NaNoWriMo

:: Honor Your Reality ::

* This post is in response to a writing prompt from DIY MFA Book Club which I wrote about here.

The second writing prompt in the series is this:

In essence, this question is asking us how we balance real life with the writing life.

This is a tough one to answer because I’m still pretty inexperienced as far as big projects go. However, I think my recent attempt at participating in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) opened my eyes to the importance of setting realistic expectations. Writing is HARD. Sometimes I feel blessed by the writing Gods… making the time to write comes easily, the words flow onto the page and it all doesn’t completely suck. More often though, I’m tormented by the inability to find/make the time to sit down and work, I’m at a complete loss for words and what I do manage to write is unimaginative and dull.

The reality for me is that I’m lucky if I can knock out 300 words whenever I do force myself to park my ass in the chair and work. My outline is currently a mess because I’ve been indecisive about how many parts it should be based on a gap in time within my story and whether or not that will affect the number of chapters, word count, etc. (I know at this stage it is not supposed to matter but I can’t stop obsessing over it.) I *thought* I would be able to complete my first draft a lot quicker; I’m coming up on a full year and only have two-thirds of it completed. And, to top it all off, I have no fucking clue what I’m doing.

All of that has to be balanced with my responsibilities as a wife and mother while managing a household, paid writing work, projects and hobbies, health and fitness endeavors, and whatever else life throws my way. I guess, to be honest, I don’t know that there really is a true balance. The key though, I’m learning, is to ignore the unrealistic expectations and focus on doing what I can when I can.

To sum it up, I suppose that I honor my reality by showing up to write even though life is a big, crazy blur and my work is all a mess and complicated and I’m afraid that I don’t know what I’m doing. And I’ll keep showing up because I know that’s the only way I’ll achieve what I’ve set out to do.

 

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::A brief recap of NaNoWriMo::

Even though November is a distant memory, I’m still getting regular email from the National Novel Writing Month organization (NaNoWriMo). The messages in my inbox consist of requests for support, opportunities for writers to get feedback on their manuscripts, or alerts about new blog posts on topics such as maintaining creative momentum and the next steps in the pursuit of publishing.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for supporting this awesome organization and welcome mail from them! However, each email has been a somewhat bitter reminder of my failed attempt to participate in the movement. (I wrote a little bit about what derailed my efforts here.) Having had a little time to reflect these past few weeks following NaNoWriMo, I’ve realized that I actually gained some solid insight from my attempt… even if I don’t have a complete manuscript to show for it.

Four things I learned attempting to participate in NaNoWriMo 2017.

Lesson #1

In the weeks leading up to November, I was at a complete loss for an idea – a story – to write about. Then, magically one day in the shower, I was struck by an idea. A good idea (at least I think it’s a good idea and that’s all that matters, right?)! For the past year, I’ve been so attached to the work of my first (still in progress) novel, The Colonel’s Keeper, that I couldn’t see past it or believe that I was capable of unlocking another creative treasure buried somewhere deep inside my subconscious. I was pleasantly surprised to discover otherwise!

Lesson #2

One of my concerns leading up to NaNoWriMo was whether or not I should finish my current manuscript first and either not participate or put it on hold to work on the new idea. I chose the latter. Even now, I’m not really sure I’ve found the right answer but instinctively, I feel like I should focus on one project at a time and finish what I’ve already started before moving onto the next thing. The preparation I did for NaNoWriMo has allowed me to create a pretty solid story and foundation for my next novel and I look forward to working on it at a later date. I even have a head start since I wrote almost 4,000 words! But that said, this experience taught me that I’m a one manuscript at a time kind of writer.

Lesson #3

Something I’ve been exploring this year is realistic vs. unrealistic expectations in relation to how much I can juggle at any given time. Beginning in January, I had four big projects vying for my attention. I was training for a spring marathon, studying to take an exam to earn my real estate license, trying to build my freelance writing business, and write a novel. I felt overwhelmed for the first few months of the year and not certain that any one of those things was really getting the attention they deserved. The first thing to go was marathon training. I got injured and then sick in February which turned out to be a blessing in disguise because I was forced to take that off the table. Later, I decided that my heart is not in real estate and decided to not pursue my license. That, of course, left the writing stuff, because honestly, that IS where my heart is.

The lesson here is that four is too much. Three is a little more manageable. Two is ideal. Two is my magic number.

As far as how this was applied to my NaNoWriMo experience, I guess that what I’m trying to say is that I simply had too much on my plate in November and I didn’t recognize that until after I’d already announced my participation. I’m hopeful that this will allow me to plan better for the 2018 event.

