The following online journal entries are from November 2002.
SATURDAY. 9:15 AM. November is upon me. It's literally pounced on me and I feel like the month is only going to become more and more predatory. I have a lot to do this month and until a few things get done and settle down in my life, I'm going to be pretty swamped.
I'm trying to take it easy though. I'm trying not to take things too seriously (a skill I have yet to master). It's just the first two weeks that I have to get through.
NaNoWriMo has started as of 12:01 AM on Friday morning. I hate my novel already. I really have no clue as to where I'm going with it. I have a good idea but I think my idea deserves a bit more time, planning, consideration, and research than the thirty days will allow. I may have to have a cataclysm (meteor strike, earthquakes, nuclear war, demonic intervention) to destroy my current storyline and start all over.
I'll figure it out. I have to. I'm already a day and a half behind in my word count. Writing 1,667 words a day doesn't seem like a lot. But once you fall behind, it spirals into a monster that never seems satisfied. It doesn't help that I'm experiencing "sophmore slump." I did NaNoWriMo last year. It went very well. I actually finished my 50,000 words nearly three days early. Now, this year, I'm having difficulty getting out of the starting gate.
It doesn't help that I've got an Archaea campout in a week. The Ten Year Anniversary Event to be exact. All of this big projects are coinciding. But once the campout is over, I will have more time and hopefully more creative energy to give to my novel.
Of course, I've always got teaching to keep up with. My students turn in their fourth formal assignment this coming week, which means grading hell on top of everything else I have to accomplish.
I forced myself to take a little rest and relaxation last night. I went up to my friends Ryan and Matt (heretoforthwith to be known as the gay boys from TuND) and their friends to go to see Michael Moore's new documentary Bowling for Columbine. It's a very provocative and entertaining and sarcastically funny look at the disturbing trend in, abundance of, and addiction to fear, violence, and racism in America, which is linked to the staggering amount of gun violence perpetrated in the States. It actually reaffirmed a lot of ideas I already had in my mind about the US particularly about mainstream news media catering, baiting, frightening American audiences with tragedy after tragedy, danger after danger, disease after disease, threat after threat until it's no wonder why people are afraid of one another, why people withdraw from the world, why people ultimately lash out at the paranoid unknown. I would strongly recommend the film.
We went to The Charles movie theatre in Baltimore. I had never been to The Charles. It's a really nice theatre with an indie spirit. Tickets were only seven bucks. That's pretty good for this day and age. I wish it were a little closer to my neck of the woods.
Well, I've got to get to some work today. More later.
WEDNESDAY. 10:25 PM. I don't have a lot of time to write entries as of late. I'm up to my eyeballs in other commitments. Teaching. Working on Archaea. Falling woefully behind on my NaNoWriMo novel. Housework. Trying to avoid getting sick.
At least I voted yesterday. But it seems the Republicans have the upper hand regardless.
MONDAY. 6:35 PM. Life is full. It's mostly full of distractions, diversions, and decisions. I guess that's the nature of life, really. But then the bigger question comes up: what are all the distractions, diversions, and decisions distracting from, diverting from, and forcing choices about? That's a really good question.
So much has been going on in the last few weeks that I've been neglect in keeping up with it in my journal, both here and on paper. There are just weeks missing like a sort of chronicler's amnesia. I have to reach back, dredge the bottom of my memory, and see what comes up in the nets. I think it's time for another famous bulleted list.
• The weekend before Halloween, I went to a big party at Kate and Skinner's house. The theme of the night was Rocky Horror Picture Show. People came also dressed as characters from Moulin Rouge. We also had a few characters from the short animation film Rejected, which has been showing around the net lately. The party was fun. I dressed up as a "satanic mechanic." It was mentioned in the movie. So it was fair game. I was going to be the RKO tower but decided I'd rather be comfortable than be in some big bulky contraption. But that would've been a great costume, too. Pictures are to the left.
• Halloween itself was pretty mellow. I went to school dressed in my belted plaid. I also encouraged my students to come to class in costume. Only a few actually took the initiative and showed some spirit. They got extra participation points. Halloween night I stayed in and invited people over to just hang out, watch videos, and chill. I had wanted to go downtown or something but nothing seemed attractive and most of my friends didn't want to go out. So, I gave out candy and hung out at home. I have to say, though, that only a few kids came around to my apartment. Many of them didn't even try to dress up. When did kids get so jaded and lazy?
