nanowrimo

Blehhh.

I haven't so much as turned on my sweet little laptop today.

On the train this morning, where I might ordinarily have banged out a few hundred words, I stared blankly at the Monday morning crossword in the free paper.
Over lunch, which in the last week I've spent at Starbucks trying to get a bit more story out before daylight vanishes, I went to the mall and feasted on edamame and spicy noodles with a coworker.
I'm guessing I won't get much done tonight, either.

I blame all this on my lack of sleep.
And I blame my lack of sleep on cookies.

I bought a little bag of chocolate chips at my local convenience store, the Happy Food Spot — which has bizarre hours and is cash-only, rendering it actually not very convenient at all — when I stopped in for a half-gallon of milk for the week to come.
When I got home, I flicked on autopilot and whipped up a batch of cookie dough.
Only I didn't have any vanilla extract.
And I mismeasured the sugar.

But that didn't stop me from dumping in the package of chips and dropping that dough by rounded spoonfuls on cookie sheets and sticking them in the oven at 375° F for nine to 11 minutes.

Except for the seven or eight…or nine…cookies' worth that I left in the big stainless steel bowl I'd mixed it in.
Which I took out of the kitchen and into my bedroom, where I proceeded to devour it. All of it, save for a few stray semisweet morsels. Over the course of two episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
After just a few mouthfuls, I thought to myself, "Hey, stop eating. It doesn't even taste that great."
Because it didn't. Cookie dough tastes a LOT different without vanilla. And too much sugar makes it gritty.

But I had told myself I could eat what was in the bowl. I hadn't eaten much that day, so a little treat didn't seem unreasonable.
So I ate it all.
And I thought to myself, "This is way too much. I'm going to be so sick later."
And what do you know? I was.

By the time the Knight showed up after his rehearsal, I was lolling around, listless, in bed. But completely unable to sleep.
I tossed and turned all night, my stomach twisting into deeper knots with every full rotation I made on my cramped half of the too-small bed. I was hot and a little panicked that I'd finally poisoned myself after tempting fate with too many raw ingredients consumed too many times.
The sugar had wound me up, and the egg and, y'know, quarter stick of butter hadn't helped anything.

I gross myself out. Hardcore.
And now I have the double shame of painful overindulgence plus no written work to show for myself today.
The rest of the week will be dedicated for making up for lost time. And untying the knots in my stomach.

Remember, kids: Pearls, heels and an apron are hot. Smudged glasses, stretched-out yoga pants and a sink full of beaters and mixing bowls, the soapy aftermath of a sweet tooth's excess? The twisted side of baking.
I don't even want to look at the finished product when I get home. Nor do I want to think about my life's other excesses — the ones I have to write about once I muster the energy to turn the little laptop back on.

For now, I just want to sleep.

Ahem: NaNoWriMo, halfway through day six.

"Go into yourself. Find out the reason that commands you to write; see whether it has spread its roots into the very depths of your heart; confess to yourself whether you would have to die if you were forbidden to write. This most of all: Ask yourself in the most silent hour of your night, 'Must I write?' Dig into yourself for a deep answer. And if this answer rings out in assent, if you meet this solemn question with a strong, simple, 'I must,' then build your life in accordance with this necessity; your whole life, even into its humblest and most indifferent hour, must become a sign and witness to this impulse."
— Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet

The Knight posted this to my Facebook wall a few days ago.
It's a little heavy ("…she said, forgetting for a moment who she was talking to," he told me), but this is the desire I have lately to write. I am physically compelled to do it; the words practically flood out of me: on this blog. I've written more this past month than I can ever remember in the past. I am prolific.

As of this afternoon, my NaNoWriMo count is up to 9,336 words.
By the time I go to bed tonight, I'll have 10,000. (And two loads of clean laundry.)
I will be twenty percent finished with this shitty, shitty first draft.

(If you're reading this and still don't know what NaNoWriMo is, go away now and read up.
In that vein, if you have no interest in writing and would rather grow a whole lot of facial hair, go read up on Movember instead. Hilarious concept, great opportunity to support a good cause.)

