Patient Spiders and Writing a Novel

I'm not one of those people who carefully transports spiders back to the outdoors where they belong. Catch and release isn't really my thing; it requires getting too close to a tiny eight-legged creature that freaks me out for no good reason. My preferred method of disposal is the vacuum. It's efficient and it lets me stay a good distance away from the enemy while I get the job done. 

It's not that I don't like spiders. I understand their place in the ecosystem, and I don't hold a grudge against them. I live in Minnesota, where spiders are small and relatively harmless. Our insects are creepy, but they aren't trying to kill us. I mostly just want the spiders to stay out of my house and leave me alone.

This mindset is how I came to call a truce with the biggest spider I've ever seen. 

It appeared outside the kitchen window one day in late August. I looked up from making the kids toast and was met with the furry underbelly of a black spider whose body was bigger than both my thumbs put together. It was squatted in the center of the most perfect web I've seen outside a science textbook. I later estimated (from a safe distance) that the web stretched wider than my own wingspan.

I shuddered and went back to the toast, making a mental note not to look out the window if I could help it and to stay away from that corner of the deck when we went outside. I'd never seen a spider stick around in one place for long. I figured it would be gone in a day or two. 


Three weeks later, the spider was still there. Sometimes it moved to the edges of the web. Other times you could spot it balled up and dangling from a thread, swaying in the breeze like it was enjoying a hammock of its own making. My husband offered to take the web down one Sunday afternoon, but I declined. 

I had developed a strange kinship with the spider. (I'll admit it was probably a one-sided relationship.) 

I admired the way she---I decided my spider was female---waited patiently each day, sticking to her near-perfect web in search of flies. She seemed to have a high success rate. I'd never actually seen her snacking on insects, but our fly population decreased noticeably once she showed up. 

She stayed for a little over a month. Then I looked out the window one morning, and she was gone. Her web came down slowly, one thread at a time, softened by rain and pulled at by wind. There were a few tattered strands left until last week, when a few days of rain-turned-snow took care of the last of it. 


It's November, known in the writing community as National Novel Writing Month. I haven't participated in NaNoWriMo since high school, and I've never reached the goal of 50,000 words. 

I'm doing NaNoWriMo this year. I think it's the spider's fault. 

An idea that first turned up nearly a year ago started tugging at my brain around the same time the spider took up residence on our deck. Somehow, I've managed to twist the simple act of a spider doing spider-y things into a metaphor for all the writer-y things I could be doing.

The spider built a web. (I could write a book.) The spider stuck with her web for a long time, showing more persistence than I have in perhaps my entire life. (I could stick with an idea long enough to make it work.) Her web was gorgeous. (My book could actually be good.) She left when her work was done. (I always leave before my work is done. Maybe it's time to change.)

So despite everything that's working against me---a three-year-old, a one-year-old, a husband, writing and editing clients, and Thanksgiving---I'll try to write 50,000 words in 30 days. 

I don't have high hopes of winning, but I do have high hopes of making something.