• Much of the first week and a half of November was spent grading papers and getting ready for Archaea, the live-action role-playing and wargaming game I started way back in 1992. November 8-10 was the first event of the new campaign. I had a lot of administrative stuff to get ready as well as make costuming, build props, and build equipment. The biggest project was getting the 5th edition rulebook finished. I switched to a larger format (8 1/2" x 11") to save on photocopying and the book ended up almost 150 pages. But it's done.
• This Monday past, last week, I went to campus to help with a button campaign to promote anti-hate on campus. The campaign made 20,000 buttons with the message "Hate is not a UMD value" to be distributed to faculty, staff, and students on campus. The buttons are a direct response to the iminent arrival of Rev. Fred Phelps, the leader of the Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kansas, who is protesting the university's choice of the Laramie Project as the First Year Book. Phelps has gained a great deal of notariety (and infamy) for his anti-gay and pro-hate stance particularly for his website www.godhatesfags.com (which I don't even want to give a hit to see what kind of virulent, homophobic, ugliness he has to spread).
• This past weekend was the 10th anniversary event of Archaea, Twenty-five or so people showed up to the event, which was held at a private farm in Clarksburg, Maryland. It turned out to be an good showing and people seemed to have a good time. It was good to see enthusiasm for the game. And it was good for me to stretch these long-dormant creative muscles. I don't think I will run another campout for a long while. It just takes too much out of me. But, hopefully, the game will continue to grow and thrive from this very promising beginning. Pictures from the event will be up on the MD/DC/VA Archaea Group page eventually.
• While I was at the campout this weekend, Phelps did show up at the University of Maryland. I am a little disappointed that I was not there to participate in the counter-protest. I would have liked to have been there to add my presence to the cause.
• I am sick with a chest cold. I started getting sick last week. I think the stress of everything finally just wore my body down and come the weekend, I was not a happy camper. But I went to the campout. I took drugs. I coughed and wheezed. I didn't campout, though. I made sure to come home, get a hot shower, and sleep in a warm bed. I'm feeling much better now. But I'm not a hundred percent. I want to be done with this cold soon.
• Today was my first day to take a breather and start cleaning up all of the crap from the campout sprawled around my apartment. I also got to sit down and do a few hours of writing on my NaNoWriMo novel. Unfortunately, I'm still way behind. Today's target word count: 18,337. My actual word count: 5,064. Not so pretty right now. But I've been away from writing for over a week. I'm trying to catch up as fast as I can. Unfortunately, with every passing day, the target word count keeps growing. Hopefully, I'll narrow the gap soon.
• I wrote the English department at UMCP about teaching next spring. The assignments for TAs and such have gone out already for next semester. So, the department should know pretty soon whether or not they'll be taking me on as an adjunct. The person in charge of the hiring believes that I'll probably get a couple of sections. I should know this week. I hope I find out soon and I hope I get to keep teaching.
WEDNESDAY. 11:59 AM. Time sure does fly. I can't believe November is nearly at a close. And the semester will soon follow. Once Thanksgiving is over, there are only two weeks left of classes. It's crazy how fast the days go by.
This past weekend was pretty full. Last Friday day, I went to see Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets with my sister and her boyfriend Brian. It was fun and entertaining. We saw a 11:55 AM showing. I was surprised to see how many parents had taken their children out of school that day to see the movie. So, the theatre was pretty packed with mostly eight to twelve year-olds. Surprisingly, they were pretty well behaved. I did have to turn around tell a group of young girls to stop "narrating" through the whole movie.
Last Friday night, I went to my friend Rob's "shipping out" party. He joined the marines and was leaving for bootcamp on Monday. (In fact, he is there now.) I had a pretty good time. At first I felt a little out of place, a little out of sync. I think part of it is that I get caught up in how different I am from a lot of my friends. The difference can come in any number of ways: age, beliefs, values, politics, interests, gender, sexual orientation, behavior. I understand that people are different and diversity is generally a good thing. But there are times when I wonder how compatible I am with my friends.
Eventually, I decided to just have a good time in my own way. I did a little more drinking. I hung out and talked. I got to know a few of the new guys from Archaea. I took pictures of the party. Plus, I was glad to be there for Rob and to make sure that he had a proper send-off. I must've had a good time because I didn't get home (thanks to my friend Scott who drove me) till after 3 AM.
