The appointed time came. October 31st, I sat with others on the same quest waiting for the countdown to begin, bearing witness that none started early, sharing the mystery, the fantasy, the romance, the horror of what we were about to do. At precisely 12 a.m. November 1st, synapses trembling from holding the words back from false starts, the joyful madness began. Each person had to be finished, locked in, and validated before 11:59 p.m. November 30th.
We met on each of the next three Mondays to share stories, suggestions, progress, frustration, laughter, words—always, and most importantly, words. It was on this final Monday that we each toted our own infectious bliss and set it up in the center of each table. We acknowledged the poignancy, the finality, the sadness—laughing all the while. We had begun hesitantly, as strangers do, and within a few weeks had cheered all on to within reach of the goal. It was madness, exuberance, and we were gleefully outrunning time.
In the spaces between Mondays, I had worked alone. Donnie watched me from behind his book, and others followed the count on MySpace and Facebook. Wrimos around the world measured the length and color of my progress as I did theirs. We sent messages to propel each other on.
November 27 at ten minutes to four in the morning, I completed the requirements then spun around in my chair giggling until I was dizzy and breathless. Sunday, the 29th, I tidied up a bit, locked in, and received verification of validation—with thirty hours to spare.
It is official, on permanent record with the Office of Letters and Light. I framed the certificate, bought the t-shirt.
In twenty-eight and one half days I completed my first novel from first word to last—all 51,064 of them. The synapses exhaled delirious exhaustion. National Novel Writing Month is over. My readers want me to publish. But that was never the goal. I have often said I would like to write a novel. I have never said I wanted to publish a novel. I have published enough: poetry, short stories, “how-to”s…. Besides, preparing a manuscript for publication is where the hard work begins. I had been writing for the joy.
My doctor has warned me to avoid stress. So I will seize that as a reason to let my story sit in the drawer where the mice nest and eat paper. I shall let it grow mold for awhile. Perhaps it will survive, and I will visit it one perfect stressless day.
I scratched “write a novel” from my bucket list and now wait for my next class to begin in January.
“And why do we have a bucket list?” my oldest son asked with his head cocked, brows raised, and a tone that made “we” exclude everyone but me.
“It’s essential to our humanity,” I said. “We all begin making the list when we are children and first know our own dreams, saying ‘someday I’m going to _____’.”
“Oh,” he said, trying to remember where he’d mislaid his list.
“So, what else is on your list?” my daughter asked just as the phone rang and she had to answer it.
“Words,” the neural nets giggled to each other.
The awakened synapse smiled with new mischief and began plotting more beginnings.