New Year, New Intentions

Intentions.jpgI’m at an age where I could retire from my day job, but I am my father’s child and work gives me purpose. I’m hoping to have established myself well enough as a writer so that when I finally leave the day job, I’ll have momentum and works in progress to keep writing and creating.

With the new year, I’ve changed my day job schedule to give me a day off every other week to enjoy 3-day weekends. So 2019 is the year to settle into a writing routine that works for me to avoid burnout, to keep working on my memoir, and explore fiction and new creative ventures.

Recently, I applied to be a driver for Lyft and Uber. My father worked as a shuttle driver until he was 83 and it kept him young. He thoroughly loved meeting and con09-Super Dogs.jpgnecting with new people, finding out what was going in the world outside his door, and exploring different parts of the city. Though it will be a very limited side hustle, I’m hoping it will provide fodder for my fiction exploration.

This year I also intend to connect with a local writer’s group, attend a writer’s conference, and continue expanding my blog. I’m committed to writing five days a week, whether it is just a quick note in the morning, an essay, or a blog post. I want to have more adventures, artist’s dates, walking meditations, and camping, lots of camping with my girl and The Bookends.

Reclaiming My Name

In my first blog post, I alluded to my 1990s writing journey. As a professional woman, a mom of an adolescent, and a busy wife, I was working through a lot at the time. I became extraordinarily frustrated when the creative well dried up no matter what I tried. I’ve come to believe the universe was telling me I wasn’t ready.

I spent 31 years being married to two different men. I divorced for the first time after four years, taking back my birth name Sinness. I felt strongly about it at the time, and I didn’t want to be reminded of that failure. After 27 years of marriage to a terrific guy, sharing a daughter, and establishing myself professionally with his surname and my birth name as my middle name, the decision to retain his surname was easy. I had been known as my married name longer than my birth name. Reclaiming

After a third marriage, this time to a woman, we explored changing both our last names to one we could share. After many philosophical ‘why do women change their surname’ discussions, we decided to retain our own names.

After I began writing my memoir in November, I faced the dilemma of whether I should consider a pseudonym or pen name. When my partner suggested using my birth name, I was resistant. Why? I loved my recently passed father dearly. Why was I opposed to using his surname?

I brought up the issue to my writing coach Lauren Sapala, the author of “The INFJ Writer”, and she nailed the reason…to reclaim my birth name. It makes perfect sense. I did not know who I was during my adolescence, early adult years, or even when I wrote one of my first poems in the 1990s. It’s time to make peace with my past and reclaim the surname I was given at birth, Sinness.

51K & Nowhere Near Done

Now that all the excitement has passed and NaNoWriMo 2018 is in the books, I’m left with a 51K word salad. I envy writers who write with wild abandon about their fantasy worlds. Writing about my life is all too real and sometimes sucks.

I’m torn between wanting to tear my work in progress apart and wanting to marinate on the process, learning more about the craft of writing and putting together a memoir.

3-booksDuring NaNo, I ditched both outlines and wrote whatever came into my head. In the week after I finished, I started feeling that the structure I had believed would work wasn’t quite right. Turns out there is such thing as a memoir trilogy, but would anyone really be interested in reading a redemptive coming out story, a story of resilient empowerment, and a mushy love story?

Who knows, but clearly my intuition is telling me I need to tell those stories to myself first to figure it out.

The NaNoWriMo Wind Down

In a little more than 48 hours, National Novel Writing Month 2018 will officially wrap.

When I first heard of NaNoWriMo, I thought I might be a little crazy to try. Before I jumped in, I read the 8 Best-Selling Books Written During NaNoWriMo That Show You It Can Be Done and thought if the authors of books like “Water for Elephants” and “The Night Circus” started them during NaNoWriMo, what could giving it a shot hurt. I threw caution to the wind, suspending judgment, ditching my inner critic, and trusting the process of spewing words on the page with wild abandon.

justina_ireland-1I wrote every day. During the weekdays got up at 3:30 AM to write before work at 5:30 AM, then once I got home I’d keep writing until I had at least 1,667 words a day. I did word sprints at local NaNoWriMo sponsored write-ins and on their website.

