Contemplations on NaNoWriMo

When’s the best time to start thinking about NaNoWriMo.

December 1st

Wha-wha-What???

No, seriously. If you want next years’ experience to be a success, I suggest you sit down and have a good hard think.

December 1st

Because that is the point when all the trials and tribulations are over, but the bitter tang of ire and frustration are still on your lips. When you can still smell the acrid ink and stale coffee. When fresh is the recriminations and tears. And that’s if you manage to win.

December 1st

Because, let’s face it, between now and next year there are all these months in which to do one of two things. Either, you work the trauma up in your mind to a point where just thinking about writing 50,000 words makes you want to run in the opposite direction, or you have adequately lobotomized yourself into thinking it’ll be a walk in the park, only to end up lost and on the wrong side of town. Save yourself either of these delusions. There’s a more constructive path available.

Whether you managed to eke out those 50,000 words or not, you have learned a lot going through this experience. What better time to take note of all the things you should have done, what didn’t go as smoothly as you’d  hoped, and to come up with an approach that ensures that they do the next time around.  Adversely now is also the time to pat yourself on the back. You’re going to want to remember all the smart moves you made that helped you along the way, so that you can recreate them next year.

Here are some suggestions you might consider, to make your next NaNoWriMo easy peezy lemon squeezy – well not exactly, but you know what I mean:

Use Tools

You’d think that a writer might not need to think about this. Tools however could be anything from a great writing software like Scrivener or yWriter that actually organizes your writing, to apps that organize your time. And time seems to be the biggest issue. As there is no tool that’s going to add two more hours to a day, the key is to use the available time more effectively.  Are you an AWADJ (Artist with a Day Job)? Maybe next year strategically schedule some vacation time. I take off every Monday in the month of November. Having those three days is a great way to get into the groove of writing and a much needed chance to catch up on all those low word count days.

Seek Help

Of course, you’re going to seek help from friends and family. They can be a great resource for not only emotional support but practical assistance with a busy schedule.  One of the great things about doing NaNoWriMo, however is there is a whole community out there doing the same thing, going through the same challenge, rising and falling and getting back up again. It is a community of writers who all have tips and tricks and different approaches to writing and the writing life. Some of their solutions might just work for you. But don’t wait for November. This community offers many solutions to help you prepare for, not just get through the challenge.

Get your Head in the Game

This is the hardest thing to do. Doubt, guilt, and fear can plague us. Those are often the things that pull us away from giving ourselves fully to NaNoWriMo. You have to decide whether or not you’re going to let them. Getting great suggestions from other writers and managing your writing time is important, but until you can feel positively invested in NaNoWriMo, you might be the biggest obstacle of all.

But hey, don’t sweat it. You’ve got a whole year to prepare.

When Life Hands You… Mushrooms?

I am an AWADJ. An Artist With A Day Job. And I know there are a lot of us out there. You know who you are. And as an AWADJ, some of you might have heard the following saying; employees are like mushrooms; feed them crap and leave them in the dark. It’s called Mushroom Management.

There is a considerable amount of inaccuracy when it comes to this suggestion for mushroom cultivation. I’m sure not a few mushrooms have been harmed in the propagation of this myth. More importantly however, it is the belief system that probably does more damage.

With stats on employment engagement low, workplace bullying alarmingly high, and the desire for increased collaboration and team work prevalent, the mushroom management technique can only grow anxiety, paranoia and animosity. Why anyone would think those desirable traits in a workforce boggles my brain, but for whatever reason in some places, the mushroom management technique is a common and accepted practice. I mean it’s got its own name and slogan for crying out loud.

But is it all bad? Aren’t mushrooms delicious? Why pick on mushrooms?  I love mushrooms. So does my husband. And yes they are often grown out of decay and found in the shade of some large tree. But they are beautiful things whose colour and architectural grace defy imagination. It can’t just be for their hallucinatory properties that they inspire thoughts of fairy rings and the caps on goblins.

As a bit of inspiration I’d like to offer up a little mushroom montage, courtesy of my husband and his unique eye and of course his appreciation for mushrooms.

skagway-hike-2-006-c-2006-trlskagway-hike-1-012-c-2006-trl dewey-lake-hike-3-004-c-2006-trl dewey-lake-hike-3-041-c-2006-trl  dewey-lake-hike-3-042-c-2006-trl mushroom-3-c-2006-trl

I’m not sure why we feel that feeding anyone crap and leaving them in the dark is a good way to go, but it happens. Just remember, when life hands you crap, you can use it to grow. Like mushrooms. Beautiful, pungent, don’t-give-up mushrooms.

And for those of you fond of that saying, remember, some mushrooms are poisonous.

