guess it was just to hang with my friends.  And watch them drink, dance and pick up women.

Kinda dumb, but hey, that’s what college is for right?  To get ya some learnin’.

Anyway, one year, our class was bussed into Toronto, an hour away, for the entire day on the day of the pub.  So, normally, I could have skipped out of class or even brainstormed with the class on what to do for a costume.  Not this time.  We were kept busy all day, so it wasn’t until the bus ride home that I started to seriously think about it.

What I came up with was going as a dead guy.  Whiten the face, maybe spike the hair…

Only, on the way back from the college to home, I hit every place I could think of and no one had anything I could use to paint my face.  I picked up a couple of vials of fake blood, just in case and rushed home.

Don’t forget, this was the 80s, when it was a little harder to get decent make up and effects.  Especially on the Friday before Halloween.

Long story short, a friend mentioned that he remembered something about his mom using a corn starch/syrup mixture when he was little.  Okay, I’ll give it a shot.  I’ve now got maybe 90 minutes before the pub.

I stole my mother’s (yes, this was first year, so I was still living with ma) corn starch and a new bottle of pure maple syrup.  Had I known how expensive pure maple syrup was, I likely would have called it off.  But ignorance is bliss.

I mixed the two ingredients in a bowl, but no matter how much corn starch I used, I never got it to a “pasty” consistency.

In desperation, I scooped about three fingers’ worth and slopped it on my cheek.  And that’s when I knew I’d hit on something.

The mixture was very very close to my own skin tone.  But it dripped very slowly.  It looked like my flesh was melting off my face.

Seriously.  How cool is that?

So, I left the mixture, grabbed a couple of garbage bags, linked them together at the open ends, stole one of my mom’s long zippers, taped that to a long cut I put in the one end, broke out some arm holes and leg holes, and with some masking tape, wrote “CITY MORGUE” on the back.  Voila!  Instant body bag.

Then I wet my hair, stole every hair styling product in the bathroom (in case you’re wondering, no, mom wasn’t there for any of it, or I would have gotten in total shit…even at the age I was at).  I laid on the bed, hung my head upside down, put in damn near a full tube of gel, hairsprayed the crap out of it, then took the blow dryer to my hair.  The end result was better than expected, but basically I had the world’s tallest free-standing hair structure.

Then I stripped down to a pair of shorts I’d bought in Florida, went back into the bathroom and covered my face, neck, upper chest and arms with the goo.  Added some drops of fake blood at my temple and the corner of my mouth and climbing into my makeshift body bag, I was good to go.

Now the real test.  What’s the reaction at the pub.

I got to the car and drove the few miles to the Polish Hall in north Oshawa where the pub was.  It was October, so being dressed only in a pair of shorts and two black garbage bags, I was freezing.  And the goo suspended any motion and tightened to my face.  I had to duck down in the car a bit so as not to break off the tips of my hair.

But I got there.  Walked in.  There was a decent crowd already.  I went over to the bar and got a Coke.  The girl serving looked like she was going to puke.  She scrunched up her whole face.  “What’s that on your face?” she asked.

“This is my face,” I said.

I found I had to use a straw to drink.  Otherwise the cup tended to stick to my mouth.

As the night wore on, I got to gross everyone out.  I made a habit of just walking across the dance floor to see the reactions.  They never disappointed. And as it got warmer and warmer, the goo dripped more and more.  It got so there were long dangling drips hanging from my nose and chin.

One of the best reactions I got was a girl coming up to me–which, in and of itself, never happened…ever–and, getting right up close to me, like, inches from my face, pointed to a particularly long dangler at the end of my nose.

“Ohmigod, like, what IS that?” she asked.

I very nonchalantly reached up, picked off the dangler, popped it in my mouth, made like I was chewing, then swallowed.  “It’s my flesh,” I said in a cheerful voice.

She literally slapped her palm over her mouth as though to hold in the vomit, turned and ran away from me.

Later in the evening, they were giving out the awards for best costumes.  You know, the best one, the sexiest one, best couple, etc.

Well, one of the awards was for the grossest costume.  As they called up the nominees, I looked at my drunken friends and asked them how many had nominated me.  They all stared back bleerily with lopsided grins.

Yeah.  Not one of them.

So, I wasn’t nominated.  They called three guys up to the stage and all three costumes sucked.  I wasn’t going to stand for this.

