by B. Lee Miller

For those who don’t know, every November is National Novel Writing Month. NaNoWriMo ( Every year, over 300,000 people around the globe certify having written a 50,000-word novel in thirty days. Now, the point is not quality, although the one previous time that I participated, I produced a draft of a novel that now runs around 65,000 words and that I am still revising and from which I’ve sent out excerpts for publication. The point is the process. Getting used to putting words on paper, whatever may come of it.


This year is my second year to participate. My class, Gender and Literature, is spending much of November writing. They are to write a critical essay and some sort of literature. It is up to them whether to complete a lengthy, messy draft of something, or a more finished, and thus necessarily shorter draft. We will then read one another’s work and look at gender in this newly written literature. It should be fun.

Those who participate in NaNoWriMo know that you must average 1,667 words per day to reach the 50,000-word goal. I don’t know that I’ll make it this year. I have too much on my plate. But I did start today on a project I have tentatively titled “Beautiful Beginnings.” It will be made up entirely of journal entries by the two main characters. I began today by writing 3,193 words, 328 of which I’ve pasted below. For a little context, the writer of this journal entry is exploring a long term fascination with the number 28, and the numbers 4 and 7 that, when multiplied, make 28. Anyway, here you go:

I walked between home and school all through my four years of Elementary School. It was a long walk, so I had a lot of time to think. I would count to four, or sometimes eight, over and over in my head. I counted to four in my head a lot in those four years. And I would make short humming noises with each step. Four at a time. Hm. Hm. Hm. Hm. It was a tick that I sometimes still have to keep myself from doing. It started up again four months and four days ago. The whole day today I counted to four in my head. Sometimes hummed. Hm. Hm. Hm. Hm. Four steps at a time, just like in marching band during my four years in High School. Left. Right. Left. Right. Four steps and four beats at a time. For the four beats for every bar. Most music is structured four beats per bar, four bars at a time, and in sixteen-bar sets – four times four is sixteen, four times sixteen is sixty-four. I will never see sixty-four. You wouldn’t need me if I did reach sixty-four. There were four Beatles.

Four is a pretty common number. There are four corners of the earth. Four horsemen of the Apocalypse. Four Gospels. There are four sides to a square. Four seasons. For directions. North. South. East. West. In Buddhism, there are Four Noble Truths. I was forty-four, with the dash, when my life changed forever. The day was April 4, 2014: 4/4/14. I began my walk on August 8 – 8/8, two times four is eight. You were sixteen – four times four – when I changed your life forever. If you google “living homeless for dummies” you can find a page with the picture of homeless man holding a sign that says “Family Kidnaped by Ninjas Need $4 Karate Lessons.” I need to try to get eight hours of sleep tonight. Two times four is eight.


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