“This is the true joy in life. . .being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; the being thoroughly worn out before you are thrown on the scrap heap; the being a force of Nature instead of a feverish selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy.” George Bernard Shaw said it and it is true.
I majored in Acting at San Francisco State University and one semester I played Barbara in Major Barbara, written by Shaw, which I rehearsed in the mornings. At the same time I was rehearsing in the evenings and on weekends for the role of Martirio in Garcia Lorca's The House Of Bernarda Alba, another beautiful play by another amazing writer. The plays opened two weeks apart, and I was taking eighteen units and working part time. My boyfriend (now my husband) was also at SFSU majoring in directing, also acting in Major Barbara, carrying the same class load and working part time. I did the same thing in grad school right after; powered through 24 units per semester, played a bunch of lead roles simultaneously, finished my acting MA and switched to Playwriting, completed my Writing MFA in two years and during all this we were exhausted all the time and we never had more fun. Because how lucky to be able to have our health, get student loans and be able to attend college at all, majoring in what we loved and hoped to use to make the world somehow better, have jobs that let us limp along in our tiny apartment and eat ramen noodles now and then, be cast in amazing roles in amazing plays, sleep every once in a while - the best.
What I love most about my husband is this very thing in him; this refusal to complain, to just shut up and do what needs to be done and have fun doing it and if it doesn't work out clam your yapper and pick yourself up and move the hell on, because it is true: The world owes no one anything. Life owes no one anything. We are so lucky to be here at all, the odds of any of us being born - when you consider the math involved in the billions of zygotes that could have formed and yet we won that lottery - anything less than eternal gratitude and grabbing life by the hoo ha and being brave and doing everything you can to help people who need a hand every single day seems blasphemous. My husband's favorite thing to say is, "Oh, brother! Shut the hell up and get it done!" He knows what's up. Shaw knew what's up.
What does this have to do with NaNoWriMo? Everything! They schedule it in November for crying out loud! The start of the busiest time of the year for lots of people, all kinds of winter festivities are coming up which involve cooking and cleaning and shopping and school plays and soccer tournaments and also some people really, really need extra help just to live as the weather gets colder and oh my God it never ends and then somewhere in there you're supposed to indulge in the extravagance of finding time to write nearly 2000 words per day?
Yes! Yes, you are!
I cram a lot of stuff into each day, and it's really easy as the months go by to lose sight of the gratitude I have every single second for being alive, having a home and food and being able to care for my child and be able to help people who need it and also for criminey's sake I SOLD A BOOK the luckiest thing of all - NaNoWrimo reminds me how lucky I am, makes me get down to business, get to work. No matter what else is happening, that word count must get done, and NOT at the expense of my kid's mental or physical well being so I better figure it the hell out. It is a reminder of upping my work ethic, the daily putting words on a page, the not being a feverish little clod complaining, "I was going to write, but then..." No! There is no room, no time, no excuse for that crap. Life is precious and short, no complaining, no excuses, just write! Be brave, be brilliant or awful but get it done - and be grateful for the opportunity. Some of the words will end up deleted, some may be worth saving, some of them could become a book, and maybe that book will be part of people's lives, part of how they see the world, maybe it will be a reason someone feels less lonely or inspired to be brave about something in their own life - books matter. Gratitude matters. NaNoWriMo is a beautiful thing I treasure, it is how my first book was born, and where the first draft of my next one will be completed.
Thanks, NaNo. Thank you, G.B. Shaw. Onward!