The winner was chosen by how loud the crowd responded when each was pointed to.

I got up, walked to the stage as they pointed to the first guy.  “…yay…” was his lackluster crowd response.  The second guy got a more audible yay with some whistles and foot stomps.  The third guy got a barely audible response.

Then I hopped up on the stage and before anyone could kick me off, turned to the crowd and yelled, “What about me?”

The crowd went nuts.  They screamed, they clapped, they stomped, they catcalled…

They guy with the envelope for the winner, who, at this point was just about to hand it to the second guy, looked at me, looked at the guy…and the second guy actually shrugged and pointed to me.  So the dude with the envelope walked over and gave it to me.  It was some sort of gift certificates.  I remember being pleased with them.

And the crowd was still going nuts.

So, that was fun.

What was not so much fun was getting home at the end of the night and unpeeling the garbage bag from my upper body that had become cemented to my skin with the starch/syrup mixture.  I tried for a few seconds, then decided, screw this, and tore off the bottom half, got in the shower and dissolved the mixture away, then pulled the garbage bag off.

All in all, a good night.  And in case you’re wondering, no I didn’t dance once and didn’t pick up any women.

I know.  I’m still shocked about it too.

The man inside the boy

I hope this one doesn’t embarrass the Boy, but I have to talk about how proud I am of him.

My son can be a challenge.  Don’t believe me?  Go read this one about the Boy and his argument with kitty litter, then come back.  So, yeah, he’s a challenge.  But he’s also an incredible kid, smart and handsome.  And funny as hell, with a razor-sharp wit.

He’s also turning into a man.  I see it almost daily, the changes.  And while it’s hard to see your kids grow up, because you know the next stage is them heading off to live their own lives, at the same time, it’s a wonderful thing to behold at times.

I’ve said it time and time again, how lucky we are to have the two kids we have.  Yes, they have their ups and downs, yes they can be frustrating as hell.  But really, when I hear and see what other parents go through with their own kids, I can’t help but be thankful for how my kids turned out.

They’re good people, both of them.

But last night my son did something that really impressed me.  It may seem to be a little thing to anyone else, but it got to me.

He called my wife and I together to talk about something.  Something serious.

Believe me, as a parent, it’s hard to not immediately react when your kid says he wants to talk about something serious.  There’s a lot of possibilities behind those two words.

But he very calmly and very maturely talked to us about if we thought it was okay for him to start dating.

Again, there’s a lot of stuff loaded into that last sentence… I’ll try and capture all of them.

The first thing that stuck out for me was, how many kids actually even consider asking their parents?  My guess is, not many, considering what I’ve seen kids do to not get discovered, just in my neighbourhood alone.  So the fact that he asked was, in and of itself, impressive for me.

The next thing to hit me was the respect factor.  So not only was he asking, it was how he asked.  Did we think it was okay.  Not, “can I date?”  Not, “God, I’m old enough to date!”  Not, “I don’t care what you say, I’m dating!”  No, he asked our opinion.  I shouldn’t be surprised, as our kids actually seem interested in getting our opinion on a fair range of topics, but still.

And then there was the maturity factor.  Basically, what it translated out to for me was, if he’s mature enough to come to his parents and ask, he’s likely mature enough to handle it.

That last one still concerns me a bit, but that’s the parent speaking.  I know a lot of his friends have been dating for a while.  Hell, a lot of his peers (not necessarily his friends) have been getting drunk and stoned for quite a while.  He’s made a conscious choice not to.

But dating is such a minefield.  Then again, maybe that’s just me, because I was terrible at asking girls out, deathly afraid of rejection and lousy at asking them out.  Kind of like Navin in The Jerk (a video I seem to be unable to locate through YouTube…go figure!).

I’ve seen the drama and the trainwrecks and the stupidity of some of my kids’ friends who are dating and it’s either an excuse to get laid, or they’ve become sickeningly stupid (not liking the person anymore, but not wanting to break it off), or they keep dancing around in circles (break up, make up, break up, make up).

But I don’t think the Boy will get himself into those particular knots.  He doesn’t seem to have the patience for that crap.  After all this time, I’ve only really got a few small pieces of advice for him.

