Monday, November 19, 2007

Accounting for Myself

I love NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month for the uninitiated). That might seem odd since I'm not participating, but I love the idea of all that writerly angst spilling out into the world. I know it's warped, but I feel a sense of camaraderie with all those fingers clicking on the keyboard -- because it means others are doing the same thing I am, although it's to a different purpose. It also means that for one month of the year, my dirty little secret -- writing lots and lots and lots of words -- is not a vice.

I can trace my initiation into the guilty pleasure of verbosity to a book with blank pages that my parents gave me for Christmas when I was nine years old. Bound in pale pink leather, it had metallic swirls on the front and a brass lock. It was larger than the typical little-girl diary and it didn't feature the word 'diary' anywhere; the title page was headed with the words, ' An Accounting.'

I'm not sure why, but rather than using the book as a diary to record what happened each day, I took my 'accounting' to heart and felt I should use it to account for myself -- to write about whys instead of whats -- and that's what I did, and still do. Instead of writing about winning the tether-ball championship in the fifth grade, I wrote about the carpet of violets that grew by the creek in the springtime -- because that accounted for the reason I was partial to the color violet. Instead of writing about what happened in school, I wrote about a teacher who answered students' nosy questions about her age by telling them she was '21 plus' -- because I thought it was a good example of the mysterious demarcation between being a child and being an adult. My entries nearly always took the form of an essay and they became longer and longer, filling the pink journal and dozens of others as the years went by.

When I was fourteen, my mother gave me a battered Brother typewriter, and my essays grew even longer. Since I didn't always have the typewriter to hand, I started carrying around notebooks as well. I squeaked through Algebra class, writing about the way dust motes and the remembered scent of my grandfather's pipe smoke seemed to hang in the air in my grandmother's house. In Sociology, I wrote about the agony of getting snow into my boots. I rarely wrote about anything in the present, unless there was a crisis at hand, and then, I wrote reams of impressions and descriptions -- of everything.

And I still do it. Every day. Sometimes I write with my computer; sometimes I use one of my ubiquitous notebooks. Sometimes, the spill-over even makes it into this blog, the entries of which tend to be a little on the long side. :-) There are times when I wish I could stop the flow, or at least turn it into something useful, like one of the countless novels that will be produced during NaNoWriMo, but long years of trying to subvert it have taught me that I simply cannot do it. I write things with purpose nearly every day; sometimes I even plumb my journals for help in adding color to my purposeful writing, as I did with the story I wrote about Hurricane Rita, but those are apart from the daily word-vomit I call life.

And so, although there is no plot in my words, my fingers are happily clicking on the keyboard this month, along with all the NaNoWriMo participants.

Word Count: 608

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