So, this novel I'm writing.
It's about me.
Basically.
It's about me, but this character won't have my name.
Nor will any of the people this character comes into contact with have the names of the people I'm actually writing about.
There will be changes. There will be simplifications; there will be embellishments.

But this novel is about my life, the past year and a half of it or so. Peppered with a bit of the past and some speculation on the future, probably.
Which makes it pretty easy to write.
Because, you know, I've lived it.
But then again, it's kind of a bitch to write.
Because I've lived it.

And life wasn't so easy for me last year.
I made it difficult, and other people made it difficult.
Looking back at old blog entries and e-mails, the things I did and said? Yikes. Some of that really stings to recall.

But writing it all down, making it the best, most beautiful version of that it can be? Fabulous.
Even when it hurts, it feels good to be getting it down.

Yeah, vague, much?
My vest looks better with all these cards fanned out against it anyway.

But the writing is good. So good. I love my progress and can't wait to see where I am on the other side of this weekend.
Thanks to everyone who has been so supportive already. I never knew I had so many friends, even if you're often just words on my screen.

More overblown prose and forced reflection next week.
For now? Weekend it.

1, 2, 3. Three blessings — ah, ah, ah! 4, 5, 6…

NaNoWriMo post–Day 4: 7,767 words.

My name is Paige Worthy, and I am in the business of counting blessings.
I can get pretty whiny and petulant when things don't go my way — especially if it involves my commute, how my clothes fit or food — but I always remind myself of the good in my life.

Life: a bowl of cherries.

However. If I had one wish, it would be to transplant my current job, located deep in the northwest suburbs, into the city where I live. Everything would be perfect. Actually, I'd probably just find something else to sub in as my Chief Complaint in Life. But it really would be nice.
That isn't going to happen, I realize, and I knew what I was getting into when I took this job two years ago.
So I've decided "grin and bear it" is the best approach.
It's working out: I look better smiling than scowling anyway.

All things considered, life is pretty delicious around here.

On Tuesday night, I was making the long haul from Arlington Heights to downtown Chicago and back up to Wilmette for dinner with my father and grandmother. (The Metra! It's everywhere you wish you weren't!)
The first leg of my journey was a joy, as always. In the two years since I started riding the train, I've made a few amazing friends: Doug, my Gay Boyfriend (first introduced here), his coworker Lisa, a lovely French-Canadian man named Pierre.
We're accompanied by a delightful cast of regularly occurring characters: The hugely obese man who snores like a cave-dwelling ogre in the very last seat of the last car. The woman who talks on her cell phone nonstop and tans herself orange — we sing the Oompa-Loompa theme every time she gets on. "Cane Lady" (who we know can walk without it because we've seen it happen, but she abuses. the. privilege.) and her friend — they struggle through the RedEye crossword every day, aloud, as loudly as possible.
Then there's the conductor, Steve. Oh, Steve. We call him Sunshine for reasons no one will ever understand — even me, and I came up with the nickname. He will have his own entry someday. Maybe a book.
Sometimes we buy beer and toast one another as we chug southeastward. Sometimes we mercilessly poke fun at Steve. Sometimes, after a really long day, we just sit and stare at each other until one of us cracks.
We are a happy bunch, if a bit odd.
Maybe it's because we know we're going home to the sweet metropolis of Chicago, where there are no cats, and the streets are paved with cheese.
Maybe it's our nature.
But I sort of thought the trains were all that way, that Metra travel encouraged a sort of conviviality unique to commuter rails.

Apparently NOT.
Because I sat down on the northbound train to Waukegan, the one that would drop me off in Wilmette, and no one spoke. Not a peep.
A man sat down next to me just before we pulled out, his jacket reeking of stale cigarettes and his scowl laced with bile. I inched closer to the window and focused on my writing.
Then I looked around. And everyone appeared just as grouchy, or worse. It wasn't the kind of temporary unhappiness that stems from the sudden knowledge of how stupid you look wearing bright white sneakers with your hose. It was soul-plumbing misery.
Hey, guys! Work is over! You're going home! To your really big houses and sweet, beautiful children and wives you might have cheated on over lunch! You're rolling in dough! You are the North Shore! Life is good!

