October 2009 is one for the ages.
It wasn’t the spookiest October, though one could easily argue that the moment I resigned myself to death made this the literally scariest October on record. Certainly one hopes that this much abject fear is not revisited frequently. And the renewing inspiration of surviving what looks like a deadly threat is always worth experiencing… it had been since May 2005 that I’d had a near-death experience!
It wasn’t the most volatile October by any stretch. Most any prior month seemed stormier for one reason or another. Not that this was devoid of ups and downs. The obvious aforementioned down aside, Em struggled with a more difficult time in grad school than anticipated and I flitted between exhaustion, frustration, and excitement in wrestling with my book and getting some perspective on debate coaching.
What it might have been, almost certainly was, was the most productive October ever. And given that October tends to be high-energy and high-productivity for me, that is saying something. I have tended, the summer of Loosely Based aside, to write more in October and to feel more inspired during the month than any other time in the year, although March tends to be competitive. But this October, though there are about 38 hours remaining in the month (that I won’t be writing during), I have written 34,533 words of American Dream On, making it arguably the most prolific month of my life. That’s over 1,100 words every day, on average, counting several days of no writing. It’s also ~138 pages total, putting me on pace to write well over 1,500 pages a year at this pace. Not that I’m saying I can keep that up, but at the same time, it makes my 3 books/year aspiration look pretty manageable.
American Dream On now stands within 1,000 words of Loosely Based, meaning the next writing session will almost certainly make it the longest piece I’ve ever written. The target size is increasing a bit over time, standing now in the vicinity of 125,000 words as I try to tie everything together and leave myself enough time to explain things. It may run longer as I’m thinking I may need 65 chapters instead of 55, which may even put my December 15th deadline in some jeopardy, though this can be mitigated by stepping up my game. After all, I’ve hardly felt like I’m writing at a breakneck pace. This has actually felt pretty comfortable, pretty sustainable. I’ve likened it to cruise control. I think I could get closer to 50,000 words a month if I really pressured myself.
I know I’ve talked about all this a lot, that I’m probably becoming a rather dull stuck record on the numbers games, writing, and the issues entailed therein. But the discovery of this productivity, really unfolding and getting into high gear this month, is almost certainly the second most exciting discovery of my life (behind finding Emily). The idea that I could conceivably write six books in Princeton, creating a serious portfolio for myself after nearly three decades of struggling with endless ideas and only one manuscript, this makes my whole life seem worthwhile. Let alone if any of those six books catch on, securing some sort of life for myself in this state on a permanent basis.
I’m trying (and failing, evidently) not to get too far ahead of myself. One book at a time, one idea. This book, being in the works for eight years, is certainly going more quickly than something that I just came up with might. It may prove to not be very good when I get around to editing – I can already anticipate that it will require more revision than LB did. There’s a lot of slogging to come and I can’t imagine that I’ll really end up averaging 1,000 words a day over 365 days.
But it’s possible. And after going to sleep at night for the better part of three decades asking myself what I’ve accomplished, telling myself that I’m falling short of my potential, it’s a mighty fine change. I somehow think it would be hard to keep up that narrative for myself if I wrote 4-6 books by the time Em’s done with her program. So, yes, one book at a time. But I can start to see the light on the edge of my life and it feels like the culmination of most everything that’s ever mattered.
And I can’t wait to have people start reading.
UPenn this weekend – debate has given me the perfect break and pacing and interspersing my secluded life with real human contact and discussion, just as planned. Very excited about the teams that are going and the potential to do well. Every weekend, like every book or chapter, is a new opportunity to maximize potential, to start fresh. Every round one starts with the possibility of winning the tournament. It’s amazing how easily I’ve been able to manifest my own need for competition into the vicarious joys of coaching. Maybe not that amazing, if one thinks about how competitive coaches can be, but it’s a relief for me that I don’t feel a big void from not competing. And if I start to, there’s always APDA Cup.
If you need me, I’ll be in the rented 2010 red Corolla with a spoiler and a sunroof. I miss the Prius already.