ewhightower

NaNoWriMo WINNER!

In Uncategorized on December 9, 2013 at 8:52 pm

As of sometime between 6:00 pm and 9:00 pm on Wednesday, November 20, I passed the goal of 50,000 words for NaNoWriMo. I did this at a blessedly quiet write-in at the Livermore Public Library. It was at this write-in that I made some other writers laugh for the first time, won a lobster (who even now is nesting in the left hand pocket of my vintage French military greatcoat), and met a NaNo who is the embodiment of the human incarnation of the Last Unicorn. I also learned that there was a write-in the following Thursday — as in, the very next night — at the Panera in Dublin, CA.

Now, everyone in my region had received messages from our NaNoWriMo Municipal Liaisons about these things, but sometimes an event doesn’t quite seem real until one finds others who are planning to attend. So I frothed myself up and attended the Panera Write-In the very next night.

I think I got one sentence written. It was not an evening of writing. From what I understand, these Panera Write-Ins are perhaps more dedicated earlier in the month. And apparently they’re also year-round. Since that night, I have attended one more Panera Write-In, and the majority of the group was playing Munchkin. That’s an awesome game. I was entertained as I ate a tasty sandwich.

No writing done.

Clearly this is an issue of self-discipline. I should go to these and sequester myself behind a house of cards. Perhaps adding a team of trained sea otters who will cavort at my command and distract the other writers. Blah, blah, blah. It would distract me, too. Only a few of these writers seem to have the discipline to write while a game of Munchkin is going on. I must find a way to do this. The two most obvious assistances are music and headphones; I have headphones and a superb playlist on Spotify. Unfortunately, the WiFi connection at Panera in Dublin seems spotty at best.

My computer does not like having a lot of sound files in it, as I learned when I produced an audiobook through ACX.com. So I’ll have to tinker a bit. And none of this should really matter terribly much, because I won NaNoWriMo. I still need to finish my novel and edit it, but I am a winner. In spite of the fact that of my grand plans to get a bunch of extra writing done on specific days didn’t really come to any form of juicy fruition.

Here’s why:
1) Between Day 3 and Day 4 I jumped from 8,000-ish words to 12,000-ish words; by Day 6 I was holding steady at 15,000-ish words; on Day 9 I jumped to 25,125 words.
1a) Here’s why: on November 6 I started not mowing lawns for nothing resembling a living, as well as never helping out with the cleanup and prep of a house here in Livermore that needed to be put on the market asap. So on 11/6, 7, 8 I wasn’t tearing shelving out of a garage, mowing lawns, using a leaf blower for the first time (fun!), and doing all sorts of other stuff that has blended together in my memory as a gasoline-scented montage of hunger fumes and Red Bull. So when Saturday, November 9 rolled around, with its all-day Write-In, I was at the computer by 7 am and wrote until we stopped to watch some Dr. Who around 7 pm; when the show was over and my lovely fiancée went to sleep, I wrote until just before midnight.
1b) Having lost entire days, you see, to not working outdoors and prepping that house for sale, I was very worried that I would not make my goals. So the days when I leapt forward by several thousand words were days that followed periods of exhaustion and near inactivity. Turns out I have a smidgen of self-discipline, as long as I make it clear to certain people (Maxwell and the fiancée) that I need an entire day, and that there shall be no Big Fat Gypsy Wedding on the television during that time. The leap to 25,125 words kept me well above my goals for the rest of the month. By Day 16, I was over 42,000 words. (This should have been exhilarating. However, it became clear to me at that juncture that I was not going to finish the novel by the time November 30 rolled around, and I began to freak out a little bit. I wanted to finish the novel, not just meet the goal. Alas, my story does not fit into a tidy, tiny 50,000-word format. And when I realized this, I felt like a complete failure. Ridiculous, no?)

Even though I had surpassed my goals and had the beginnings of something fabulous on my hands, I was convinced I had somehow failed. I posted embarrassing things on Facebook, along the lines of: “I’m already at 42,000 words halfway to the deadline, and there’s no way my novel will be complete by the end of the month! WAAAAAAAAAAA!”

Laughable as it is, I was seriously distraught. And the root of my distress I found buried in a box of confusion at the crossroads of the NaNoWriMo Goal and My Personal Yardstick Of Success. I was trying to write 150,000 words in 30 days. And that’s quite possible. I may have done so if I’d not been not mowing lawns. But my unemployment checks are tiny — well under Minimum Wage, if one calculates the amount of time I have been putting in to job searches [prior to NaNo] and considers the checks payment for that time, which is how I like to think of it — and without my work outdoors last month, we’d have been short my half of the rent. So the work I was doing was useful. And what I realized was this: people who are fully employed and / or in school and still manage to get 50,000 or 30,000 or 20,000 or even 5,000 words written in a month are the real winners.

An unemployed actor who occasionally doesn’t mow some lawns and has oodles of time on his hands? Meh. No big surprise.

By mid-November I was getting notices from EDD that they were going to cut off my meagre supply of money. I started putting more things up for sale on Craigslist.

Nothing sold. I stopped applying for jobs and figured I’d just keep mowing lawns and writing.

Then, sometime around 11/24-ish, I received a notice from EDD that they would still be paying me. I filled out the form and was about to put it into the envelope when I noticed an X in a box with a phrase near it, the gist of which was: bitch, you’d better offer proof that you’re applying for jobs! Because we watch, motherfucker, and you haven’t been on our shitty website searching for jobs in weeks!”

Commence frantic search of e-mails for proof of jobs applied for: company, contact info., person contacted, etc. Results: many applications, no responses. Even though in my mind I had utterly stopped, the difference was this: I had stopped signing onto CalJobs to look for work, because their website is creaky and clunky and counter-intuitive. I am pleased to have found enough applications made during November to fill in those early weeks.

However, I didn’t get any responses from several of the places to which I applied. Some of them should have been automatic, given my resume (big fish) and their overall talent pool (shallow). I’m not being conceited here, friends, this is actually something I’ve done in the past and have revived of late in order to keep my chops up: audition for small companies who can’t afford to pay me a living wage.

It may be kind of a dick move when one considers the torment to which I will possibly subject some of the directors, but here’s the thing you don’t know about theatre companies: in order to be able to survive at all, just about every established small / community theatre company has at least one person to whom they can go when they need the money for an emergency expense. If the director wants an actor badly enough, and the actor can’t do the job without a living wage, there is occasionally a secret agreement reached whereby the actor appears to take the same piddling $250 stipend as the rest of the cast, when in actuality she is getting a living wage.

This doesn’t happen everywhere. But it’s how I’ve made much of my living since 2007.  Of course, if the director is not impassioned in her argument, and if the backer is a dick, and if the theatre company is poorly managed, and if there’s a butterfly in a rain forest who hates Sondheim, I probably won’t get a living wage from the small company for which I auditioned this past Saturday.

That audition only happened because I sent a second e-mail with headshot and resume attached, along with a polite post-script inquiring about the earlier e-mail. So I have sent several similar e-mails in the past week or so, and have learned that many of the missives I sent in the early weeks of November just did not arrive.

Mercury Retrograde much? Maybe not. You’d be surprised how many butterflies hate Sondheim.

In the meantime, I am signing up for general auditions galore and looking at a local Masters Program in Holistic Psychology. We’ll see what happens. Auditions and rehearsals take time away from writing.

[Did you read this? Are you a human being? Consider commenting below. Many thanks!]

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