Since my shitty first draft was all over the place, I knew there were holes to address but there is no way I could tell you what they were. In fact, once I reached 51,473 words and wrote The End on November 23rd, I honestly couldn’t tell you what I did or didn’t write. It was a blur. At that point, it didn’t matter…I was a “Winner”.

I’ve spent this week reading and studying memoir, completed an introductory webinar called Memoirama: Everything You Need To Know To Write Memoir, and I’ve read through a few of my pages. It is a hot mess, but it’s not as bad as I had feared.

I’ve learned a lot this month, and I have a lot to learn and grow as a writer. NaNoWriMo has shown me I’ve got the commitment and discipline for butt-in-chair-time to do the work, and that my friend is half the battle.

The End…and New Beginnings

The-End.jpg

After I broke the 50K NaNoWriMo barrier to claim my Winner’s Certificate on Friday the 23rd, I thought I’d continue writing though the end of November to fill in some missing pieces of the story. Today after writing the 250 words which concluded the journey, I wrote “The End”.

I had an odd sense of finality, like even if I wanted to write more,  the story was wrapped up. I also know The End is just the beginning of trying to make sense of this total pantser memoir that makes a jackrabbit look like he’s hopped up on some good stuff.

Time to study some of my favorite memoirs and marinate on how exactly I want mine to be structured. Writers have talked about revising being their favorite part so I’m hoping my Viking creative alter ego “Freya The Fearless” takes over from here. Cheers, or as Freya would say, Skol!

A NaNoWriMo 2018 Finisher

NaNo18-Winners-Cert

I’m officially a NaNoWriMo 2018 “Winner”, meaning I’ve fulfilled the goal of writing 50,000 words. This hot mess of a shitty first draft is not fit to be read by any other eyes but mine, but I’ll continue working on it until I write The End. Then I’ll start a new revision adventure and hope I can make heads or tails out of this unwieldy SFD beast.

To all the Wrimos still out there writing away, keep it up…you’ve got this!

Podcast Parade: Write-Minded

I love a parade, don’t you? I began marching in parades at the tender age of 4 and I have the embarrassing pictures to prove it. My love of parades continued through high school marching band, so I was already an accomplished marcher by the time I joined the Marines. But enough about me, I want to share a parade of podcasts I thoroughly enjoy during my weekday 90+ minute commute. It’s a great way to catch up on favorite shows, get investing tips, or learn about the writing life.

NaNoSheWritesWith this month being NaNoWriMo, I’m kicking off my inaugural Podcast Parade with “Write-Minded: Weekly Inspiration for Writers”. Grant Faulker (NaNoWriMo Executive Director) and Brooke Warner (She Writes Publisher) blend interviews, inspiration, and writing tips with down to earth authenticity about their own writing lives. According to their website, they “… bring to this weekly podcast their shared spirit of community, collaboration, and a deeply held belief that everyone is a writer, and everyone’s story matters.” Love that.

I particularly enjoyed this week’s episode about NaNo Rebels, those who are not writing novels during NaNoWriMo. Because this first NaNo attempt I’m writing a memoir, I felt like an imposter among the novel writers. When I heard about NaNo Rebels, I immediately identified, “yup, that’s me”. Not only could I relate to being a NaNo Rebel, Grant and Brooke interviewed runner Cami Ostman, author of “Second Wind: One Woman’s Midlife Quest to Run Seven Marathons on Seven Continents”. Since I’m writing about my Marine Corps Marathon journey, I soaked up every minute of the podcast and added Cami’s book to my reading list.

