And then I turned into a NaNoWriMo zombie.

Remember those diagrams in your old science books: a close-close-close up of a leaf? With arrows in and arrows out? The photosynthesis diagram, that's what I'm thinking of. And your teacher saying, Trees take air and sunlight and soil, and then they make their own food! 

(Which is still pretty cool. Good job, trees.)

Right, well, I'm feeling a bit like that lately. Only instead of dealing with sunlight and carbon dioxide, I've been taking in coffee and toast, and turning it into words.

Thousands, and thousands, and thousands of words.

I joined NaNoWriMo on day ten, right? Much to my chagrin and panic.

Well, it's day twenty-one. And I just crossed the 37,000-word mark. Which means--for those of you who are keeping score, because I'm totally keeping score--I have caught up to the pack of Wrimos who began on day one.

In eleven days (I did take one off!), I've somehow ended up with 140 handwritten pages. 

And even in my kindest moments to myself, I have to admit that I'm feeling and looking a bit like a zombie. 

A zombie who is writing a novel, sure, but nevertheless: the crazy has arrived.

... Like in a conversation just now, I repeated myself four times in a row before, uh, realizing it.

So this is gonna be a bit more of a list than a post, for the sake of all our (remaining) sanity. I don't know why that makes more sense to me, but it does. Okay. 

(There's no order, there's no theme, and there's no logic to this. I'm sitting here grinning like a zombie, bouncing to some loud music, and just happy to see words move across the screen. Hi, words!)

1. Before we go any further, if you want to know: Is this lifestyle healthy? Am I taking really good care of myself? Making smart choices? The answer would be, um, No. Not at all.

2. Am I taking good care of my characters? Nope. They're in a mess of trouble, and right on schedule too. Bad for them, but good for me, and good for readers! (Yay, readers!)

3. Starbucks Chestnut Praline Lattes. Get one. Get four. Drink up. Thank me later.

4. There's a group of NaNoWriMo participants on Twitter who band together for these little word sprints: TOTAL FUN. If you happen to be NaNo-ing this month, join in! It's awesome. (The leader says something like, "Write for ten minutes starting... now! Go go go!" And when time's up, we all chime in with our word counts. So much more fun being a zombie when you have all your zombie friends!) 

5. I've come down with my usual, mid-project case of separation anxiety. Whenever I step away from the draft, I hear little whimpering noises. And it's not coming from my spiral notebook, it's coming from me. What if the book forgets all about me when I leave? What if I lose the knack (if I even have the knack) for the characters' separate voices?

What if I pass out and never make it back to finish the book, and everyone reads how seriously deeply BAD the writing is, and they'll all say, how are we going to break this to her? Well, when she wakes up, we're gonna steer her in a very different career direction...

6. That said, I do know this: Breaks save you. They really do. So I force myself to stand up and get away. Have a little dance party. (Or a big one.) And sometimes I do some mindless straightening: it gets me moving, and then I come back later and say, Hey! Who cleaned up? It looks nice!

7. Because I can't remember who cleaned up. Because most of what I do away from my book I instantly forget. I'm not mentally stable at the moment. I've been careful not to operate heavy machinery or to sign on for anything that requires a responsible adult.

8. I really wasn't kidding about those Chestnut Lattes. Seriously, friends. I love you, and this is how you know: I want you to go get yourself one. Okay then.

9. When I collapse from a day's work, I grab a gin & tonic and watch Gilmore Girls. I believe that this was also Ernest Hemingway's formula. So, it worked for him, is all I'm saying.

10. Um. 

11. Here's my super serious intention with all this mad-dashery: To finish my book in the next five minutes.

12. Kidding! Ha ha ha ha ha ha! Kidding. Not really. 

13. Basically, I want to make the most magnetic storyworld I can. Give the characters powerful voices, build their inner and outer conflicts to a fever pitch, put all the good stuff into it. 

14. Because sometimes fiction--even when you're the one writing it--is a port in a storm. Sometimes making characters face impossible odds helps you face a few odds of your own. Sometimes, when they confront their dark fears, when they band together, when they realize what makes life worth living, sometimes when they do that, they pull you along with them.

Making them courageous has made me more courageous.

15. Yeah.

I don't know if I'll get back to blog before Thanksgiving. At that point, I might just be able to type one letter over and over and over, and not actual words. (If that happens, just know that I'm saying something nice, like Happy Thanksgiving, go hug your family, or something like that.)

But truly, I am pierced with gratitude these days. For doctors and hospitals and medical centers that know what the heck they're doing. For stories--the way they open and guide our hearts, the ways they give us strength and companionship. For all the other marathoning writers participating in NaNoWriMo. For the incredible people in my family--immediate and extended. For hope. For the goldeny color of sunlight in winter. For unexpected snowy days. 

For words. All these words. For a little corner of the blogosphere where I can stand and say a few things, and then for you, sitting where you are, reading them. 

I was born with a writer's heart. And that transaction between reader and writer: it's still one of the most precious things to me. So I'm glad you're there. Happy Thanksgiving, a bit early. Have fun and eat too much pie, okay?

Okay then. I'll be scribbling.