Driving to dinner to celebrate her birthday on Friday evening, my partner asked how my writing was going since returning from a six day trip to attend a family funeral.
Me: Slow, it’s been hard getting back in the grove.
Annie: That’s understandable.
Me: I’ve come to accept that I won’t write 50,000 words, and I’m okay with that.
She slowed to stop at a red light, then turned to look at me with disbelief.
Annie: Really?! You? I know you, and you won’t settle for anything less.
Okay, she has a point. I’m known to be a wee bit of an overachiever. After this weekend, I’m up to 17K words, but I’m still way behind the 8 ball.
As if being behind wasn’t hard enough, this year I’m trying my hand at writing fiction instead of memoir. As a pantser, these characters seem to have minds of their own. I’m often surprised and unsure about where to go next.
Even more reason to press on to see what happens, right?!
How’s your NaNo going?
This isn’t the blog post I had planned to write for this NaNoWriMo month. I wanted to get a jump on my writing early in the month, instead I received a late night call about the unexpected death of a family member, earily similar to the call I received three years earlier about the brother of the deceased.
Life is like that. We have plans, then life makes other plans for us.
Our family has experienced a lot of loss in the past three years, and dealing with death is never easy especially when it seems random and unexpected. In death as in writing, we search for meaning. We mine our memories and remember the good times, the earlier years, the days of innocence.
The truth is, none of us are getting out of this life alive. That doesn’t make anyone’s passing any easier for those of us left behind. Death sucks.
Needless to say, I’m way behind in my writing goals this month, but that’s okay. I was where I needed to be ~ with my family, mourning an unexpected loss. But I refuse to concede NaNoWriMo defeat so I’ll keep plodding along, stringing one word after another and I’ll be happy with however many I end writing, because it will be more than what I started the month with.
I started this blog on November 3rd, 2018 which was Day 3 of National Novel Writing Month. Held every November for the past 20 years, NaNoWriMo started when founder Chris Baty challenged a few of his Bay Area friends to write 50,000 words in a month. It’s become an annual tradition with writers around the world.
According to Wikipedia, 600 NaNoWriMo novels have been published through traditional and smaller publishers, or through self publishing. One of the most notable was Water for Elephants by Sarah Gruen.
I had no idea if I could actually write that many words in a month, but I had been wanting to write the memoir I wanted to read when I came out at 56. As a NaNo Rebel (meaning I was not writing fiction), I wrote a hot mess of a rough draft weighing in a 51,473 words. I’ve worked on my rough draft over the course of the year with the help of teachers and workshop participants. It’s still a work in progress.
For this year’s NaNoWriMo, I’m writing fiction. I’ve only written one short fictional vignette as an online assignment 20 years ago, and I was surprised by the character that showed up and what they said. I’m hoping for the same experience because during this NaNo prep month, I have neither outline nor character development, and I’ve changed my story four times. I’ll totally be flying by the seat of my pants, or in NaNoSpeak, “pantsing.”
Good luck to all the Wrimos out there, and Write. On!
A year ago today I traveled to Santa Fe, NM to attend Creative Reboot with my BFF Karil. We had cemented our friendship in 1992 by working through Julia Cameron’s new book “The Artist’s Way.” We worked our way through one chapter at a time separately, then we’d get together for lunch or a margarita dinner to discuss the chapter, what the exercises brought up for us, and our takeaways. Creative Reboot would be a wonderful opportunity to spend quality time together since we live in different states.
We both arrived in Santa Fe early to attend an intensive Friday session; I took Julia’s session and Karil chose an art session. It seemed surreal to be in Julia’s presence after all these years. She outlined what the session would cover and gave us this warning, “Sometime during this session, you’re going to think wow, this person really knows what she’s talking about it, and another time you’ll think this person doesn’t know what the heck she’s talking about.”
