Thanksgiving . . . Christmas

A Quiet Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving passed without much ado. We went to Nate and Sharon’s for a Thanksgiving family gathering. Winter family gatherings are more difficult than summer get-togethers. Being stuck inside with a lot of relatives . . . well, it’s noisy. And, with the number of relatives in the family, it’s really crowded as well. I’m not sure the fire marshal would much approve of so many people in one house.

A great boon of gathering at Nate and Sharon’s house is that they always have plenty to entertain visitors. Their basement is finished very nicely, and they have the whole place stocked with games for kids of every age. Then in the family room there is a TV with surround sound. In general, it seems, everything makes some type of noise. When every computer is playing a game, every TV on, the toys in use, and people talking–all this is enough to drive me to distraction. I suppose I’m rather grinch-ish for not finding the sound of many people having much fun to be music to my ears, but I’m unrepentant.

I think my noticing of the volume level is a sign of my age. A dozen years ago I would have been in the thick of things, the noise nothing more than a distant unnoticed background. I’m an old fogey now . . . sigh.

Well, not too old. There is a big air hockey table in the basement, and this game of physical competition appeals to me. Not to mention slamming the puck across the table. I played a game against Arlan and . . . ahem . . . apparently got a little too involved in the game, lunging across the table to slam the puck like a bullet into the goal. The day after Thanksgiving the muscles along my right side and up my arm were sore from being over stretched. A minor price to pay for going after the puck like a savage, I assure you; I won the game.

There was plenty of pie for dessert. Our tradition is to have a main midday meal and then eat leftovers when people get hungry later in the day. The food is traditional Thanksgiving fare, but the pies are the real draw. I confess I ate the noon meal, but the majority of my eating for the rest of the day was pies. Whenever I felt like a bit more to eat, I went for more pie.

The Days Til Christmas

I’m counting down the days until Christmas.

No, not because I’ve so many presents to buy, so many cards to send out, or because I’m eagerly awaiting the grand celebrations. Presents? Cards? I’m a misanthrope here. Bah on all that holiday cheer. When I was young, I looked forward to the grand party on Christmas day, but age has left me jaded. Sure, it is a nice day, but only a day to be enjoyed when it is here, not one to be waited for with bated breath.

So, if I’m not a bundle of holiday excitement, you’re probably wondering why I’m counting the days until Christmas. The matter, for me, is purely practical. Sometime in the middle of November I set myself the goal of finishing the current draft of my novel by Christmas. With years of writing experience behind me, I’ve learned to dread deadlines. It seems a writing deadline is simply a deadline made to break, and to feel horrible and depressed about breaking. But in November it felt like I was walking in place–I was getting near, but not very near. The end of the novel draft and that last quarter felt like it would take me eternity to finish.

To fight off gloom, and to spur me on, I counted off the number of chapters left that I had to revise and tried to come up with a reasonable number of days to finish all the chapters. Reasonable, of course, being something of a joke, because where writing is involved I don’t seem to have a reasonable bone in my body. The writer in me is a wild dreamer full of mad hopes. Nonetheless, I set myself what I thought was a high bar of accomplishment, but not an unachievable one. I figured that if I could finish a chapter every three days, I would be finished by Christmas. The goal was set. The deadline was marked. And off I went.

Goaded on by the looming deadline I did well until Thanksgiving put a bump in my plans. Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday of the Thanksgiving week were messed up. But I managed to regain my momentum afterward, and plow forward, not looking back.

Will I make my deadline? I don’t dare venture a guess yet. It’s going to be close. I’ve been working myself without ceasing to keep up. I write each day of the work week until I am unable to write any more. I push and push myself, grinding to the very edge of burnout to get this beast finished. I haven’t stopped to count the pages done in a day. I haven’t gone back to reassess the quality of what I’ve written. All that is for later. Today, tomorrow, and the next day are only writing and getting this thing done.

If my writing here has seemed sparse, this is why. By the time I close out my novel writing for the day, I feel just about cross-eyed. If it was a good day there is a sense of satisfaction at what I’ve completed, but the writing well is near dry. But I am determined. The end is in sight. I’m almost there. A few more chapters. A few more weeks. I can make it if I only try hard enough.

I’m into the last hundred page count down. This is a great psychological success. About six hundred single spaced pages, and now I’m counting up through the five hundreds. Counting off the last pages. The one thing I fear is myself. I find that as a draft of my novel nears there is a danger of two things happening to me.

(1) I get exhausted and feel like those last two chapters are impossible to write. There can come this almost overwhelming sensation that I can’t write the wrap-up that will do justice to all the months and months of work I’ve put into the lead-up story. It feels impossible to finish.

(2) I decide that all my writing stinks. I’m writing along, nearing the conclusion, and it is like I get cold feet. Suddenly I decide everything I’ve written isn’t really that good at all. This leads me to either suffer a profound feeling of despair and an urge to give up, or else the desire to go back and rewrite everything I’ve just written because this draft isn’t ready to be finished.

When the finish line is this near in sight, I’ve learned that the last thing I should do is think. Don’t think. Just write.

Only two weeks and three days left. Christmas is coming.

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