NaNoWriMo is Here!

 

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Photo by Maddy Zen on Pexels.com

 

National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo)  is upon us.  I have challenged myself to write a novel I’ve wanted to write for over 30 years. Maybe longer but whose counting?   I am! I’ve waited way too long to get this story together and it’s time to challenge myself and get to it. To quote Anne LaMott,  It’s time to write that “Shitty First Draft” so that I can the start to shape it into the story I want to tell before it is way too late.

Think about making your own writing challenges. That means challenges that are right for you.  NaNoWriMo is not the only challenge. Challenge yourself to write something you’ve put off and give yourself a time limit.

You don’t need to start in November either.  You can start anytime. The challenge does not have to be as large as a  novel only enough for you to feel as if you are stretching yourself as a writer.  30 days is a good length of time to work with but it is up to you to decide what makes for a good challenge. 

Examples:

Write a poem every day for 30 days

Write one story in 30 days

Write three pages every morning for one month

But you do not have to keep your challenge within a one month time frame.

Think about what Ray Bradbury once said: “Write a short story every week. It’s not possible to write 52 bad short stories in a row.”

So challenge yourself and write.

The Big White Open Page

“Close the door. Write with no one looking over your shoulder. Don’t try to figure out what other people want to hear from you; figure out what you have to say. It’s the one and only thing you have to offer.”  -Barbara Kingsolver

 

I just joined a health club and today I went in to do some of the things the personal trainer suggested. I told myself I didn’t need to do it all. I just needed to show up and do what I could.

Baby steps.

I got to the club early feeling a little out of place thinking everyone will be watching me.  The woman behind the desk took my photo because  I was new.  There were a few earlier risers there this morning. I knew they were regulars. They had their club designed workout clothes, sweaty towels, their wireless headphones. I was a newbie. I forgot my headphones and towel. I was still trying to figure out the equipment and how to lock my locker.   

But that’s ok.   Because I showed up. I know what I need to do.

With National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) coming up in November, I am in challenge mode. But it’s important for me to remember that I am not in competition with anyone. No one likes to be a beginner and with writing it feels like that almost all the time.  I am facing that bright white sheet of paper each time I sit down to write. How I get myself there is the trick. (Just like the health club). 

This year NaNoWriMo may be a good way to challenge myself and to recognize I am not alone in this journey.  But whatever I do or don’t do daily should never be because I am trying to compete with someone else.  

This writing thing.   I do it for me.

 

 

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Won’t You Be My Writing Neighbor?

 

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“You rarely have time for everything you want in this life, so you need to make choices and hopefully your choices can come from a deep sense of who you are.”  –Mister Rogers

 

 In a couple of days it will be my birthday and I have been thinking about wishes.

To make wishes come true you have to act.    There has to be an intention.

Energy flows where attention goes.

Over the weekend I met with my writing group and I wrote for five hours on one of my stories.   It felt good and I felt like I broke down a barrier. Next month my group scheduled a write-a-thon and are planning to write for six hours at various locations followed by a celebratory dinner.  

One of my birthday wishes is that I use more of my time to put pen to  paper and write down some of the stories I’ve been putting off.

What are some of your stories that need to be written?

Won’t you be my writing neighbor?   Even if it isn’t your birthday, make your writing wishes come true. 

Join me

 Write.

Well, I lie A lot

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I am having a trip down memory lane today. I am watching one of my favorite shows from childhood, “High Chaparral,” an old time television western. One of the characters, Buck Cannon played by Cameron Mitchell, says after breaking a deal he made with an outlaw, 

“Well, I lie a lot.”

Today is 4th of July and I promised myself that my time would  be spent on my creative projects. And I have a free day to do this.

After the show, I realized how Buck’s words resonated with me.  

How often do I lie?   I lie a lot. I lie a lot to myself. I promise myself I will do the activities that I love. I will make time for them.  Then something else interrupts me and I make a liar of myself.

But not today, I will be true to myself. 

I will write.

Check back with me for how I do.

Being Mindful. Being Present

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Rene Magritte —The False Mirror

 

Dr. Henry Emmons, a psychiatrist,  spoke at a conference I attended last week.  He ended his talk telling the audience what the secret was to happiness and longevity.

 He said, “Be mindful of the present moment.”

Mindfulness feeds into our everyday life and especially into writing.

Creator of the Mindfulness Based-Stress Reduction Program (MSBR), Jon Kabit-Zinn, said, “Writing can be an incredible mindfulness practice.”

My best writing sessions are when I am present with pen and paper in hand. I am centered and open as I write.

But when I ramp up my brain about other random things like, “don’t forget to do this or that, and don’t forget about that thing.” Then my brain starts to overload. It is like  hot oil shooting out of a pan. It has nowhere to go except all over the stove, the floor, and my arm. 

OUCH!  And Damnit! 

We don’t need to be jumping around like Mexican jumping beans with our distracted thoughts corrupting our writing time.  Or acting like my dog, Bailey, chasing every squirrel she sees or doesn’t see because she’s so programmed to just go when she hears the word, Squirrel!  

That’s kind of like our mind.

 And there are a lot of squirrels (aka distractions-checking email, googling information, answering a text) taking our attention.

When I practice settling into this moment. My mind slows down. 

I smell the lilacs outside my window.

I see the animal figures in the clouds.