It was an intense day of exercises and sharing, but the one thing she kept hammering home was the need to do morning pages. I thought, “No way, I get up for work at 4:10 and no one’s got time for that!” Later when Karil and I shared notes from our respective sessions, I scoffed and said “Yeah I’m not really impressed anymore. Julia says morning pages are a necessity and there’s no way I can do them with my schedule. But since I’m on vacation, I’ll try doing them in the morning.”
Turns out she was right. I stuck with writing in the morning until it became a habit. I fast-drafted a memoir during National Novel Writing Month in November, I started this blog, my story Semper Fi, Sister was published in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Running for Good in June, and I’m continuing to make progress on my memoir.
This year’s event is called The Gathering of the Creatives and starts a week from today. I’m looking forward to thanking Julia Cameron for the kick in the pants, sharing a margarita dinner celebration with Karil, and seeing where this next year takes me. Cheers!
As a Psychology major studying Jungian personality theory back in the day, taking the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) was required. I like to know what makes people tick and the personality test developed by Isabel Myers and her mother, Katharine Cook Briggs nailed my type, Introversion iNtuition Feeling Judging (INFJ). I’ve taken the test many times over the years and no matter the circumstances, I’ve always been an INFJ, a rare 1.6% of the population.
I explored a lot of paths for personal growth and my bookshelves are lined with writing books, but I never could get back to the page. After Julia Cameron’s nudge at “Creative Reboot“, I began morning pages again. Then in a synchronistic surprise, the next day a new book appeared at the check-out table called “The INFJ Writer“.
Turns out a lot of writers are INFJs. In a brief conversation with author Lauren Sapala, I expressed my struggle to write and she responded that I’d probably have to get my memoir out of my system before I could write anything else. I devoured the book, reading it from cover to cover by the time I got home. Lauren speaks my language.
Soon morning pages morphed into a regular writing habit. I jumped into NaNoWriMo with wild abandon to write a crappy first draft of my memoir. Reading “The INFJ Writer” helped me understand where my potential roadblocks are and what I can do to navigate the emotional writing tides that sometimes threaten to swamp my progress.
I didn’t major in Psychology to practice as a therapist, but the knowledge I gained has served me well throughout my career. While the audience for “The INFJ Writer” seems like a small niche, I’m glad Lauren wrote it. The book inspired me to quit thinking about my writing angst and just start writing. Thank you Lauren.
||Funds raised by non-profit NaNoWriMo
||Words I wrote to “Win” NaNoWriMo
||Words I wrote for my new Blog
||Average number of words per day I wrote
||Tweets I sent
||Donation I made to NaNoWriMo.org
||Cost to Join NaNoWriMo
Experience + Community = Priceless
One of the highlights of participating in NaNoWriMo has been connecting with the amazing Twitter writing community. I was an early adopter of Twitter back in my real estate days, but lately I checked it only for breaking news. Once I signed up for NaNoWriMo, I set up my new account and retweeted NaNoPrep advice for my first tweet.
Never having done NaNoWriMo before, I sought out and retweeted inspiration. After finishing my first day of writing on November 1st, I felt brave enough to put my intention for this month out there for the world to see. I wanted to write the book I couldn’t find when I was searching for answers.
Then I found myself encouraging other writers, posting helpful articles I found, tweeting about awesome podcasts, and answering writing prompts. On Day 7 I responded about why this work in progress is important to me saying “I had a hard time relating to books about coming out later in the life. If my work can help ease the mind of another in the same circumstance, they will know they’re not alone.”
When I needed motivation, I could usually find it using the #NaNoCoach hashtag. When I needed inspiration, a quick look through my timeline was all it took.
Throughout the month I saw a lot of writers post a character visualization of their work in progress. Since I’m a NaNoRebel and writing a memoir, I thought it was something that didn’t apply to me. On the 25th, I threw caution and fear to the wind and posted my dream of how I would cast the movie of my memoir.
My memoir may never see the light of day nor have a movie made, but a girl’s gotta dream.
Thank you my Twitter writing brothers and sisters for welcoming this newbie in the fold. This month began as an experiment in what might be possible, and ends in a new place to call home.