NaNoWriMo, Halfway Home (Update)

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My Novembers nearly always start with a zero-word-count first day.  It doesn’t matter what day of the week it falls on, whether or not I have work, whether I’ve planned or am pansting my story – I tend to start off pretty slowly, and that’s only become more true the older I’ve gotten.

So ending the first without my fingers having touched the keyboard was not shocking or worrying.  By Day Three, I was caught up again, and maintained or exceeded quota through the 9th before finally hitting a wall.  So, I consciously took a break – I posted about the dilemma I was having to the NaNo Forums and got some feedback, and spent the night reviewing the notes I’d made prior to the start of the month.  Two days later, feeling refreshed, I sat down and plucked out a quick and easy 1,200 words.

And I haven’t written since.

Why?  Typical stuff.  I have other responsibilities.  I have no time.  I feel like death warmed over most days, and the emotional energy expended to create often feels disproportion from the satisfaction derived from forcing myself to sit down and create.

And… I’m okay with it.

And I’m not giving up.

There’s no way I’m going to hit 50k.  It’s not going to happen, and please do not come at me with posts of encouragement about how I’m being defeatist in saying that.  I know myself, my family, and my schedule.  I’ll never catch up.

But that’s okay.

I’ve won NaNo before; I’ve hit 50k on November 30th before.  I’ve also proven to myself – last month across two challenges, and in a previous iteration of this blog during the A-to-Z Challenge – that I can sit and create something everyday.  I feel no need to prove to myself or anyone else that I can  write everyday.  I’ve proven it already.  More than once.

But despite winning NaNoWriMo by word count, I’ve never actually finished a story, and I don’t mean I’ve never sat down and cleaned up a first draft – I mean I’ve never finished the first draft.  I pushed myself to write everyday and I was generating words for the sake of words, and by the end of the month, I’d inevitably lost my interest in the story I was writing.* Forcing it made me resent it.  Forcing it made me hypercritical.

This year, after allowing myself that two day grace period?  Going back and continuing it was fun.  It was enjoyable.  And now, a week later – having written nothing in that time – I’m still looking forward to going back and working on the story.

NaNoWriMo has given me the impetus to sit and start a story, which is and always has been the hardest part of any project for me – initiating it.  It gave me momentum to sit and crank something out every night for several days.  I’ve got 12k or something I’m actually still pretty excited about, or at least having fun with.

Will I finish it this month?  Probably not.  Will it be a novel?  Probably not, though I never really expected it to be (I’m not a novel writer; this year is a rare departure from Rebelling for me).

But will I continue the story?  Definitely.

Will a finish it?  Actually, yeah, I might.

Am I having fun with it?  Yeah.  Yeah, I am.

I hope you are all getting something worthwhile out of NaNo, be it a satisfying word count, a great story, a sense of satisfaction at meeting a goal, or just a fun hour or two to yourself each night playing in your literary sandbox.

I’ll update you as to where I am at the end of the month.  I might not be at 50k, but I’m excited to see how far I’ll have come.


*  There are two exceptions to this; one was my 2016 novel, To Catch the Falling, which I was really enjoying writing (though when I read it over a few weeks later, I realized that it was riddled with plot holes and so much, just, extraneous grabage); and by 2005 novel Thirst which was so, so rambling and melodramatic and self-indulgent and went nowhere, but man, did I have a friggin’ blast writing that thing.  I’ve long since lost it, and I legit think about it regretfully every subsequent year during November.

Friday, Fri-yay: November 9th, 2018

& (1)Oh guys, this… has been a draining week.  Nothing bad has happened, but everything that’s happened has been emotionally charged and has tested my anxiety to the limit.  With that in mind, I’ve got to stop and reflect on the little positive things that have been keeping me grounded.

First, I have a three day weekend – and a well-deserved one, if I do say so.  Monday is Veteran’s Day, and I legitimately forgot that I had the day off until mid-way through the morning yesterday (at which point I made a triumphant Facebook post because i couldn’t contain my sheer joy).  I plan on playing with Bear, reading, and catching up on NaNoWriMo.  I will also be tearing the house apart and doing a deep-cleaning, because…

…We finally bought a carpet cleaner!  I feel like it’s time for a sequel to my Ways I Know I’m Getting Old post, because I feel like the level of sheer joy and excitement I felt upon purchasing the carpet cleaner makes me officially Old (or puts me at Peak Parent Mode, at least).  But the one thing I’ve hated about this house almost since the moment we moved in is how filthy the carpet got, and how fast (though what did I expect with cafe au lait colored carpets and a toddler?)  We were going to just rent a cleaner, but Amazong was having a sale and the Bissel cleaner we got cost $75, and it would cost us $34 just for a one time rental from Home Depot.  The decision was easy.  I’m so excited.