It calms my heart. I can see the way into my imagination and get into the task of what I am writing.

And that is all that matters.

Writing about your life can be enjoyable and bring a deep satisfaction.  When I  experience life  in the present and take the time to write about it, life becomes fuller and I become more creative. 

Sometimes when I read old journals and see that I have skimmed or neglected much of the detail around that time, I get a little sad. I may still have the memory but I neglected to write about it in the present moment. I skirted around it or did not take the time to see the details.  As if it was just not important enough. As if my life is boring.

Jon Kabit-Zinn also said, “When you pay attention to boredom, it gets unbelievably interesting.”

Being present is about taking notice of your life.

Today at work I watched construction workers tear apart the street below my office window. I felt like my 15 month old grandson watching these huge bulldozers doing amazing things.

When you write, there is no reason to hurry, and no other place you need to go. 

So feel the breeze on your face, float with the clouds above, and smell the lilacs. 

Be there and wherever you are  ….

Write!

 

Word Care

 

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Words are not always cooperative.  Are they?   They remain invisible, unstable, uncooperative or stale.  My editor self says,  “you are so boring.”

Why do I write?

Author, Julia Cameron,  said in her book, The Right to Write that writers should write …  “because it is human nature to write.  Writing claims our world.”

She also said, to paraphrase,  that our own inspiration connects us to something larger than ourselves allowing ourselves to live with greater optimism.

As a writer, there is always something to do. Writing, editing, researching, learning Scrivener. 

Sometimes  my brain does not want to think about it anymore. If I show up regularly to write I know that some days are easier than others. I also know that NOT feeling like writing is no excuse to not writing.

Yet what can I do to keep the creative faucet open when things seem a little too dry?

Some days it could be just eating a lemon poppyseed muffin. Or walking my dog,  or maybe three pages of ranting on the way the words are not working today.

The thing about feeling stuck when writing is that it is only temporary.  The moment you think you will never be able to write another word is when the faucet starts running uncontrollably. Something that reminds me of a scene from a Supernatural episode.  Like when the bathtub water starts to boil.   Eerie but exciting.

That’s the thing about creativity. It appears when you least expect it. But It’s not like it went anywhere. It’s more that you finally allowed that time portal to open so you could jump in.

Sometimes opening that door to your muse is nothing more than allowing yourself the gifts of living and embracing the wonderful world you are writing about. 

Take a nice long walk, read a book,  taste a piece of dark chocolate and drink a cup of Chai, go to the art museum. Don’t feel guilty about it.  Because after a break, you will get back to the chair and write whatever you can – good or bad.

Because that’s what you do.   You write.

Engaging in the world is  part of the process. 

Julia Cameron calls it a Writer’s Date. But for me it’s living a creative life. Engaging intimately in what I want to write about: my world.  It builds on the knowledge I’ve gathered already  and deepens what it means for me to be a human but also to be me.

Not Just Another Thing I Have To Do

 

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I think writer Brenda Ueland had it right.

She said, “The imagination needs moodling,–long, inefficient happy idling, dawdling and puttering. ”

It’s all about play and slowing down.

Writing is enjoyable. Even during a long dry spell. Even when the words feel heavy and meaningless.  Even during these times, it is important to remember that I do like to write. 

When I don’t rush.  When I slow down like I do for any mindful activity like walking or meditating. When I slow down to let the words fall good or bad on my page. 

Writing is joyful.

In my Developing a Writing Habit class, I tell students to think of writing as not just one more thing you have to do. It’s what you choose to do. It’s what you want to do.

Writing is about exploring, expressing and playing.  Writing is about making discoveries, solving problems, creating new worlds, and feeling a whole spectrum of emotions.

Never make it seem like it’s just a chore that you need to do or you’ll never do it.

Yes, there will be times when it’s frustrating and difficult and you won’t feel like doing it.

 But hang in there just a little longer and things will change.

They always do.  

And when it does the magic of writing will return.

As Sherlock Holmes once said to Watson, “The game is afoot.”

Write. Because That’s What You Do

 

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I am sitting at my desk with a large baked potato in front of my iPad. I am eating before writing or perhaps I am thinking and eating before I am writing. My back hurts. My brain is tired from working eight hours at my day job but I am here right now for a regular writing session.

I have projects to work on so I have no excuse not to write. And I know if I don’t make use of this time, it will be gone and I will have lost the opportunity to do what I enjoy: to write.

It doesn’t always come easily and I don’t always feel inspired. But that doesn’t mean I can’t do it. I can write the worst junk out there and it will be better than if I went and cleaned the bathroom. If I give myself a choice like that, writing wins out.

According to writer, Jennifer Egan:

“You can only write regularly if you’re willing to write badly. You can’t write regularly and well. One should accept bad writing as a way of priming the pump, a warm-up exercise that allows you to write well.”

Well I’ve eaten my potato so it’s time to sit down and write whatever I can. The worst or the best. It doesn’t matter. It will pay off. I will feel good spending the time doing what I love And the words and ideas I am looking for will come either tonight or maybe while I am out walking or doing something else. That’s the thing about inspiration. It strikes at the oddest of times.

Whether it does now or later, I will show up to write now. Showing up to write is like stoking the fire.

“You get ideas from daydreaming. You get ideas from being bored. You get ideas all the time. The only difference between writers and other people is we notice when we’re doing it. ” —Neil Gaiman

Now go write.