My grandfather is a man of simplicity. I stayed with him a lot when I was a young lad, spent a lot of time around the house before and after my half-days of preschool. When he didn’t fuel my chicken nugget fixation, he boiled a couple hot dogs in the microwave, cut them up for me, and gave me the ketchup, allowed me to decide how much I needed while he went into the living room to work on a puzzle. Nothing fancy, and, in retrospect, really just the bare necessities. Except the Hi-C. That was always present, but it was a luxury. Cardboard juice boxes seem to be a dying breed these days, and that’s really disappointing.
But now I’m getting sidetracked.
A couple weeks ago while I was home for fall break, I asked my mom how my grandfather and grandmother were doing, and she casually informed me:
“Poppy’s been listening to a lot of hip hop lately.”
Now this filled me with joy. My Poppy, the man who fed me chicken nuggets and hot dogs and mixed the good cereal with the “old person” cereal in a gesture that infuriated me as a child, but also allowed me to develop a taste for Raisin Bran, was now filling his days with 808s, snares, and samples.
To take a more probable approach, chances are much higher that he’s really just been listening to, like, the Top 40 hits station, but since those songs have electronic instruments and deep bass, it qualifies it as hip hop to my grandparents. Hip hop is mostly onomatopoeic to them.
Regardless, my heart overflowed with joy for a few moments as I tossed around the idea of bringing my Poppy my favorite albums. I pictured the two of us sitting in the two recliners in my grandparents’ assisted living apartment, calmly listening to and appreciating Graduation and Camp and Thank Me Later and Good Kid M.A.A.D. City and maybe even throw in some Rick Ross simply because we can. I wanted to share that with Poppy. A simple moment like hot dogs and puzzles.
I talk about this because I’ve got sharing on the mind in a way.
Currently, I’m working on NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month. Throughout November, writers all over the country (and world) sit down daily to write at least 1,666 words of a novel, aiming to have completed a 50,000 word work by the end of the month. I’ve produced two novels out of doing this in past years, and it has been wholly enjoyable.
However, this has been the first year that I have totally sucked at it. I’m sitting fancy at just over 5,000 words and I’m supposed to have double that by the end of the day. Ya boi ain’t got time for this these days.
The thing is, though, most people participating in NaNo don’t have time for it. This is just the first year I’ve really fallen in line with that. But if the experience is about writing first, it’s about community second. Almost daily, there’s a newsletter sent out about allowing yourself to panic and be behind, but to knuckle down and do absolutely everything that you can to write. Whatever that looks like, do it.
Because, as they put it, “the world needs your novel.” As if the fate of the world were in your hands.
Those are words I want to scream from a rooftop somewhere that someone will hear me. So I’ll say it again, this time from me to you:
The world needs your novel!
Because you aren’t literally writing a novel. Or maybe you are, but those words don’t have to be literal. In fact, I don’t think they should be. Another encouragement offered is “you’ve got a novel in you that only you can write.” Live your life. Even if you don’t know where it’s going or why you’re living it. If you’re in a hurt place, stay there and figure out what that really means, how you got there, and how to get out, but don’t think about getting out before finding out what that place looks like in the first place. If you’re in a high place, enjoy that. Bask in it and don’t let anyone drag you down, but instead insist on dragging them up with you.
Sometimes we are so afraid to share ourselves, our stories, our opinions and beliefs, that it keeps us from experiencing and loving those things for ourselves. And that is one of the most harmful things to do, I think. Every one of us has a story to share, and the moment we’re too afraid to is the moment we say to ourselves “my story isn’t worth anything.”
That is the greatest lie that can ever be told if you ask me.
Hyperbole? Possibly. It’s a big claim, but this is a big message. We’ll tamp out the finer points later on.
Allow yourself joy. Indulge yourself in the things that are uniquely yours, and share them with others, even when you can tell they don’t care a lick about it. Indulge yourself in the things you love to do with others, and share in that community and that connection and, for a little while, don’t use words like “me” and “mine” but only “us” and “ours.”
Recently I bought a copy of Finnegan’s Wake by James Joyce. When I first had the thought, it was somewhat out of arrogance- that I could find meaning in a book that, while not nonsense, is notorious for being nigh impossible to decipher. But as I considered it, I thought, “you know what would be more enjoyable? Simply reading.” And not even reading like I would a book, but something much simpler, yet something I don’t think I’ve ever done. Each night I read through it, word by word, simply to embrace and revel in my love for words. The fact that the book doesn’t make sense has allowed me to cast off all other pretense and just read for reading’s sake and it has been the most liberating activity I’ve taken part in in quite some time. It is nothing but happiness, deconstructed ecstasy.
Incredibly pretentious? Sure. But there’s another freedom in allowing myself not to care about that either.
One last thought, because I think I’m wearing thin on the message here. In the movie Her (which is phenomenal, and if you haven’t seen it, you should as soon as possible), Theodore has a couple lines that just blew my mind and captured my heart. His character, visually, comes off as socially awkward and sort of creepy, but you get these glimpses into him that show that he is so much more than that, and, better yet, he is aware of it. He writes for a living and he confides that sometimes he thinks back on all the things he read that day, and decides “I think I’m my favorite writer today.”
I wrote a short story months ago about a guy who was afraid of everything around him because he didn’t think he was the main character of his own story. You can find it on this blog if you care to. That sort of mentality is poison.
Now, I wholeheartedly believe, as a Christian, that our lives should point to Jesus, but that doesn’t hinder us from being the main characters of our stories. And our arcs should look a lot like His, yes, but even He wants us to choose that. So even when you do choose that, you’re still writing the story. So be your favorite writer today. Do something you love, and do it beautifully. Help others do the same. Invite them along to love themselves, and love them in that way.
The world needs your novel.
You have a novel in you that only you can write.
And you are writing it.