  1. Treat her well.  You don’t own her, nor does she own you.  So treat her with respect.  If she doesn’t reciprocate, run away.
  2. Pick someone you like to be around, not someone who’s hot (though if both things apply, well…bonus!).  Bottom line, at this age, many of the hot ones know they’re hot, and they’ll smoke you like a cigarette and toss you aside.  Or someone else has targeted them and it becomes a pain in the ass.  Hang out because you want to, not because she looks good on your arm.
  3. If you’re having fun with them, then stick with it.  If it’s 24/7 drama, run away.  You don’t need that shit at any age.
  4. As long as you like her and she likes you and all of the above applies, don’t give a shit about what your peers are saying.
  5. Most importantly, pick someone you can be yourself around.  If you have to act different when you’re with her, you’ll never be able to relax with her.  Run away.

And the amazing thing is, somehow, I think he knows most of this already.

He’s a smarter and more mature kid at this age than I ever was.  I don’t tell him enough, but I’m really proud of him.

Does this come in size ‘I-wanna-die’?

The Wife hit me with some of the most dreaded seven words in the English language.

“Can you go clothes shopping with me?”

Being a husband for more that twenty years, I know what’s expected so I smile gamely (very much like my dog “smiles” just before throwing up) and nod.  I don’t trust my male brain to casually toss out the right words in a situation like this.

So today was the day.

There’s a few things you need to understand about the Wife.  I won’t list them off here, more tell you as we go.  To make it easy for the quiz later, we’ll bold them, okay?

So first, she’s going to get her nails done.  Of course, because it’s all in the same mall, I have to go and wait.  So in my mind, I start mapping out what I can do while she does that female thing that makes her happy.  All I see is a bunch of women filing away at other women’s hands or scrubbing that gnarly elephant skin off the bottom of their feet.  Yeah, lucky I don’t have to eat for a while.  Ew.

But of course, the Wife can’t let me just wander.  God knows the shit an unattended male can get into.  So she tells me about a sale she saw on boots that would be good for me to check out while she’s in the salon. The Wife likes to plan my free time out. Lovely.

The sarcasm in my response to her doesn’t seem to meet with the appreciation I expected.  Yeah, the Wife’s funny that way.

Anyway, I check out the sale.  Surprise, it’s Canadian Tire, so of course all the rabid Wives have already sent their beleaguered husbands well ahead of me to denude the shelves.  Wasted trip.  Lovely.

Back at the mall, I finally get to do the things I’d planned to do anyway, now I just have twenty less minutes to do them in.

I get them done, and stop by the salon to see how long she’s going to be.  She looks at the Cinnamon Stix I got from Cinnabon as though they were turds.  Actually she looks at them with the look of why is he eating those?  I didn’t put that stop on his itinerary, dammit!

She finally finishes up paying the equivalent of some kid’s college tuition for her nails and we’re off to the main event: finding her a dress for a wedding we’re attending in Virginia in three weeks.

I’m gonna throw this out here now.  About three years ago, the Wife came home and declared for all and sundry that she, being of sound mind and body, would never again take the Boy clothes shopping.  Apparently it was a mind and soul-ripping experience.

Me?  I don’t see the issue.  We bash out exactly what he needs to buy on the way over, plan out which stores to hit, hit them, I hold up clothes I think he may like, he nods or shakes.  Eventually we compile a reasonable stack, he tries them on, yea or nays them, we buy and leave.  Can usually get five pairs of pants, a few t-shirts, a few button-down shirts, socks, underwear and shoes in under an hour.

This is not the way the Wife shops for clothes.  Unfortunately.

We hit the first store.  I immediately scoot to the dress section.  I scan the racks.  I pick out a few designs.  I turn to let the Wife know.

She’s looking at jackets.

What? my poor confused male brain asks.  I thought we were shopping for dresses.  Wait!  It’s for a wedding!  We are shopping for dresses!  She’s tricking me!

I attempt to point out the error of her ways.  Yet again, my sarcasm doesn’t seem to meet with the appreciation I expected.  I’m sure another guy would appreciate it.

After looking at every single article of clothing in the store (and trying on about half of them), all the while being pounded by some of the most annoying, torturous music I’ve ever heard, we leave the store.  We’ve purchased nothing.

I’d like to take you through this several more times just so you begin to feel my pain, but I’ll spare you.  Just go back at read that last paragraph say…oh…eight or nine more times.

All done?  Has another ice age come and gone?  Good, let’s carry on.

