I decided to sign up for the National Novel Writing Month event where you attempt to write an entire novel in the month of November. This will be quite a challenge for me considering life (house, wedding plans) have taken up just about all of my spare time. A few months ago, I tried to get myself into the habit of writing for five minutes a day in a journal. Sad to say that I couldn’t even keep it up for a week. I just can’t keep a regular enough schedule yet in my day to find that space to write. I know I could do it if I specified a time every day to spend on it… I just need to be diligent and spend the time.

Our house has not come along as fast as we had hoped. However, there should be a little bit of a pause coming up now that I’ve finished painting the master bedroom closet and (almost) the hallway. Crow has promised to support me in my effort to write a novel in a month and will help me find time to spend on it (we’re trying not to book up all our weekends). I guess this will give a little taste of my dream… Where I create space in my schedule to do the writing. Too bad I still have to keep a 40 hour/week job!

I have an idea for a story. I’ve already entered the title and a quick synopsis in my profile on the NaNoWriMo site. To be honest, I don’t expect to actually finish the novel. I suppose that’s not the right attitude to take up right off the bat. I’m just hoping I get halfway through or something. My story idea is not really fleshed out. So I expect I may spend days just absently writing off the top of my head. According to my hero Natalie Goldberg  in her book Writing Down the Bones, clarity will probably emerge from the jumble of noise in my head if I proceed in this way. Maybe I will unwittingly fumble to a middle and end to the story.

Despite my already pessimistic outlook on this event, I think I’m going to go full-tilt into the process by attending the local kick-off party and maybe a few “write-ins.” I met a girl at a party last weekend who has been involved with NaNoWriMo for many years and we talked a bit about the event and writing and I guess I started to feel a little inspired. I’m not someone who has ever participated in writer’s groups. I just get intimidated being around other people who write. Jealous. Competitive. If I get it in my head that someone else is a better writer than me, I convince myself that I’m doomed to fail.

I also have this secret nagging in my head that if anyone I know gets published for real, there’s no way ever that I would get published because in my mind publication is akin winning the lottery. And billion dollar lottery winners don’t all happen in one locality. So I catch myself hoping friends and family members who write don’t get published because that reduces my chances of getting published too. I feel pressured, like I’m in a race to be the first person in my peer group to get published; otherwise, all hope is lost. Yet, I haven’t really done anything to try to get published in years. So I’m not really running the race. Surely all my friends who are trying harder than me deserve a pay off.

Of course, I feel really ashamed for having these sort of thoughts. The more sensible part of me wants nothing more for my friends and family to also experience the joy of pursuing a goal even if it is the same goal I have. And I have to remind myself that getting published is clearly not the lottery. There’s a lot of factors involved in getting published. Some of it is luck. Some of it is talent. Some of it is having the right story at the right moment and the right person just happens to see it. I’m not really competing with my fellow local writers. I’m just trying to get noticed by a very small group of people at the top of a very high ladder and all of us are a slave to that system.

And, again, I haven’t even tried to publish anything. Or even write anything (other than that novel I started two summers ago and, uhm, got interrupt when I started hanging out with Crow). So I have no real steak in the game at the moment. But I’m hoping NaNoWriMo gets my creative juices flowing again. Even if what I write can’t be used for publication later, I’m hoping at the very least that I get into a habit of writing. Because when I’m writing, when I’m really into it, I feel a sense of peace and joy. I need to remember that the reason I write is for myself… It’s an inner yearning that drives me…. I don’t write to get published, I write to lose myself in a world or express feelings I’m struggling to understand. I need to write because it’s who I am. No one can get that but another writer or an artist, I think. I have to remind myself that I can be an accomplished writer even if I never get published. I have stories to tell and they have to come out of my head. Publishing–and making money from my art–is just a bonus. (And one that is unrealistic to count on as a career.)

Anyway, I’m not expecting anything grand out of my participation in NaNoWriMo. I’m just in it to see what happens. Hopefully it is more fun than frustrating (the writing process can be quite frustrating, though). I hope I can push past episodes of writer’s block by just shutting down my critical voice and writing from the heart. I think if I don’t plan anything grand (ie, publication), and focus on just telling a good story, I will write much better than I have in years.

When I was writing my other novel in the spring and summer of 2010, I really got into it. I remember getting that feeling I used to get when I wrote novels as a teenager. For the first time in years, I was really drawn into my story as though I were a watching it play out before me on a stage (similar to the feeling a person gets when reading a book). I remember particularly one great evening session where I woke up in the morning feeling as if I’d accomplished something. I went to church that morning and felt high the entire time I was there. Writer’s high. Nothing like it.

I want to feel that again. I want to feel at one with myself. I want to feel like I’m creating something wonderful. I want to create something wonderful. I hope NaNoWriMo helps me find that again. Or, at the very least, I hope I have a useful learning experience. People who have done it in the past seem to enjoy it. I hope that this skinny ghost of an idea that I have fleshes out into something vivid. If it doesn’t, though, I have a lot more ideas running around in my head. Just. Need. More. Time.