I’ve also been starting to poke my head around AuthorTube, which is the section of YouTube populated by authors and aspiring authors.  I’ve started doing vlog style videos about my NaNoWriMo experience, and I’m trying to find time to watch and interact with others doing the same thing, hoping to create a habit that will sustain through November and beyond.  It looks like a nice community and I’m hoping to find a groove that allows me to be active in it.

Also – Christmas!  Dollar Tree Haulers are doing holiday hauls and DIYs, the stores are filled to the brim with Christmas stuff, and I’m getting ready to bring up all my holiday decor (and buying a ton of it from Dollar Tree and Target).  I’ve said on an earlier iteration of this blog that I understand why some people are put off by the earlier and earlier onset of the Christmas season — people who don’t celebrate/celebrate different holidays, people who have family issues exacerbated by the holidays, people who just prefer to celebrate one holiday at a time — and those are all valid complaints.  And I do agree that we are hauling out Christmas waaay too early — I saw some on display prior to Halloween — but for my own personal celebration, this is the time of year I start prepping.  Christmas makes me happy, and I’m going to do what makes me happy, okay?

I also just finished the book adaptation of Alice Isn’t Dead, and oh my gosh, I loved it.  It’s so… relevant?  So… visceral?  So refreshing to see a queer female protagonist with anxiety who uses that anxiety as a weapon and it totally works??  It’s such a good story, and I love Keisha’s character so much, and I know I speak only for myself, but this was such a well-written female character written by a male author, and some male authors could take lessons on this from Joseph Fink.

I desperately want to include NaNoWriMo on here, but that’s a little more complicated; I’ll probably have a post about it later, though.

What’s kept you afloat this week?

Reflections on Inktober and OctPoWriMo

ReclaimingWell, October was a quite a month, creatively.

I’ve never attempted more than one challenge at a time before.  Moreover, I’d never attempted something that wasn’t a writing challenge before, and this October saw me do both (this was a really special month, you guys).

OctPoWriMo was not a wellspring of expertly crafted poetry.  I was not fond of many of the suggested forms, but because of time constraints, and because of the lingering funk I was in when it came to creativity, I opted in to many of the suggested forms and prompts, even when I didn’t love them.  I’d argue that was good for me; it forced me to be okay with what I considered to be sub-optimal writing — it kind of gave me permission to create something not up to my nearly impossible standards.

In the end, I produced thirty-one poems, a few (very few, but still – a few) of which I am very happy with just as they are — Blue,  Are We Damned?, Here There Are Trees, and A Doe in the Woods come most readily to mind — and several others that I think would be good with some work — Siren, Snake, How Do You Know if Love is Real?, and both of the haibuns fall easily into this category.

The poems that fell entirely flat (to me, at least), are the ones whose forms seem the most “gimmicky;” the blitz, for one, never truly felt like writing poetry (though, as I’ve said several times, I wouldn’t discount it as a writing or brainstorming exercise), and many of the non-traditional syllable counting poems didn’t come out as well as I’d hoped.  Rather than count this as a failure, though, I’d like to walk away considering this a learning experience for me as a writer, discovering and uncovering a little more about what works for me (and what doesn’t) as a poet and writer.

What Inktober did, though, was interesting.  I jumped on Inktober more or less on a whim, because I have never, ever, considered myself a visual artist.  I’ve always liked doodling, but my drawings rarely ventured into more elaborate territory.  People would sometimes compliment a drawing I’d done, but it never went beyond that — I never defined myself as an artist the way I did as a writer.  As a result, I went into Inktober with no expectations — or, maybe the expectation of sucking.  And because I assumed I’d suck — because I “wasn’t an artist” — every time my drawings came out with even an inkling of potential promise, it was a huge, positive surprise which kept me motivated to keep with it.

And at the end of thirty-one days, while I still have a long, longlong way to go, I can see very plainly that the stuff I’ve been producing sucks a little less.  That giving myself permission to not be great and keep going anyway actually lead to me getting better.

