Wednesday, October 24, 2007

It's NANO Season Again, Protect Your Loved Ones

For those of you who aren't familiar with this form of self-flagellation, NANO stands for National Novel Writing Month. During the month of November thousands of people pledge to write 50,000 words (175 pages). NANO officially starts 12:00am November 1st and ends 11:59pm November 30th. Those outside of this phenomenon will simply view it as some sort of pandemic, worse than the dreaded Bird Flu scare. As my civic duty, I've offered treatment for those who love these idiots.


Stage 1: Giddiness

The participant has just signed up.

Symptoms: Feverish excitement, the desire to spend thousands of dollars on needless office supplies, frequent bursts of "Whoppee!!!" and declarations that they are finally a writer.

Treatment: Nod indulgently and begin making plans for the month of November that will take you away from your loved one.

Stage 2: Shock with frequent bouts of Denial

The participant realizes November 1st is actually going to come and doesn't exist in the distant future.

Symptoms: moaning, chills, repetition of the question, "What have I done?", fear of the computer, irritability when well meaning loved ones say things like, "Who told you to sign up for it anyway?", incessant complaining

Treatment: Don't say, "Who told you to sign up for it anyway?", offer words of encouragement, and make certain you stay away from this person for the upcoming month

Stage 3: Panic

Also known as the official start of NANO. Reality has set in.

Symptoms: fever, complaints of vague aches and pains, staring into the white screen of a blank document, spiritual shivering

Treatment: There is none at this stage. Don't suggest starting at the beginning, this could send them into a downward spiral. Offer encouragement but from another room or better yet by email.

Stage 4: Anger

This is where Chris Baty, founder of NANO, will begin to experience a lot of negative energy coming his way.

Symptoms: rage, tantrums, tears, foul language, and some have reported talking in tongues

Treatment. NONE! STAY AWAY. Take a trip, don't answer your phone or emails from this person. It will only end badly.

Stage 5: Bargaining

Self pity and prayer.

Symptoms: a tendency to beg and offer up empty promises, the participant will begin smelling pretty rank at this time and looking ragged on their diet of Cheetos and left over Halloween candy, more tears

Treatment: for those strong enough offer a comforting pat on the back but be careful the participant can slip right back into Stage 5- anger.

Stage 6: Depression

Symptoms: wandering and mumbling aimlessly, head on desk with more crying but this time silent

Treatment: Enjoy the fact that they are leaving you out of this mess. Get some early holiday shopping done. You might want to pick up some air fresheners and discreetly place around the participant.

Stage 7: The Last Stage

The little engine that thinks perhaps...

Symptoms: zombie-like trance, auto typing (as in 'All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy'), loss of hearing and speech, grunting, and dangerous flatulence from too much candy corn. There would be tears but by this stage the tear ducts are non-functioning.

Treatment: Get away. No one should see someone they love this way.

Stage 8: The End

12:00am December 1st

Symptoms: snoring, drooling and more flatulence

Treatment: towel under the head, drool can screw up the keyboard.

Good luck!

Write on!

The Muse Does Windows

"The best time for planning a book is while you're doing the dishes"- Agatha Christie

"I got the blues thinking of the future, so I left off and made some marmalade. It's amazing how it cheers one up to shed oranges and scrub the floor." - D.H. Lawrence

I'll never be one of those writers you read about in magazines who grab a cup of coffee at dawn and continue writing until light fades from the sky. It's not that I lack discipline; hey I went to Catholic school, I know discipline. Sitting at the keyboard for any prolonged period of time sends me like an addict with a serious jones searching for something, anything to clean, fix, sort or organize. It's not what you think. This is not a symptom of procrastination. It's more dangerous and disturbing. I confess- I love housework. The more mind-numbing and repetitive the better.

Women are reading this in horror. What can she mean she loves housework? No one loves housework, not unless one of their multiple personalities happens to be Martha Stewart (but then even the real Martha Stewart pays several people to handle this drudgery). I'm not exactly sure how this happened. As a kid my role model was Oscar Madison. I found freedom in his chaos. I didn't need to find a magical wardrobe to disappear into a strange land, my room was that land. I could disappear without a trace. My mother never had to search for creative means of discipline. "Clean your room" would leave me prostrate, begging and pleading, "Please anything, I'll do anything but that. Why don't I get the belt for you?" My aunt took me aside one day when I was a teenager. Her expression was serious and I prepared myself for bad news. She announced sadly that no man would ever marry me because I was a slob. She on the otherhand was one of those women who sealed every piece of furniture in impenetrable plastic so I wasn't too concerned.

With age came a small degree of neatness. When company came over I ran through my apartment tossing things into closets, under the sofa, in drawers and in a pinch- the bathtub. Motherhood changed this. My job was to turn these children into productive citizens but before I could do that I had to find them amidst the piles of laundry and toys so I cleaned. I cleaned and cleaned and cleaned some more. Unlike money and time, cleaning never seemed to disappear. This really sucked.

I grumbled and mumbled my way through the days. Oh woe is me! Why me? Kill me right now if I have to pick up one more Lego piece! I wasn't a happy-camper. Then one day while scrubbing the toilet, a character popped into my head, fully formed. I was stunned. Suddenly I a story was attached to that character and I had a gleaming bathroom which I didn't remember cleaning. This started happening all the time, while running the water to wash dishes, chopping garlic, hanging laundry, you name it. I was working out problems in plotting, defining characters, creating topics for essays. WOW! I made certain I had my trusty rubber gloves, cleaning products, digital recorder and pen and paper.

I've never heard of this phenomenon from other writers. Generally when the subject of cleaning comes up two choices present themselves- get someone else to do it or forget about it. When you're on the New York Time Bestseller's List will anyone care that there's a faint scent of decay in your house? Buy some potpourri and write. I'd never heard a writer on to Fresh Air admit to finding inspiration while removing mildew from the bathroom tiles. When my youngest was born my mother-in-law offered to give us money for house cleaning . How could I admit that the idea of someone else taking care of the housework terrified me? What if my muse began bestowing her charms on them, leaving me a broken vessel, short on content but long on time? No siree! I asked for a closet organizer instead.

Now I kick myself over those years I spent grumbling over cleaning. How many ideas did I lose? I'm making up for lost time. In those quiet moments of sheer panic which usually occur in the middle of the night, I wonder could I possibly succumb to writer's block but then in the morning, I awake to the fresh mess my family has left throughout the house. Of course, I must keep up appearances and I complain bitterly at the unfairness of this, but I know my muse awaits. Ooh goody, it sounds like the dog is throwing up again, now I can finally work out scene 35 of my novel. Write on!