I've seen the same look on the faces of countless drivers along I-90, too, on the few days I've had the privilege to pilot the Shining Camry to work.
Guys, listen! You get to turn on NPR or put in a CD and sing along as loud as you want! You can go to a drive-through (I will NOT write "thru") and not get strange looks for walking through it! Best yet, you don't have to walk through knee-deep snow in the winter — you get in your car, turn on the heat and GO! Life is good!
They were not counting their blessings.
Some people really seem to hate their lives.

I don't want to oversimplify. The world's not the easiest place to live lately. (Though this is America.)
I know some people are really going through it. People lose their jobs. People get divorced. People have deaths in their families. Life's not fair sometimes.

One of the things I love about my commute is the luxury of mindless voyeurism, making up stories about the inhabitants of the world around me or just wondering what's going through their heads.

But to project so much negativity to passers-by? I couldn't do it.
On that train, in my little yellow peacoat with my tiny white laptop, I was suddenly so happy to be exactly where I was. In my job, in my life station, in my body. Yes, I see a therapist every week. Sure, I'm taking a few things to tweak the mechanics up there. But I'd like to think this vision prescription I've been wearing since kindergarten came with rose-colored lenses. I never lose my ability to see the best in things. That Pollyanna attitude has gotten me hurt — more than a few times — where men are concerned, but in most other situations? It's hard to go wrong with that perspective.

When I arrived at Maggiano's for dinner with my family, we were seated in the corner of the restaurant with a server named Vickie.
Vickie was like me: She had those rose-colored lenses on, and that pink tint looked good on her.
And she treated my grandmother like royalty, a feat beyond words in itself.
After she dropped our check off, she hung around to chat for a few minutes. Turns out she and her sons are moving soon from Division and Pulaski out to Northbrook. They're currently at a great school, but the neighborhood where they live is atrocious. She drives them all over town and works a closing shift at Maggiano's on a pretty regular basis. She waits tables for a living. She's in constant fear of her kids getting beaten up or, worse, falling into a life of crime as they get older. So she's yanking them before it's even an option.
And she was the happiest person I'd seen all day. Whether that's really how she feels or just how she projects herself, it's what I saw. And that was amazing. So I told the manager what an impact she'd had on me, and he just grinned. I got the feeling he hears that a lot.

Take note, northward commuters and Kennedy drivers.

This is the 100th post on paigeworthy.com. I've been counting up to it and kind of hyperventilating about what I'd write when I got to it. Then I realized I didn't really care. And that no one else really does either. Huh.

NaNoWriMo: the end of Day 3. (And a new friend.)

Word count: 5,455.

No progress toward Day 4's word count; my morning commute was wasted — TRAGEDY! — on social interaction.
I made a new friend yesterday. His name is Byron Lee — no relation to the Jamaican musician — and when I first saw him waiting at Jefferson Park, the only thing I noticed was his white cane.
Because I'm human. Y'know.
Then he turned and looked right at me and said, "Excuse me. I noticed you're reading the RedEye with a story about Twitter on the cover."
Uh, sir. You are blind. How are you seeing this.
Well, it turns out he's not completely blind. His right eye is completely useless, and he's legally blind (20/200) in his left eye. But he makes do with what he has, and he could see me just fine.
He asked to take my picture with the RedEye cover ("They Met on Twitter") then told me he'd be sure to tag my Twitter handle when he posted it to his feed. We were fast friends, two geeks waiting for the train.

And this morning, I ran into him again.
I was already in a great mood — the Knight escorted me to the Metra on the Shining…#81 Bus. Poor Camry. But it was delightful having company.
Oh, and? If you're a Chicagoan, find me in the free paper today. They picked up one of my comments from Accidentally Sexy, Ana Fernatt's new blog and printed it. Fame!
(And thanks to Mark for helping me debork that link.)