Every podcast concludes with a writing action. This week it is ‘Write down three times you were defiantly sure of yourself.’ Okay Grant and Brooke, challenge taken:

  1. Even though I was last chair in my high school band, I signed up to try out for All-State Band after attending Summer band camp. I not only made All-State Band, I got moved to Concert Band. It was the first time I learned that if I really applied myself, I could make dreams a reality.
  2. I joined the Marines at 21. I was an Army Reservist but my father never believed I would go active duty. The day came when I was tired of sitting behind a desk and a Marine was the only military recruiter on duty. With “Where do I sign up?”, I was the easiest recruit he ever had and it was the best decision I ever made.
  3. I hadn’t run in more than three decades when I signed up for a half marathon at the age of 56. I left doubters in the dust and on the couch.

So, when have you stood strong in your defiance?

NaNoWriMo Muddy Middle

I’m 18 days into #NaNoWriMo2018 and just broke 40K words. Most of them are probably shitty, but it still feels like a huge accomplishment getting the words out instead of thinking about writing.

FSWTM-RachaelHerron.JPGIn the past week I’ve listened to Rachael Herron’s “Fast-Draft Your Memoir: Write Your Life Story in 48 Hours” on Audible. Rachael had great success with National Novel Writing Month and it’s the basis of this book. Listening to her break down into baby steps what needs to be done makes me believe that I can do it.

I’m a recovering perfectionist and being perfect is what has stopped me from even trying to write. NaNoWriMo is all about spewing words on the page, no matter how messy or shitty they are. Just get them out there and worry about editing later. It’s not the way I normally write nor did it feel comfortable at first, but I trusted the process and after awhile, it felt liberating.

I’ve got 12 more days until the end of November so hopefully I’ll be well over the 50K target because a lot of what I wrote will be discarded like the contents of my Dyson vacuum. I’ve ordered the paperback of Rachael’s book so I can sticky note all the pages leading me through the next steps I’ll need to take. I can see the light at the end of this shitty first draft tunnel and it’s looking less and less like an oncoming train and more like the porch light of home.

Becoming Deb Sinness

I’ve always wanted to write, and for a time I did. I wrote poetry, faithfully wrote morning pages following Julia Cameron’s suggestions in “The Artist’s Way”, and frankly spent a lot of time thinking about how to monetize it because I needed to make a living. The creative well dried up. Life goes on, family obligations, break ups, job changes, and who has time for writing.

Last year I was inspired to learn the cello by attending a high school alumni music reunion, which was a magical mix of memories, laughs, and pure joy of being in the company of other musicians who love music. I’m not going to lie, learning to play the cello is damn hard, especially to an adult who is not used to using her beginner brain. But I did it, and I even performed at the teacher’s studio recital, the only student over 18!

I also took a stained glass class and using my hands to create a beautiful cobalt piece inspired me to keep the creativity flowing this year so I flew to the Women Warriors Writing Conference in Charlotte, North Carolina. Women veterans and military spouses focus on telling our military stories in classes and workshops. I really wanted to write a draft to workshop, I tried, but the well was still dry.

Seven weeks ago, I attended a Creative Reboot in Santa Fe and hearing Julia Cameron urging us to write morning pages gave me the nudge to restart after so many years. I’ve readjusted my morning schedule to do morning pages and they are a welcome start to my days.

NaNo ImageIn mid-October, I heard about the National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) event that happens every year in November. Intrigued, I checked out the website and asked on social media if others had tried it. The goal of 50,000 words in a month seemed overwhelming, but I loved the Idea of writing, as Anne Lamott calls it, “a shitty first draft”. I signed up and gave myself permission to write the shittiest of all first drafts because after all, I hadn’t done it before and I have no idea what I’m doing.

Today is Day 3 of NaNoWriMo and I’m happy to say I’m off to a good start. I’ve made two outlines, have largely scrapped them both, and that’s okay because it will be interesting to see where the story, my story, takes me. Not sure where I’ll end up, but who thought when I was a frustrated 18-year-old kid in podunk North Dakota that I would end up here?

I am called to write, so I will answer the call wherever it takes me. I will shed my “looking to see what the future holds” expectations, and write for writing’s sake…to find my deeper self and explore universal truths.