Money. I found your weed money.


Why not use your bank card for your purchase?

A while back, crossing the street near Seattle’s Pike Place Market, I looked down to not trip on the curb, and… What’s this? Oh, that familiar green. (No, money.) Yoink. And not just a few bucks. Three hundred dollars in crisp, neatly folded* C-notes.

Before I saw the denomination I looked back at the tourists crossing the opposite way, and up and down the sidewalk I had just reached. No one was digging in his or her pockets or purse. No one was juggling a wallet and keys and phone and ice cream cone and ten shopping bags. No one was obviously the loser of this cash.

And while no amount of money lasts long on a crowded public sidewalk on a sunny Saturday*, it wasn’t like finding a just-dropped ATM card so while the moment was still the moment I could yell out, “Stella!” hold up the card to whomever’s head jerks around, then ask her to spell “Kowalski” to prove she was she. I’d have gladly given it back to its rightful owner. I’ve done that. I do that*. It didn’t seem possible this time.

Then I checked to see how much that rightful owner was out. Yikes. Good for me times three hundred? Not really. Call me crazy, but I can’t feel good about keeping that much money that doesn’t belong to me. Five bucks? Sure. That won’t hurt most people. Three hundred?

My wife and I waited on that corner for about twenty minutes to see if anybody came back, looking like they were searching. Nope. A parade of touristy folks looking overstimulated and underwhelmed. One young couple ambled by three times, so we asked them if they had lost anything? Maybe some cash? (Who’d guess three one-hundred-dollar bills?) You look like you’re looking for something. “No, we’re just looking for a brunch place.”

Okay. So we now have $300 we don’t feel good about keeping.

Let’s give it away.

Three hundred bucks seems like too much to give away to someone on the street. For that matter, so does a hundred.

This is not the droid you’re looking for.

Side note: I worked in Brand Marketing at Disney when the first Toy Story came out. They gave us these giant Buzz Lightyear toys. Having no kids, it was just hanging around the house when a four-year-old trick-or-treeter showed up in full Buzz Lightyear regalia. Oh, my little friend, do I have a treat for you. It didn’t even fit in his bag. I got the Big Eyes from the little boy, but the mother’s look was definitely You A-hole. You’ve Destroyed His Concept of Halloween. It is possible to give too much.

So the plan became to break the hundees into twenties and give those to people on the street, spread the love. Good plan? Nope. Now I’m walking around downtown judging homeless people. That lasted less time than we waited on the corner for you, panicked unstoned stoner tourist.

So the new plan became to give your weed money to somebody expert at helping homeless people. Good plan? Good plan. We gave your* $300 to Plymouth Housing Group here in Seattle.

Mission Statement: “Plymouth Housing Group works to eliminate homelessness and address its causes by preserving, developing and operating safe, quality, supportive housing and by providing homeless adults with opportunities to stabilize and improve their lives.”

I feel good about that. I hope you do too. Helping homeless people stabilize their lives? That’s a righteous high.

* No, if this money was yours, you cannot have it back, even if you can prove it was yours, which you can’t. The bills were crisp, but not neatly folded. They weren’t quite wadded, but their folding was haphazard at best, the fold job you’d do as you hurried out of the bank whispering, “Right, brah, let’s get that weeeed, man.” And it wasn’t necessarily that close to the market. Also, it might have been a Sunday. I don’t remember. It wasn’t last week. Sunny, remember? (It’s literally snowing as I type this.) It was over the summer. Sometime. I donated the money in September. You. You donated the money in September. Good job. You did a nice thing. Thanks.

Words, Polonius. Too many words.

Words, Polonius. Too many words.

November 1st. Today begins NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month, during which people around the world try to write fifty thousand words in thirty days. It’s great. It’s an excellent way to build and maintain momentum on a project. There’s a supportive online community offering encouragement, tips on writing, and tips on surviving the month. And if you write your fifty thousand words—however horrible—you “win” NaNoWriMo!

It’s great. But it’s not for me.

I’ve tried it. I won’t say I failed, though I did not reach the 50k goal the year I tried. What I did do was relearn the lesson that high-volume output is never going to work for me. (We’ll skip all the whinging about perfectionism and how writers can get bogged down agonizing over every word as it’s produced.) A beautiful finished product is not the point of tossing down 1,667 words a day for a month. The point is getting it out. As much as possible. The point is volume. And volume is my problem.

I am a slow reader, a very slow reader. For a writer, exceptionally slow. I have a form of dysgraphia that means I can only read as fast as I can turn the words on the page into sounds in my head. (No, my lips don’t move.) That’s a really slow process, but it’s how my particular brain works. The upside is that I’m a close reader. I’m deeply in tune with the sound and rhythms of the words and sentences. I’m paying a great deal of attention, and I don’t miss much. Post-doc comprehension; fourth-grade reading speed. Seriously. For complex literary fiction, I might be downshifting further.

Your ten-year-old reads faster than I do.

So. If you can’t read fast, and reading is a huge part of editing, whatcha gonna do? You gotta minimize the reading, at least the reading of dreck you know is destined for deletion even while you’re typing it. So I avoid that dreck. I plan. I need to know where I’m going, what scenes I’ll include, and even how those scenes are going to be shaped. I need to know my characters and their relationships and conflicts before I start.

Cats may work with you or against you.

Cats may work with you or against you.

Not all the discovery comes during the thinking and planning phase, but I’d say at least half of it does. That’s unusually high. “Pantsers,” who write by the seat of their pants, just start, and write and write and write and find out what their story is when they happen across it. That’s never going to work for me. I don’t have time to sift through all the shtuff on the way to the story. I can bang out minor dents here and there, and of course there will be polishing, but I’ve got to build the thing right, or pretty damn close to right, the first go. (Of course I revise and edit. A lot. I’m not an idiot. I’ve just developed a process that avoids later wholesale scrapping of material.)

So, again, I’m not doing NaNoWriMo this year. What I can do this month is write every day. And that’s my plan. It won’t be 1,667 words a day, and won’t be 50,000 by December. But this book will be closer to done, and that’s a win for sure.

Good luck to all the NaNoWriMo-ers this month. Happy writing.