Effort

Feet. Huh? How do they do it. How do they get their feet there. Right up to their chins so that they can actually put their toes in their mouths. It’s a marvel. It’s a miracle. It looks impossible. It looks effortless.

And okay, okay. Don’t start. I’m sure there’s some perfectly reasonable explanation. For you doctors out there, cool your jets. Don’t bother getting into some long winded diatribe about the nature of babies bodies and distances between said feet and mouths of said infants and it’s all perfectly normal and blah, blah, blah….

No. Quit it. It still looks amazing because frankly, I can’t do it and can’t remember I time when I could. And I’m not the only one. You always hear adults comment on that whenever they see a baby do that. Or really whenever we see anyone do something we can’t. We want to believe that they’re just lucky or that the hand of God just came down and touched them on the forehead or that the distance between their mouths and feet aren’t as far as ours. We want to believe that. We have to, because we need to understand, why is everything so darn hard for us.

But what might seem effortless is really a lie hidden behind a fear. The truth is those feats of daring do, those amazing successes, and heart-stopping works of art happened because of effort. Someone decided that it was worth it to take the risk or learn that task or sit in that chair and just put their head down and do it. They decided that despite the failures and disappointments and things they had to learn that they didn’t already know, it was worth the effort. October 31st you said to yourself that writing 50,000 words in a month was worth it. And nothing has changed.

So as you round the corner, two-thirds of the way through, and start to speed wobble your way down towards the last leg of NANOWRIMO, keep putting in the effort. And even if it looks like you won’t make the 50,000 or your story is an abysmal mess, or you’ve actually ditched the one you started on for another, keep going. There is nothing more crucial to be gained than exercising the discipline to engage in effort. Effort is what gets you over the hump, around the block and through to the end.

And as for the babies? Don’t worry about it. They’re looking at you and going, feet. Huh? How do they do it. How do they just walk around like that. How do they not fall over. And running? Wow that looks impossible.  But it isn’t. ‘Cause soon there’s some toddler running all over the place and getting into all kinds of mischief. All with a little bit of effort.

Happiness

As you can see from my blogroll, I’m a fan of Ted Talks. If you haven’t yet, I recommend you check it out. Ted presents a wealth of inspiring talks given by inspiring people. It’s like a smorgasbord of heart, soul and mind candy. Except that these are all good for you.

One such delicious treat is the talk given by Shawn Achor. His topic, The Happy Secret to Better Work, is not only thought provoking, but down-right funny. He discusses principles on positive psychology, exploring the concept that success comes from happiness, not the other way. And at this point in our November endeavors, we NANOWRIMO writers might need such good news.

We’ve reached the half way mark. The thrill of the blank page is over. The excitement of meeting your characters and exploring new settings or even worlds is gone. The rush you got from seeing your words spread across the page like droplets of paint into water has turned into so much inky mud. The joy has been replaced by the mad juggling act of keeping in the air all the balls of what has happened so far, and where it all must lead. You’re perhaps a little behind in your word count.  Nothing on the page is making sense. Doubt has started to creep in. But that’s when you need to be positive.

Cast aside the temptation to allow your inner editor to enter the stage. Close the door on stage right and focus on right now. Stop questioning what you’ve done. You’ve changed your mind and your romantic lead is suddenly swarthy and dark, not blonde and blue eyed? Your planet name has morphed into something almost unpronounceable? The Femme Fatal is now the Mentor? Don’t sweat it. Make a comment. Jot down a reminder. You’ve got ‘Draft 2’ to iron out all those inconsistencies, once the big picture is there in front of you.

Let it just happen. You may even discover that the story is talking to you. Here, in the midst of the influence of the muse, within the freedom of non-judgement, in the throws of getting all those darn words on the page, you’ve got a chance to listen to the story that lives inside you. Indulge in the journey of the pen to page, or the finger to keyboard as the case may be.  Give yourself permission to explore. Only then will you reach the end with something in hand. And the only way that will happen is if you stay positive and keep going.

If after getting a dose of positivity from the video, you want more from Mr. Achor, I highly recommend his books Before Happiness and The Happiness Advantage. In them, he lays out steps you can take to bring more positivity into your life. He believes by employing principles of positive psychology, we can improve our well-being for the long-term. And there’s nothing more long-term than writing a novel.

But of course don’t read them right this minute. You’ve got to push through this hump and get those words on the page.

Just remember to enjoy the journey my fellow Nanowrimo-ians.

Community

If you write or have thought about writing or know someone who does, one truth rings out strong and clear. Writing is lonely work. You sit, alone and think. And think and think and then write and think some more and then hit delete a bunch of times and then write and write and write. Every now and then you come up for air and usually at least in my case, hours have gone by and I’ve really got to pee. I don’t mean to be crass, but that’s the truth of it.