As a side note, this topic is something that I plan to explore deeper as we move into 2018 and I begin planning and goal setting. I have also discovered the paralysis that comes from having so many ideas, goals, and ambitions… basically, I recede into a prolonged state of disorientation and get NOTHING accomplished. I intend to streamline my workflow a bit better so I can truly focus on things that light me up.

Lesson #4

Time away from my first project has rekindled the desire to see it through to completion. Honestly, I was a little scared that if I took time away from writing The Colonel’s Keeper, I may not return to that work. Those few weeks – okay… months, if I’m being honest – that I put that project on hold and let my project have my attention turned out to be the refresh I needed. I’ve been slowly making my way back and feel recharged. NaNoWriMo gave me the opportunity to step back and take a much-needed break to process where I was and where I am heading.

I’ve got my work cut out for me over the next 10.5 months because now I need to finish the two manuscripts I’ve started so I can have a clean slate come NaNoWriMo 2018!

The write life.

How do we live the writer’s life? There’s only one simple answer: we write. ~Dani Shapiro

::November was like WHOA!::

November was a wild, wild ride!

If you’ve been following along, you know that I spent pretty much the entire month on the road, traveling with my mister who was hired on a film project that shot entirely on location in Idaho. I feel so very fortunate that we could experience this adventure as a family – which also allowed us the ability to spend time with our loved ones that live up north. Idaho is a stunning state that speaks to my innate desire for slow, soulful living. I really enjoyed exploring the small communities that we stayed in, meeting new people, and being enveloped in the vast and diverse landscape.

I’m happy to be home now though and looking forward to a somewhat quiet month and holiday in LA. One of the takeaways from our month touring the Pacific Northwest is how much I crave slow living. I love, love, love travel and adventures and such, but I also love the simple kind of life and am determined more than ever to create that existence despite living in a bustling city.

There were a lot of highlights this past month!

➼ Reaching 330 days of sobriety and surviving the beginning of the holiday season without the desire to drink.

➼ Attempting to participate in National Novel Writing Month. It did not go as planned. However, it provided me with the opportunity to develop new ideas for my next novel and I did write 3,895 words.

➼ Witnessing my daughter and her partner complete the process of purchasing their first home!

➼ Spending time with my parents. Although brief, we got to celebrate the holidays with my mom and dad and I really enjoyed being with them.

➼ Thanksgiving. Over the years, it has become my favorite holiday.

➼ Visiting our family and friends while up north and savoring every second.

➼ Feeling loved by friends in LA. Making friends as an adult is really hard. I’ve been fortunate to find a few wonderful new ones within my CrossFit community who messaged me several times while I was away to tell me they missed me and looked forward to my return. Their messages made my heart melt.

➼ Deciding, officially, that we’d spend Christmas and New Years in Los Angeles. We have never not spent Christmas with our families but given our recent travels, we’ve decided to stay put in December. We are embracing the choice and looking forward to a quiet holiday.

➼ Attending four (yes, only four) CrossFit classes. However, the cool thing is that each of those classes was at a different gym in three different states!

➼ Savoring the last two days of our journey back home by traveling the 101 from Tillamook, Oregon, to San Francisco. We slept in a yurt and cooked over a campfire the first night and stayed in the heart of San Francisco the second night waking to views of the Golden Gate Bridge.

➼ Growing. There has been a lot of growth beneath the surface this year and I feel like November was a big month as part of my evolution. I will probably elaborate on this more in a separate post in the coming weeks.

I am truly looking forward to settling in for the season and wish you and yours a magical December!

On location in Cottonwood, Idaho, at Dog Bark Park Bed and Breakfast. No joke. You can sleep inside that beagle!

 

 

:: Mid Month Check-in ::

This morning, after a period of disbelief over the fact that it is officially the middle of November and one week until Thanksgiving (how can that be?!), I started to slip down the slope of self-criticism. For starters, my intention to write a 50,000-word novel as a participant of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) went down the shitter about three days in. I also promised myself that I’d practice my handstand skills every day. And seek new freelance writing gigs. And… I’ll stop there. The kicker is that I also volunteered myself to work behind the scenes on social media content for a film being shot on location in various parts of Idaho. So all of that while traveling and spending several hours each day on set too. Doh.

Almost two weeks ago, a newsletter landed in my email inbox from writer, artist, and fellow sober sister, Tammi Salas, that really hit home. In it, she talks about how, and I’m summarizing here, overachievement is a type of drunkenness. We set these lofty goals and create high expectations and it does feel a little like being drunk; because when we’ve altered our state of being and inhibition has left the building, anything is possible, right?

