I apologize for my long absence. I have been traveling around the country, an interminable visitor everywhere I’ve arrived and departed, experiencing a small glimpse into what it must be like to be a refugee. I’ll tell you now, it’s not great to never be able to go home because you no longer have one. I haven’t written in months (on this blog or otherwise) because I realized the frustration of my current life is not at all conducive to creativity. It became painful to sit in front of my computer day after day, forcing words which refused to come. I decided to enjoy the other parts of my life for a little while, knowing that the writing would be good again one day. So, I let go.

Until the night of October 30th, when I was in the shower (like I’ve said, I get a lot of my inspiration in the shower). I was thinking over the coming weeks: my impending move to the border of Mexico, the reunion of my family after months apart, mattress shopping, and my slowly dying computer. November, it’s going to be a busy month, I thought. And then I felt a flutter that began in my stomach and stretched to my heart, National Novel Writing Month. I received the reminder email a few days ago telling me to, “Get your outlines ready and prepare for a busy November folks.” I sent it immediately to my trash, rationalizing that my life is too busy right now and I couldn’t possibly think about writing another novel because I still haven’t finished the revision of my first manuscript. But, the excitement I felt was overwhelming. I started thinking about what I would write and all of the unexpected adventures that were awaiting me. As crazy and impossible as it seemed, I wanted to do it.

And now a tangent, which I promise will come full circle if you stick with me.

I am not a marathoner and (sadly, for those of you who are) I am one of those people who had always believed that there is something wrong with people who choose to run marathons. It really does seem like a sickness to me, to choose to torture yourself. I like to recount to anyone willing to listen (really, nobody should) that the origins of modern-day marathons are based on the legend of Pheidippides who died after running his 25 miles. (I also like to leave out the part where he’d also just recently run 150 miles in 2 days because it kind of takes the sting out of the “take that!” aspect of my opinion.) In my limited experience, marathoners love to talk about their training, their races, their qualifying times and I love to not listen to them. They have stickers on their cars (26.2), they wear the t-shirts proudly advertising their races or begging “Ask me how many miles I ran today,” and they make sure that it is no secret they are that hardcore.

Whenever I’ve asked someone why they run marathons they always say, “I wanted to prove to myself that I could do it.” I would always think, Well, if I had a good enough reason to run 26.2 miles – armed gunmen chasing me or to save someone I love – I know that I could do it, or at least die trying. Then Michael, my husband, ran a half-marathon (which is only half as crazy) and afterward, while he was being sick, he declared that he was never, ever going to do it again. I felt vindicated in my opinions about long-distance dabblers but when I talked to him about it he said that even though he didn’t want to do it again, he was glad he did because of the feeling. The high he felt as he crossed that finish line was something he’d never experienced before, something that is impossible for anyone who has never done it (that’s me) to understand. Michael thought he could run 13.1 miles when he started training but knowing he could was quite another feeling. It was proof of what he had only believed himself to be capable of. He was a different person when he crossed that finish line. Not somebody who could possibly run a ridiculously long distance, but somebody who did. After listening to him I was finally able to admit that I was wrong. Just because people are doing things that I don’t want to do or experiencing things that I don’t understand, doesn’t make it any less of an accomplishment. I still won’t be joining them and I’m still not a fan of the t-shirts and the stickers but I am happy to accept that these crazy (I say this with affectionate awe) people are experiencing this amazingly elevated feeling that I will never experience.

Or so I thought, until I started writing my second novel (yesterday) on November 1st.

I was so excited that I woke up before my 5am alarm went off. I didn’t know what I was going to write but when I stared at the blank screen, I knew it didn’t matter. There was a story inside of me and it was bursting to come out. I typed a couple of words, paused, began again and I didn’t stop for three hours. I felt alive in the way that only writing can make me feel, but the weight of the goal was already in the back of my mind. I’ve done it once and I know how incredibly hard it is. I know what’s coming and this year, because of my living situation, it’s going to be harder than ever. I even allowed for the possibility that I wouldn’t be able to do it. I told myself I wouldn’t tell anybody, I would just “do it for me.” But as soon as those thoughts came into my mind I knew that if I wasn’t committed to really trying, I’d already failed. That’s when I realized that NaNoWriMo is my marathon (although it’s more like a sprint in terms of writing a novel.) The only way you can complete a marathon, or a novel in 30 days, is if you move forward as if you already have, as if the actual doing it is just a formality. It’s hard, painful, and you want to quit almost everyday but instead you drag yourself out of bed earlier and earlier to get those words on the page (or your miles on the road). Sometimes you hit a wall and you really believe you can’t go on, but then you push past it, and when you cross that finish line you know that you are the person you always believed you were. And, as soon as you recover, you’ll come back again for more, because you remember that feeling at the end and you know it’s worth the pain. So, I will once again be trying to write 50,000 words in 30 days (only 29 left) and I will consider myself in good company. Not just with other WriMos but with those runners who pass me on the street (as I’m walking leisurely), pounding the pavement, working just as torturously toward their next high at the marathon finish line.

But, I’m not going to go out and get myself a t-shirt that says, “Ask me how many words I’ve written today,” mostly because the answer would probably be embarrassingly small.