How can that happen? How can you spend so much time alone? I think because while I’m physically alone I’m not really alone. I’m lost in a world, of my own creation. I have created my own community. And as much as that might smell of a rank dose of self-important god complex, my world, for as much as I plot and plan and draw diagrams and collect pictures of who and what I think lives there, still seems to have a mind of its own.

This article was supposed to be about community. We are all part of many different communities; work, home, family. I am part of a writers critique group that I meet with once a week. I highly recommend finding a group of writers with similar passions about writing, who can share their work and their journey with each other. That community offers me a place where I can be pushed to be the best writer I can be in a safe and joyful arena. For the month of November I am part of a grand community of writers who all collectively invite the muse to visit them. And in that month I explore a brand new community of characters and settings and worlds that live in my mind and manifest on the page.

Maybe I’m just nuts but I guess writing isn’t that lonely after all.  I’ve got plenty of company.

One third down, two thirds to go, my fellow NANOWRIMO-ites. Heads down and keep going!

National Novel Writing Month – Oh My

What was I thinking starting a blog the same week I’m into another NANOWRIMO.

For those who don’t know, NANOWRIMO also known as National Novel Writing Month, is an online event that happens in November. It is a time when writers band together in communal angst to each write 50,000 words; what constitutes a first draft of a novel. If you’ve never heard of this before or better yet if you’re all too familiar and want a ten-minute pat on the head that says ‘buck up, you are not alone’, watch this.

The Month of Writing Dangerously

So again I ask myself; why have I put even more on my plate?

Don’t I have enough words to put down on the page, without adding more? Did my day suddenly sprout two extra hours? Has my week grown two extra days? Weekend days preferably, of course. Have I learned to function on less sleep? Just so’s you know the answer to all of these questions is a resounding no. A ‘no’ with a deep bone shaking echo that fades into the universe and leaves you with a hollow cold feeling. Yeah. That kind of no. So why am I putting myself though this?

Perhaps I need an outlet to share my own angst. Perhaps after writing several novels, I am forcing myself to take the next necessary step that all authorpreneurs are taking and get myself a website/blog. Or maybe I’m afraid. I’m looking to ease so slowly into social media, [feet dragging trenches into the floor slowly] that this other challenge offers the perfect excuse for why I’m not blogging more frequently. Of course now that I’ve come right out and said it, or rather put it in print, there’s no hiding, no making excuses.

On the other hand, I might just be getting too darn cocky. Last year I finished my novel with days to spare. I don’t actually need the whole month to get my words in, do I? The full 30 days and x amount of waking hours? Naw.  I’m good. It’s all good. Well, we’ll see if hubris doesn’t just rise up out of the dust of my powdery words to bite me on the butt. And of course if she does, I’ll have to blog about it. But then I’ll have something to blog about. Hey! That’s turning a frown upside down!

Good luck to all my fellow Nanowrimo writers. Keep the faith and see you at the finish line.

My First Blog Ever

What can you find here? Initial sketches. Stuff I’m working on, that I’m pouring my energies into. Things I’m perspiring over. Thoughts and ideas. What keeps me going, energizes and makes me think. Makes me feel, too. Those inspirations that I want to share. Most importantly, however, this is supposed to be fun.

Remember play? Immersing yourself into an activity, a game, a book, a craft or hobby and before you know it the street lights are on, or the sun has gone down and you are in darkness and have to switch on a light to keep going. Remember that? When time becomes so elastic, so fluid that it is more spirit than science.

Maybe you find it in your work but one wouldn’t call that play. Maybe you find it in the thing that you do that makes you, you, even if you aren’t getting paid to do it, right now. That’s still not play. These efforts require so much of you. So much care and thought and planning. So much research and analyses, pros and cons and what worked and what didn’t and what can be improved upon and next time it’ll be better. And make no mistake that is all wonderful in itself. That striving and success and failure and challenge. I love it.  But that isn’t play.

Play is frivolous and free. It is in the moment. Not one second before or after. So much of our lives are not this. But you should find it. Find it and live in it every now and then. Rest with play. Recuperate with play. Rejuvenate with play. That’s what I’m going to do here.  At least that is my hope.

I am dipping my toe into the current of social media and giving myself permission to just splash around.

There will be other sites of mine that are not like this. They will be focused and purposeful. This will not be that. This will not be perfect. This will not have a plan, accept to say, there is no plan. I will try not to be too uptight about this. I will share my imperfections and foibles and not judge myself too harshly. I will be kind. Kind to you and to myself. I may rant. I may praise. These are only my opinions, imperfect as they are. And if that’s all okay with you, you can join me.

But remember, this is supposed to be fun.