They say the best way to not write a novel is to not write every day. When you first wake up is a particularly good time to not write. But as I join billions of others around the world in quarantine, I worry my newfound free time is going to get in the way of not writing a novel.
Ever since I was young, I felt I was destined to not write a novel. I have all these terrible novels inside me that need to stay in. But now it’s harder than ever to find the distractions from writing a novel. It’s made me reevaluate my life. What if I wasn’t destined to not write a novel? I admit, I find myself the closest I’ve ever been to giving up. Around lunchtime, when I have breakfast, I sometimes have a moment of weakness and open up my favorite word processor before I get back on track and check Twitter. It’s wonderful. It’s almost like it was invented solely to keep me from writing a novel. Next thing I know, it’s time for pre-lunch and that just devolves into ten hours of grazing pita chips and hummus. Then it’s time for bed.
Those are the good days, when the characters just seem to not write themselves.
On the tough days, I can’t shake the thought of a plot. I think about all the budding relationships that were torn apart by the quarantine, and if their love will find a way to work in the hardest of times — but I remember we have been through enough. I feel a calling to not write that story. No matter how much I struggle, I force myself to complete my goal of no words a day.
Other times, like after watching an entire Ken Burns series in one sitting, I get so frustrated that I think about giving up and just writing a couple hundred words about being stuck on a cruise ship as the virus spreads through the cabins. But then I remember. It’s okay. Not writing a novel is hard. So many other white men like me have tried and failed to not write a novel. If it were easy, everyone wouldn’t do it. If Sean Penn couldn’t do it, then I can.
On the worst days, I wonder, am I living in a novel, being quarantined in these uncertain times? I haven’t read a novel about a guy who wears hockey jerseys and eats hummus and lives in my apartment, and I start to think I need to tell that story. But I am lucky enough to have a designated non-writing room and can pop in there whenever I get the urge. That old adage about not writing novels always creeps back in my mind. Don’t write what you know. Or at all.
Just to make sure I don’t accidentally let myself down and produce 65,000-80,000 relatable words on the human condition, I think I’ll get an MFA.