The Bulletin Board
by Ian Birnbaum
My roommate, Scott, has a bulletin board above his desk. The board, a rectangular brown cork board from Target, is decorated, interestingly enough, like a scrap book. Pictures, cards, notes to himself all make up this page that always changes – a daily reflection on his present personality. A little like a MySpace profile, but without all the lame.
Scott changes the wall often, perhaps because he is the most introspective person I’ve ever met. There’s a difference between smarts – book smarts or wisdom or worldliness – and introspection, though. You could be an idiot and still manage to pull off introspection. But fortunately for Scott, he’s also an exceptionally smart guy and he has a lot of self to analyze.
Nestled between a to-do list, a budget and a work schedule are random objects and papers – the playing card he found in the park, poems he jotted down, song lyrics and Album cover art. We were talking this afternoon, and I noticed a new decoration on the board. Printed in sharpie script on simple orange paper, it reads:
I’m going to write a novel in the next year.
The note is up in the top left corner of the board - the same spot that, when you were a kid, you would sign your name on your school papers. It occurs to me that the same kind of thing is happening there on Scott's board. In a way, Scott is signing his bulletin with a name for the year. This year will be entitled: The Novel.
Scott, like me, is the literary type. Last year he attempted the NaNoWriMo, but fell short after about 30,000 words – which is still pretty damn good. This year we’ve both decided to participate – which I’m sure you’ll hear endlessly about come November. NaNoWriMo attempts to attack The Block, which, when it comes to writing, is a potent psychological barrier. When it comes to the daunting prospect of writing a book, many writers turn away from what can only be described as a monumental task.
I mean, a book, you know? A column can take an hour, a research paper can take a week - but 50,000 words? 200 double-spaced pages in a word processor? Such things can seem impossible.
Scott is old for a student - there's no polite way to say it. At 29, he's had to go back to school to finish his degree, and he's playing student games of financial aid, term papers and homework while being very much into adulthood; while being very much a part of the "real world." Even though he's only inches away from his degree, I wonder if Scott ever thinks of his education as an impossibility. An unlikelihood even more far-fetched than a fresh faced kid churning out 50,000 words from his soul. Surely there can be more than one kind of impossible.
But there goes Scott, signing a name for impossible. Sometimes, Scott gives me hope that he should probably save for himself, but I appreciate it all the same.