So.

When I got on the train, Byron and two other men with similarly varied lacks of vision were having trouble finding empty seats, so they ended up at the very front of the car where I was sitting. I invited him to sit next to me, and we chatted until my stop came up.
He's pretty great. And I'm sure he'll love that I'm writing all this about him on my blog, by the way. Hey, everyone, go stalk him!
He just started a new job with an organization called Horizons for the Blind, which, among other things, helps the blind by converting paper bills into Braille. He has a real passion for all things audio and does his own podcasts.
He was endlessly curious about me — allow me to oblige you, friend — and so eager to get to know someone new. We talked about Starbucks and sight and city snobbery and podcasts and writing and blogs, blogs, blogs. Really, a delightful morning.

That being said, despite the delight, I'll be working overtime to get more done on the NaNo on my lunch break and this evening.
I'm shakin' my fist.
Luckily, there's a three-hour "write-in" near my apartment that starts just after I get home. At…
Starbucks.
What could be better, really?

NaNoWriMo, day 2 and part of 3.

The word count, as of 8 a.m. — when I shut down my laptop to get off my morning train — was 4,767. I'm still on pace, but I'm only two days in.

Tonight will be a shorter writing night. My father is in town, and I'm meeting him and my grandmother (yiiiikes) at the Metra station in Wilmette, then we'll all drive to Skokie for a big Italian dinner at Maggiano's Little Italy. At the mall.
Expect a long entry tomorrow on why I love the city so much.
Just kidding.

As for the story itself, the words I actually see on the page when I'm not obsessed with my word count?
I'm swimming in memories. Many of them fuzzy but all of them indelible. And it's hard to know what I should include as plot and what's just life fluff, shit that happened to me but no one will want to read about whether it's truth or fiction.

But that's part of this whole "shitty first draft" thing. Anne Lamott has given me a pass to be a terrible writer for the next month or so. Thanks!

Now scroll down and read the thing that's actually worth your time. Maybe. Please.
It's about Starbucks. And happiness.

NaNoWriMo, day one.

I wore my rabbit ears yesterday and called it a costume. Halloween has never been my favorite. The fact that so many people get charged up about a day where they can pretend to be anything they want? It's a little scary, and not in that guy-with-a-chainsaw-and-a-hockey-mask kind of way. I prefer just to be Paige. And not "Sexy Paige."
Ugh, I won't even get started on that aspect of Halloween.
I also don't need an excuse to eat candy until I'm sick. Every day's a holiday where that's concerned, if you ask me.

So, right. I really don't like it at all. In fact, I was dead asleep at midnight when October became November, but this morning, I woke up and knew what I had to do. The writing frenzy known as NaNoWriMo began today.

And if all goes according to plan, I'm going to be pretty scarce around the blogosphere for the next 30 days. My social calendar is gathering dust and cobwebs for now; my little laptop will be my constant companion.

Even last night, I was pretty paralyzed with fear that I was going to stall at 5,000 words or have no clue how to generate a storyline that actually meant something.
Then I decided, à la Risky Business, sometimes you've just gotta say, "What the fuck." And jump in.
So this morning, I'd I took the material I'd scraped together last week and put it all into one big Word file, then I started again. I wrote the prologue, I guess, and it clocks in at just over 1,000 words. Just the length of the "assignment" the Knight had given me last month to get me started. I'm satisfied with it for now, and it gives me a good springboard — I think — to continue writing. I'm actually…excited.

As of this evening, my word count is 2,346. Respectable.

Until tomorrow, I'm done writing. I'm eating butterscotch chips out of a mug and watching Buffy until I pass out. Which won't be long now.

Goodbye, October.
You were kind of an asshole.

November, I know you'll be tough on me, but we might get along in the end.
How can you hate on a girl wearing rabbit ears?