I woke up early this morning to something that's too rare right now in California: the sound of rain, draining down the downspout outside my bedroom window. This is our first serious rain of the season, one that's been anticipated for a week at least. I never had an appreciation for something as simple as rainfall until I moved here. The climate in the areas where I grew up were known for their general unpredictability (standard joke: "Don't like the weather? Wait five minutes.") Nearly two decades a Californian now, I've gotten complacent about weather in general, and tend not to have as much awareness of the passing of the seasons. This isn't meant as a brag, honestly! Despite the autumnal equinox arriving this past week, my days are the same as they were in April, or June, or August. Only the early darkness belies the fact that time is, in fact, advancing. Thanks to the ongoing drought, the hills and trees around me are in a permanent state of late summer: withered leaves and dried grass (we say "golden" to make ourselves feel better.)
The tempo of the rain just picked up, it's delightful. It's complacency-shaking, too. A reminder that change can and does happen, and that it happens whether or not we're ready for it. Now a rumble of thunder: this is a rare storm, indeed! Of course everyone along my morning commute route will also be shaken up. Californians are notoriously bad drivers, tops in many polls, and the rain brings out a special degree of incompetence. I'll need to be on my guard, as I take my future driver to school this morning. There's nothing like driving in the rain to summon Fatherly Judgment about everyone else on the road. ("You call that a turn signal?!" "Hey, headlights on! It's the law!" etc.)
Of course I'm also going to summon the spectre of NaNoWriMo in this post. We're under a month away from October, and whether it's due to new management at the Office of Letters and Light, or whether it's just blue-car syndrome because I'm unprepared, there seems to be a lot of discussion about planning and preparation this year. My initial reaction is one of the California driver, faced with the first precipitation of the season: lose all common sense, and veer wildly. "Write? Plan? I can't do it! My God, it cannot be October already."
My second reaction is that of the seasoned vet. This will be my seventh(?) foray, and all but one of those years in the Typewriter Brigade. I know I can generate 50K words in the allotted time, though let's not talk about the quality or editability or the future of those words. Like many vets, I'm not doing NaNoWriMo to prove that I can. The challenge isn't the thing any longer, and honestly hasn't been since year two.
Quite frankly, at this time of year, I'm just parched. Sapped creatively from a long development project at work, from the daily grind of drives to school, stops at the grocery, and kids' sports on weekends. I wear the same clothes every week, and do the same tasks, and attend the same meetings. It takes something like NaNoWriMo to break up the sameness. To water the mental grass, to mangle a metaphor. I have tried writing and editing on a daily basis, but the inertia of my daily life is strong, and it's hard for me to get motivated to change my habits.
When the improbability of November rolls around, though, the herald of the end of the year, and long nights, holiday plans, and other demands... somehow that's just right. I do subscribe to the philosophy of "when you have a million things on your plate, what's one more?" And NaNo is finite . By definition, it won't last forever, it makes no demands after the thirty days, there are no obligations or even expectations. A month of cutting loose, talking typewriters, photographing toy rhinos -- occasionally even writing. It's a welcome shower of weirdness on thirsty soil.
This year has been particularly withering, and I've got a lot of low-level stress that's chipping away at me right now. I'm not anywhere as prepared as I like to be for this, attempting to craft a whole novel, with my little story point milestones all typed up on notecards. Frankly, I'm a mess this year. But I'm also not going to miss out on the chance to play in the rain.