A Call to Action

So the week that we moved into our new house, they closed the north end of our road, which provided the easiest and quickest access to the highway as well as Peninsula. Now we have to go south and around to get anywhere north and it’s frustrating. The state of the closure is indefinite; the road has been deemed unsafe for motor vehicles because part of the road is being eroded by the creek that runs along side it. It will apparently cost a lot of money to fix the road and then that fix may only be temporary. (Damn, water and its eroding properties!)

Adding to the difficulty is the fact that that part of the road is owned by a small municipality known as Boston Township. There is one house in that segment of the road owned by the national park, I believe, and therefore does not generate any tax revenue for the township. Boston Township cannot afford to pay for the needed repairs (and, likely, does not want to because one of their council members has a vendetta against cyclists in the valley).

Our section of the road is in Cuyahoga Falls. It includes about six houses, some of which are also owned by the national park but have renters (again: no tax revenue for the municipality). Cuyahoga Falls could probably afford to fix that segment of the road, but it is unclear as to whether or not they want to. I’m not sure of the politics, but being that that segment of the road is not owned by Cuyahoga Falls, I don’t know if they can fix it. The county could possibly afford to fix it. The national park, I suspect, probably cannot afford to fix it, but they are against the closure of the road. It’s the typical conundrum: Cuyahoga Falls, the national park, and the county clearly do not want to close the road… but no one wants to pay for it.

The issue of permanent closure is still being debated at the county council level. If they do decide to close it, Cuyahoga Falls will have to build a turn around at the end of our street (before the Boston Township segment) so that their city vehicles (waste management, mail, electricity, etc.) can turn around. This would make our street smaller and most definitely cut off access to the Boston Township part of the road, which will result in total deterioration of the north end of the road, making it impassible even for bicycles. A great low traffic alternative to the busy Riverview Road will be ruined!

Every day, I see cyclists of all types ride past my house along that street, just as I used to do before I had the extreme privilege of buying a house there. I know this road is very important to visitors of the CVNP, not only because it bypasses a segment of Riverview Road, but it makes a great loop for people who do not necessarily want to climb some horrendous hills out of the valley. It’s a very scenic road among trees. Right now, with the beauty of fall leaves unfolding, the road offers a tree-lined reprieve from the hustle and bustle and honking horns of Riverview Road. On our road, you have the chance of encountering all sorts of wild life–deer, coyotes, chipmunks. A multi-species choir of birds sing to you.

Hale Farm is on the south end of the street; the Everett Road Covered Bridge to the north. Lots of things to see and explore on a bike trip or hike. Our road is also, amazingly, one segment of the Buckeye Trail–the hiking trail that loops the entire state of Ohio. Just this summer, we were awed by the tenacity of runners on the Burning River 100 mile Endurance Run because our street happened to be along mile 86 (and a rest stop was at the Everett Road Covered Bridge). I’ve lived in this house since June and I’m still amazed at the bountiful resources and activities going on all around me.

We cannot lose this valuable resource in the valley. Yeah, I live on this road so I’m a bit biased. But I know that I’m not the only one who loves this road because we’ve talked to a lot of people who lament its closure. The problem is, no one wants to step up and call our representatives to let them know how they feel!! Every time we give someone the name of the representative to call, they respond with something along the lines of, “Well, we don’t have to worry. They will never close this road.”

I’m highly annoyed by the general lack of action people take. This is why things don’t change in our country–people are too afraid to act. They seem to figure that someone else will speak up and take care of the problem. But no one else is doing it. At a recent meeting of the Summit County Council discussing this closure issue, the representative stated that he did not know what the feeling of the community was about the closure because no one had called or spoken to him. This is outrageous! I’ve heard a number of people–particularly those in my bike club–complaining about the road closure. And yet no one has taken the step to call our representative. Why is that?

Another road is also in jeopardy of being permanently closed. Wetmore Road–a quiet, low traffic, tree-lined road that climbs out of the valley into a beautiful Cuyahoga Falls neighborhood that also borders the park–is another one of my favorite roads. There are plenty of roads that climb out of the valley, but a very few have little to no traffic. These roads are desirable to cyclists who would prefer not to deal with the impatience of motorists. If another low traffic road gets closed down, cyclists have less options and, therefore, are forced to take those roads with more motorists. Personally, I am not intimidated by motorists–and I will ride where I want to ride–but I always prefer to use a road with little traffic over the ones with more traffic. And, truthfully, this probably makes the motorists happier too. And it’s not like Wetmore isn’t used by cars; it too provides easy access to the valley for residents of the community at the top of the hill. If closed, these residents will be forced, like me, to have to go around some inconveniently backtrack to get to the valley. Cutting off ways to get into the national park seems so uninviting!

So with all this in consideration, if you are a frequent visitor to the Cuyahoga Valley–hiker or biker alike–I ask you to do me the very great favor and sign this petition started by the members of the Akron Bicycle Club. This is your chance–without having to make any phone calls–to voice your disagreement with the closure of Oak Hill and Wetmore roads. But if you DO want to make phone calls, I urge you to also call Joe Paradise at the Summit County Engineer’s Office –(330) 643-8105. Please don’t just sit there and wait for someone else to do the busy work for you… because often times, no one will. Don’t be an armchair advocate!