I had spent all of October in the magic, fantastical Limbo that comes only from a writing project you cannot do anything but work on. It wasn’t planned. The Idea morphed from a short story I wrote into this unstoppable beast with songs, and art, and me staying up all night, every night—awakening at 4:30am to scribble down good rhyme schemes or bits of dialogue—skipping class, and meals, and work too, when I could avoid it…
But I knew I had to have it complete by the time November began, or shelve it and lose this burst of creativity forever.
I almost made it.
November came, and I dutifully laid my one-true-love aside for the beginnings of my second NaNo.
I hated it.
The story, a sequel to my previous NaNo winning narrative, had rested in the back corner of my brain’s refrigerator, and was now covered with green fuzz, and unappetizing.
I stayed with it anyway.
Eventually (obstinately), I managed to choke it down. It became bearable. Barely. And as I inched closer to the finish line, in spite of the miraculous recoveries I made after multiple week long hiatuses, I developed a love, if not for the whole book, then at least for certain well-written scenes. And with three days left I had ten thousand words to go. It seemed that, like Laverne and Shirley, I was gonna make it after all.
Then disaster struck.
About an hour into my evening writing session, my vintage 1997 laptop suffered a heart breaking accident. An accident so minor, and yet with such catastrophic ramifications, it plunged the whole of my writing career into jeopardy, and me into a blind, screaming rage.
It was close to midnight on the twenty-seventh. I had a little more than seven thousand words to go. And the spacebar—the one thing I needed to type more than one word for the whole rest of the novel—had broken. It was beyond my ability to repair, and my options were few; my desktop had a non-functional floppy disk drive and matching broken USB hubs. I had been moving files off and onto it from a personal wiki website, but the laptop was too old for internet. It seemed that with nothing more I could do that night, I would have to retreat temporarily to the solace of sleep, conceding defeat in the battle, but vowing to return the next day with reinforcements.
“NO!!!” screamed the raging, livid temper in my head. “John, if you put this down now—if you walk away and leave this for later—you will never finish it. You know the driving principle, the very reason for NaNoWriMo’s existence: ‘Later Never Comes.’”
“You’re right, voce of rage,” I said, gathering my willpower and searching the floor for my clothes. “I have to end this tonight.
“If I want to win this war, I have to do this tonight.”
The laptop’s spacebar was broken, but its floppy drive still worked. I hurriedly loaded my unfinished story onto a battered floppy disk and headed out the door.
To the University.
It was too late for the library to be open, but the classrooms were often left unlocked on weeknights. I had snuck in many a time before to watch movies on the colossal projection screen.
But the last time I had been caught.
Luck was in my favor as I pried apart the sliding doors, their motion sensors asleep. Unseen, I made my way to the biggest classroom on campus. A sea of empty chairs stared back at me in the dim light. I took my seat at the teacher’s desk, logged on to the computer, and began my work.
It seemed the very world and all that was in it was against my completing this novel. Outside, the frigid November wind screamed its protest. My fingers were numb from waking through it, and the keyboard was foreign and uninviting. The fluorescent lights flickered, threatening to leave me in darkness. And all the while the sea of silent seats, staring like sentinels, looked on, waiting to see my failure.
I finished at 4:30am.
And I liked it. My story no longer made me cringe because the ending I had written—laden as I was with pressure, nerves, drowsiness, and fear of getting caught—was outstanding. And it should be noted that I don’t use caffeine when writing. I uploaded my novel to NaNo word counter and my private wiki. I had achieved the impossible.
It was going to be a good day.
But I would end up sleeping through most of it.