SEVENTEEN HUNDRED words and change. That’s how much fiction I wrote on November 1, the first day of National Novel Writing Month, a balls-to-the-wall creative sprint in which writers challenge themselves to produce a new, 50,000-word work in the space of 30 days. That works out to 1,667 words a day, so I was right where I needed to be.
The idea behind the thing is to force you to get words out of your head and onto the page, working so quickly that you just don’t have time to listen to the crippling criticism of your inner skeptic or fuss over each sentence until you have the precise word picked out, the exact punctuation marking your sentences. That stuff comes later, after you’re done; for one month you’re doing nothing but writing, 1,667 words a day, your personal editor bound and gagged and locked in a closet like the Gimp.
WHEN I was 23 or 24, I wrote the first chapter of what I intended to be my first novel, and to call it a piece of shit would be to insult all of the shit that has ever been published.
It was an angsty and lovelorn and overly earnest chapter about a guy not long out of college, who, sure as shootin’, looked and acted very much like his creator, an angsty and lovelorn and overly earnest guy not long out of college. Like virtually every young, first-time novelist, I was writing about myself and, like virtually every young, first-time novelist, I was doing a piss-poor job of it.
New York is not the city that never sleeps. Las Vegas is.
At 4 o’clock last Saturday morning, I left a nightclub inside Mandalay Bay, and while the casino wasn’t quite as busy as when I had walked in a few hours earlier, neither was it silent. Commerce continued; the lights were on. Had my middle-aged body not been reminding me with each exhausted step that I no longer have any business staying up until such hours, I might have thought it was a quiet Tuesday in the early afternoon.
But I’m 43, and there’s no way around that, and while Las Vegas has plenty to offer those of us no longer in the full flower of youth, its more hedonistic charms now exact an ever steeper price.