Saturday morning, my sister called me at 7 AM. My father wanted to go to breakfast before he left for three weeks to go to Taiwan. Of course, my father can't do anything at a normal, human hour because we have to get together when my step-mother cannot suspect anything. I think I was still a little intoxicated when the phone woke me up. I did get up and go. We had breakfast in Bethesda. Then I came home and went back to sleep.
Saturday night, I went to the University of Maryland's production of The Laramie Project. My sister got tickets to this sold out show for her UNIV100 (Introduction to College Life or some such) class. However, none of her students decided to go. So she spread the wealth. I went with Ryan and Matt and invited a few of my students. Only one of my students decided to go. It was a good show. It was very moving, very emotional. I'm glad I got a chance to see a theatre production of the play. I really enjoy live shows.
Sunday, my Tellings group didn't meet. Sunday night, I had a little potluck for some of the DC NaNoWriMo writers. Four people showed up. It was quiet but fun and relaxing. I'm glad I got to do something to make the half-way point through the month. Though, I'm still woefully behind on my word count. Today's target word count: 33,340. My actual word count: 15,175. I'm making progress. I'm hoping to get a bunch of writing done today.
Sunday night I was supposed to go to the second installment of Feint, a night of alternative/indie music night at Staccato in Adams Morgan. I went to the first one. But I was too tired after the potluck and really didn't feel like going out in the rain. Hopefully, I'll be able to make the next one. The Washington Blade did a story on Feint and I am in the picture on the far, far right of the photo.
I guess I should get back to work. I have a few more papers to grade. And I have many thousands of words to get caught up on. I also have to prepare for the second Archaea event coming up this Saturday. There is just too much to do sometimes.
TUESDAY. 11:03 PM. My most notable achievement of the past couple of days is cranking out nearly 15,000 words of my NaNoWriMo novel. Today's target word count: 43,342. My actual word count: 36,064. I'm almost there. I should cross 40,000 tomorrow. I might even put the seatbelt on and just finish out the 50,000 words by the end of Wednesday. But I am now feeling a lot more confident that I will successfully cross the finish line for a second year in a row. The "sophomore slump" is almost over.
Besides that monumental deluge of wordage, I've been pretty distracted by some inner turmoil. I've spent the last five or six days just trying to piecemeal together some conclusions I have about my life as it stands today. Much of this introspection has been spurred by the actions (or inaction) of some of my circle of friends here in Maryland. I am feeling self-doubt and disappointment and disillusionment. And either the morass of it all will consume me for the next month or I'm going to blaze through it to figure out just what the fuck is going on.
Vague, vague, vague. I know all of this is just vague. I think I've used up all my actual articulation in my novel. Now all I'm left with are the dregs of language. I feel bad. I just want to sleep. I don't like certain things about my life, my situation. Blah, blah, blah. I have been writing quite a bit in my pen-and-paper journal. Sadly (counterproductive to my website), it's more private. But I'm sure my findings will make their way here eventually.
WEDNESDAY. 9:00 PM. Today's target word count: 45,009. My actual word count: 44,557.
THURSDAY. 11:13 AM. Happy Thanksgiving to everyone! I hope everyone has a good day with good food and good company. See you on the other side of the tryptophan haze (though the whole sleepiness thing because of turkey is really a myth). Have a great day!
FRIDAY. 3:10 PM. As if 3 PM Eastern Standard Time on Friday, November 29, I crossed the 50,000 word mark on my novel. Today's target word count: 48,343. My actual completed word count: 53,137. My National Novel Writing Month novel is done! I actually reached a logical conclusion for the story, which my last year's novel didn't do. I'm not sure the novel is really worth reading, but I'm glad that it's finished. My second year as a participant ends with a success story even after the adversity of starting way late at the beginning of November. Now, I get to relax before next year's NaNoWriMo comes rolling around.
I'm very excited. I'm very relieved. This has been an amazing experience yet again. I'm very glad that I participated even though it stressed me out and stretched my to-do list for the month of November. It's great to feel happy, to feel good, to feel accomplished. I have written another novel in only thirty days. Bestseller or bird cage lining, I've written more this month than I have in a long while or than most people have written in their lives. It's a good feeling to know that I can do it. Now I just have to turn it into something that actually supports me, pays for things like bills, and wins me a little recognition and respect.
The DC NaNoWriMos aren't going to hold the Thank God It's Over! party until next weekend. So, I'm going to have to do a little celebrating on my own.
© 2002 Edmond Y. Chang. All original material. All rights reserved.
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