We pretty much go from one end of the mall to the other.  Eventually, one hundred and fifty excruciating minutes in, we find a dress.  The heavens open up and the angels sing.

Well okay, in reality it’s that same shit music I’ve been subjected to for almost three hours.  But we now have a dress.

As the Wife grabs the bag with the prize, she say, “Now we gotta buy shoes.”

The Wife never buys just one thing.  She always has more things to buy.

My eyes tear up, my lower lip trembles and I get the shakes, because I know the rule: As long as it takes to buy a dress, it takes far, far longer to purchase shoes.  And you never EVER get just one pair of shoes.

I pray for a swift and painless death.  God is mocking me.

So we head back down the mall again.  I get to participate in the one fun part of the day.

As we’re walking, two young guys, ridiculously cool in their hoodies and their side-slanted ball caps  and their walk that makes it look as though they took a dump in those low-hanging pants and are trying not to get bacon strips on their underwear.  Yeah, that type.

Anyway, they’re just in front of us.  They turn and begin to yell at someone else.  I don’t bother to look because all the stupidity I need is right there in front of me.

“Watch your language, you asshole!” one says (apparently quite seriously).

“Yeah, you got a family there, you dick,” chimes in the other.

The both of them fire off, “Shut your f*ckin’ mouth!”

So let’s stop for half a second here to examine this.  They heard profane language coming from someone in the vicinity of their (guessing) young family.  So, to school him or her, they drop the f-bomb about four or five times.  Okay, makes a crazy sort of sense.

Not.

So, being me, I have to jump in.  “Yep, you guys are setting the right example, aren’t you?”  I love pointing out morons for all the world to see.  Makes me feel all gushy inside.

“Some f*ckin’ people should learn to mind their own f*ckin’ bidness!” says one of the two white boys.

I could have come back with the fact that they, in fact, were not minding their f*ckin’ bidness when they chose to yell at someone else.  I could have pointed out that they were carrying on a long distance conversation that actually passed by me in a public place.  I could have pointed out that they walked like they just crapped their pants.

Instead, all I could do was laugh.

Their response nearly blinded me with its brilliance.

They mocked my laugh.  Ouch.

It’s really sad that some choose to engage in mental warfare without any ordinance.  Morons.

Walking away from the highlight of my shopping excursion, we then went back into one of the stores we’d previously visited.  Remember, we’re shopping for shoes here.

The store we entered has no shoes.

The Wife will indicate we’re looking for one thing while slyly leading me to look for other, non-indicated merchandise.

She is wily, that Wife of mine.

So we spend some wonderful together time while I hold a reasonable approximation of the dress up and she hangs accessories off it.  I spend most of the time considering how I will accessorize the next book I buy.  I decide I will accessorize it with a book of slightly less page-count or, failing that, a magazine.

Sorry guys, it’s the best I can do.  I’m not really a manly man.  As you can see, twenty years of marriage have effectively emasculated me more effectively than any vasectomy ever could.  There’s likely eunuchs out there more manly than I am.  But, as one of the Wife’s co-workers says, all men should be thankful to me.  I took the bullet for the team.

Eventually, three or four horrid, bass-thumping songs later, we now have achieved Effective Accessorization.  The world can breathe a little easier.

Unfortunately, even a non-manly man like myself has finally unavoidably, inevitably hit the Wall.  No, not the Pink Floyd album.  I’ve hit the limit of how much bad music, overpriced clothing, oversized model murals on the wall, commiserating looks from the other males who’s unfortunate paths I’ve crossed.

It’s finally time for the Life Support System for the Wallet to put his unmanly foot down.

The Wife stops in front of the shoe store and looking at the pain on my face says, “Can I go in?” which, translated from the female, actually means, “Are you gonna whine like a bitch if I go into this store too?”

Gathering all my masculine glory up, I state, “…yeah, go ahead.”

At this point, we spend mere seconds in the store, I lamely point out a pair that are quickly and summarily dismissed and the Wife says, “Don’t worry about it.  Let’s just go.”

Knowing the Wife, I know the danger’s never past until we officially leave the mall and get in the car and actually put some distance between us and commercial thievery.  Even then, it can be dicey if we happen to pass another retail outlet along the way.

But I think the Wife has seen the abject misery that I’m in.

She has pity on me.

We arrive home.  I begin to breathe again.