Here is an excerpt from the letter:

You see, just because I quit drinking alcohol over 1,000 days ago doesn’t mean I still don’t get drunk. I get drunk on ideas and to-do lists sometimes. I get drunk on overachieving and seeing if I can channel my inner-Martha Stewart on-demand. I get drunk on unattainable goals. And, I most definitely get drunk on unrealistic expectations. This, my friends, is when I am most definitely NOT (emotionally) sober.

She goes on to say that we can give ourselves permission to stop the insanity and that it is okay change our minds, our direction, our plan, our whatever. We have the power to quiet that nagging, insistent voice that says we have to do ALL THE THINGS. We don’t. We really don’t.

This has been a recurring theme for me quite some time and I’m so over it! I will definitely be doing some personal work in the coming weeks and months to free myself from this cycle. (In fact, I’ve been trying to read Present Over Perfect for a few months now and it seems fitting that I dive back into that asap!)

I should note that while the past few weeks have been a whirlwind, I’ve gotten to explore Idaho and see parts of the country I’d never seen before. I fell head-over-heels in love with the city of Coeur D’Alene which is now in a heated battle with my number one dream city to live in, Bend, Oregon (or central Oregon in general). I’ve met a number of great people and spent time with old friends. I’ve worked alongside my husband on a film set for the first time and in a few days, will witness my son act for the first time as one of the characters in the film. And, I’ve still got ideas and stories floating around in my head that I am determined to craft into manuscripts.

Oh, and today I practiced my handstand so not all is lost.

If your curious about my behind the scenes work on the film Mischief Upon Mischief, follow along on Instagram at @MUMMovie.

:: Where did October go? ::

I cannot wrap my head around the fact that October has already come and gone. It’s absolutely, hands-down, my favorite month of the year. I could wax poetic about my love for October for days. However, I’m incredibly busy and don’t have that kind of time right now.

This October was wild; a whirlwind of milestones, travel, and trying to keep my head on straight in the midst of it all.

 Began the month in Prescott, AZ.

Celebrated turning 40 years old.

Got three new tattoos.

Enjoyed kayaking Watson Lake with my boys as a belated birthday outing.

Attended 19 CrossFit classes (in four different states!)

Climbed to the top of the rope at CrossFit for the first time.

PR’d my back squat.

Reached 300 days of sobriety.

➼ Closed out the month in Idaho.

Enjoyed spending time with my daughter, in-laws, and parents.

Savored all things autumn in the Pacific Northwest!

Started prepping for National Novel Writing Month.

November is going to be another crazy month filled with a ton of travel and adventure, work, projects, and challenges. But that said, I’m thankful for this life we’ve created and for the opportunities that have been given to us.

Have a great month!

:: National Novel Writing Month ::

Several years ago, in early November, a flier at the public library caught my eye. The handout was promoting National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) and the challenge created by the organization that encourages writers to complete a novel – or 50,000+ words – in the 30 calendar days between November 1st and 30th.

It was already several days into the month, if not a week or more when I saw the flier. I considered joining late but ultimately ended up passing on the opportunity, putting it off for another year when, I dunno, I’d be less busy.

A few months ago I started thinking about it again. At a third of the way through the manuscript I’ve been working on since January, with a goal completion date of October, I figured I had plenty of time to finish my current work and then get ready for NaNoWriMo. Then life and procrastination happened. I missed my self-imposed October deadline and – in the spirit of truth-telling – I’m not even two-thirds of the way finished and we’re well past mid-October.

Regardless, I signed up for NaNoWriMo anyway. Without a single idea or spark of inspiration, I created an account on the website and then contemplated not doing it at all, rather continuing the work I’ve been doing on my first novel, The Colonel’s Keeper. I watched the first half of the month go by without anything to work from… no plot, no outline, no characters to develop, no nothing.

And then BAM! The gods and goddesses of inspiration responded to my pleas while I was in the shower yesterday and an idea slowly started to form.

I guess at this point, I have no more excuses…

Working Title: Take a Lover

Genre: Historical Fiction

Synopsis: In 1932, nineteen-year-old Scarlet Mills is a liberal arts student on scholarship at the College of Creative Studies in Detroit, Michigan. Suffering from anxiety and depression following years of sexual abuse at the hands of her father, she writes poetry as a means to cope with her pain while pursuing a degree in creative writing. After a chance meeting with an eccentric painter from Mexico, the pair becomes friends, then lovers. The encouragement by her lover to pursue her writing and sexuality throughout their brief relationship takes Scarlet on a journey of self-discovery and healing.

Visit the National Novel Writing Month website for more information or to commit to writing your own novel next month!