Thursday, November 01, 2007

The Novel I'm Not Writing

There's a perpetual question for teachers. "What do you do over the summer?" I always try to come up with something good to answer, because, damn, I don't know what the hell I do over the summer. Somehow day after day, I just use up the time, and then after the exhaustion from the school year has finally passed and just when I'm starting to get bored, it's time for school to start again.

My first year, I bought my ticket to Hungary at Christmas time, so that I knew I was earning something good for surviving until June. The trip was only two weeks long, but no one had to know how short it was, and I could answer with confidence: "I'm going to Hungary to build houses." Theoretically this was enough for a summer. It sounds impressive, anyway.

Two years ago, I told everyone about my brilliant knitting-pattern book idea and pretended like I'd spend my summer working on it. I even fooled myself that year, because I spent some time at the library researching architecture for my patterns and talking to librarians about the idea. Notice: I said talking about the idea. Very little in the way of knitting-patterns actually got put to paper that summer. Still, you know, it was a great answer to the question and gave me all sorts of freedom not to plan another trip to Hungary to build more houses.

Last summer was the summer I was writing my novel. Writing my novel was an outstanding answer to the question. I explained that November is National Novel Writing Month, and I pointed out that I can't possibly write a novel in November, when school is in full swing, so I would have my own personal Novel Writing Month in July. Perfect. Well, almost perfect. It turned out that the thought of a novel paralyzed me. I wrote fewer words last summer than ever before in my life. The thought that what was supposed to be coming out of my fingers was a Novel was enough to shut down my brain. I had nothing. I can't even call it the Summer I Had Writer's Block, because that's giving me too much credit for trying to write. It'd be more fair to call it the Summer I Slept in a Lot and Took Buddy to the Dog Park.

All of which just increases the amount of impressed I am with all of those regular people who started their novels today. I'm not doing it. I might write pithy little blog posts this month, but I leave the novel-writing to the un-paralyzed.


YOMC said...

I'm thrilled to be reading your carefully selected words. Even if it's not the beginning of your great american novel, it's the closest I'll get to reading one anyway these days, so please, keep up the great work. I'll be tuning in.

gaelstat said...

Hi Alex.

I just now saw your comment on my blog, which I've been neglecting in favor of a massive reading binge.

Don't feel bad - I'm not writing a novel this year either. Can't even face writing a second edition of the geeky statistics text.

If you are ever in San Francisco, it would be my honor to take you to breakfast.