I’m am spending my creative energies in November doing NaNoWriMo, as I have almost every year since 2002, and taking a break from (structured, challenge-based) creative endeavors in December (working on lowkey, low pressure personal projects) before jumping back in for another challenge in January.

In retrospect, even if I’ve not been thrilled with the all of the products of my labors in October, I’m proud of hanging in there and producing.  And whether or not I win NaNo, and whether or not I reach 50k, I’m hoping to at least see it through day by day and word by word.

Here’s to a productive November, a recuperative December, and a creatively fulfilling 2019.

Friday, Fri-yay: October 12th, 2018

& (1)Hey yo, it’s Friday!

I’ve been having an uncharacteristically productive week, creatively, and hope to have a good balance of work/pleasure this weekend, the highlight of which will be my cousin’s wedding tomorrow evening.  All in all, things seem to be moving along pretty smoothly, but I’ve gotta say, it’s still pretty great to hit the weekend.  So, Bear is in bed, I’m sitting here, munching on some homemade empanadas, sipping on some Grand Mariner, and enjoying the quiet.

This week:

Last week I mentioned that The Good Place was back, but did I mention Forking Bullshirt was back, and have I ever mentioned the official The Good Place podcast I love Bullshirt because I love the geeky fan discussion (from the perspective of geeky fans!), and I love the official podcast for the behind the scenes insight and how lovely and adorable the cast and crew all are.  If you are at all interested in the show, you might want to check out the podcasts.

NaNoWriMo prep is starting full-force, and I’m so excited to give it a go this year.  I’m trying my hand at… I guess it would be categorized as magical realism, and I’m kind of nervous but also really psyched to try something different from my usual lit!fic attempt.  I’ve been reading the forums the last few nights and need to find time to incorporate NaNo prep work and NaNo socialization into my schedule.

Did anyone else grow up watching a lot of magic on TV?  Because I recently found a few  old David Copperfield specials on YouTube.  Ahhhh, I don’t have a lot to say about this, except, maaaan I remember these so vividly, and I remember those nights those specials aired on TV being like, a big deal in my house, when we all settled in together to watch them.

I got a lovely compliment at work today from one of our SLPs, who had been talking to one of the school psychologists who had done an observation in one of my classrooms, and was apparently very impressed with how good I am with the kids and how well I work with all of them.  I don’t want to sound snotty – I know that I’m good at my job – but it’s so, so nice to hear someone appreciate my efforts.

I think that’s all for this week.  What’s been carrying you all alone lately?

OctPoWriMo, NaNoWriMo, and Inktober

ReclaimingTomorrow is October 1st – what??  Can you believe it?  After the shortest summer of my life, I feel like the new school year just got underway, and now you’re telling me next week we’re issuing progress reports?  What is even going on?

Anyway, I’m not mad, honestly, because (as we’ve established) fall is one of my favorite times of year, and one of the few times during the year I usually managed to eek out at least a little time to be at least a little creative.  In years past it’s been NaNoWriMo – which I’m doing again this year, though in what capacity (I’m usually a Rebel), I’m not sure – but this year I thought I’d also try my hand at OctPoWriMo, which is October Poetry Writing Month, along with Inktober.*  I know, when I get ambitious I go all out.

Challenges – especially challenges with a set start and end date – tend to work well for me, because they come with an established structure and deadline, and both OctPoWriMo and Inktober have resources that provide you with the opportunities for daily feedback and prompts as well (yet more externally opposed structure and a chance for immediate peer validation?  Yes, please!)

Adding to that, this year my husband expressed interest in participating with OctPoWriMo, which adds an accountability/competitive aspect to it – I don’t want to slack off when I’m up against my husband (yes, I know it’s not actually a competition, but it’s a tiny fire under my ass, so I’ll take it).

I’m excited to start creating, and sharing with you all – I’ll be doing daily-ish updates throughout OctPoWriMo, but I’ll probably just do an end-of-the-month dump for Inktober, since I do intend to do regular posts as well during October, and I have no interest in flooding anybody’s blogroll with my terrible drawings.  Just, on October 31st, they’ll just be here, and you can subject yourself to them at your own discretion.

Who else is participating in any creative challenges this October?



*I’m not an artist – like, I don’t draw, can barely handle stick figures – but I want to.  Inktober will basically be barely decipherable sketches in Sharpie, but I’m hoping it will at least lead to habitual drawing, which might someday lead to me actually getting better.