I hath a dream (about hecklers)

“30 days hath September…”

I get that far with the old rhyme, then have to stop and think what comes next.  November rhymes with September so it hath 30… right?

Hmmm. A quick online perusal yields a website with 89 versions of the rhyme = not helpful when trying to unscrew a memory aid that I can’t remember!  This is what I can recall: November is NaNo is 50,000 words written in 30 days.  Got it.

November. In 2009 and 2010, November meant NaNoWriMo for me, an exhilarating ride of literary abandon, a seemingly impossible goal of verbal output.  What lovely irony that attempting the impossible is so freeing of fear of failure.  Liberating really, to be forced into writing for speed, which by necessity turns off the Inner Critic.  If the Heckler is on duty, there simply are not enough hours in the day, even if you feed your kids Eggo Waffles for dinner and forgo luxuries like sleeping.

But, alas, no NaNo for me this year, for a variety of reasons.  I have missed the experience off and on all month, but not more acutely than today, November 30th, when I can almost feel the exhilaration of rounding third, banging out 5000 words on the last day before skidding into home, face first, mouth full of dirt, submitting the manuscript by 11:07pm for the midnight deadline and holding my breath until the website confirmed that it indeed caught what I had just birthed as it hurdled through the ether.  (I always get that visual when I hit the send button on my work, which I am guessing would be disturbing for the recipients if they knew.)

In my memory of prior years, NaNo is perfect. It provides the deadline I require for adrenaline driven output. Any arbitrary nature of that deadline is inconsequential when I am in the middle of it.  It feels so good to just write without censorship, not bothered by little details like whether each paragraph actually makes sense.  That is all sorted out later, because in November each day is just words on the page, pushing harder to squeeze them out of some small place inside that I did not even know was full of ideas because I was too busy thinking.  Yes, 2012 NaNo?  I’ll be back.  (Luckily, the pain of NaNo is harder to remember…)

For now, I will embrace one aspect of the November NaNoWriMo experience into December and beyond:  gagging that Heckler.  You know the Heckler — the one that likes to curl up in a lumpy LazyBoy recliner in my mind, drooling with anticipation at each days’ spoils as she chews yesterday’s ideas, dribbling doubt onto every string of alphabet letters I dare to scrabble into sentences.

Yes, that Heckler.

Maybe you have met her brother or sister?

Yep, working my little word magic in peace without the sound of her breathing in the background — that is the dream for the days that come after the 30 days that November hath. Has. Whatever.

one word

“Dreams are illustrations… from the book your soul is writing about you.”   Marsha Norman

Can one little word provide some vision for a whole year?

I stumbled upon the idea of this ‘one word‘ while reading author Christina Katz’s new site.  She moved her “WriterMama Riffs” blog over to ChristinaKatz.com.     Christina chose her one word for 2010 — Prosperous.  That is a good word.  It has connotations of not only copious output, but also well-earned income to go with it, always a bonus when doing something you love to do.

Through Christina Katz’s word I found blogger Ali Edwards.  (One of the things I like best about these things is that one writer’s ideas lead to more ideas and on it goes and grows…)  In Ali’s blog, she shares  One Little Word 2010.  Here is her explanation:

“Essentially the idea is to choose a word (or let it choose you) that has the potential to make an impact on your life.

Maybe you want to invite something or maybe you are hoping to subtract something. Maybe your word will be practical or hopeful or creative or fanciful. Maybe you need a big word, something in-your-face that will challenge you everyday. Maybe you need something smaller and quieter that will whisper gentle tidings as you make your way throughout the year.

Whatever word you end up with, make sure it is your word (not your sister’s, mom’s, partner’s, child’s, etc). You can share it publicly or keep it close to your heart.”

Hundreds of her readers commented on their one word for 2010, and Ali published a list of her readers’ words. I find the list thought-provoking and inspiring.

I did not know what my word was a year ago, in the first month of 2009.  Forced to choose back then, I may have volunteered the word “Bewildered”.  Or “Ready To Step Off The Precipice Of The Known”.  Wait, that last one is way too many words.  Maybe “Embark”?

With the clearer view afforded by hindsight, I can now see that my word was “Exploration”.  I started the year with a plan to write children’s books (age 4-8), so I was learning all I could about that genre.  Then I received the exciting news that one of my short stories would be published in an anthology, so I also learned as much as I could about that genre.  Then I discovered blogging, and threw myself wholeheartedly into learning that bright new world.  Then I researched the options of freelancing for magazines and newspapers, writing humor essays and finally rounded out the year by writing a 50,000 word NaNoWriMo draft of a middle grade children’s novel.  So 2009 ended with a great deal of ground covered, a lot of information crammed into my head, and I softly landed somewhere between a lack of focus and a world of possibility.

I finish January, my first blogiversary, with many lessons learned…  The discipline required when granted the gift to do what I love to do but damn I don’t feel like doing it now but I have to do it anyway because it is important for me to write every day to reach my dreams.   Moving beyond the guilt inherent in that previous sentence.  Learning where I have a natural aptitude, and what will actually pay, and how to combine the two.  Sorting what currency in which I want to be paid — money, confidence, fulfillment — and how to combine all three.

A year ago, I read a blog post from a writer that I now cannot find.  In my memory, it was brilliant, and I want to quote it here because it completely describes in a humorous but honest way, how she made it through this same phase. It had the power to stick in my head for a year, in the way that words can do when they speak to your soul.

But I can’t find her.

Still obsessing Moving on, I’ll share the essence of her story: she wrote of ‘blind-dates’ with many genres of writing, and having each genre, time after time, not be “the one”.  She would fall feverishly in love with each one for a while, but then would see the foibles and faults and know she had to keep looking.  But if she had not given each one a try, she wouldn’t know what felt right when she found it.  Which she did.

Dang, the analogy was so much better than that.

Thinking about the next year, I am still on that path of searching and exploring.  But my choice for my one word in 2010?  Embrace.

Embrace the gift.  Embrace the challenges.  Embrace the unknown.  Embrace inevitable failure.  Embrace inevitable success.  Embrace the discipline I must muster.  Embrace the journey, even though I may not know the destination until I find it.

What’s your word?


“Where are we going?  Good question.  I’ll know it when I see it.”   Anonymous

mission accomplished

It has taken me several days to recover, but I am thrilled to share that I did indeed make my goal of 50,000 words in 30 days!

It entailed writing 20,000 words in the last week, including the last 7,000 words on Monday November 30th. It was a finish reminiscent of every term paper I ever wrote — barely squeaking under the deadline.  I was at my home computer when I did the final upload of the manuscript to the NaNoWriMo website at 10:53pm, but I had acid flashbacks to the days of running a term paper through the snowy streets in college to get it into the professor’s mailbox in some campus building that was always on the top of some very steep hill, dashing in breathless and sweating minutes before the deadline (somehow in this flashback it is always snowing, although I know full well that my procrastination spanned all twelve months of each year…).

So, this time I was home and comfy in my fuzzy bunny slippers, and I uploaded it at 10:53pm, which was over an hour before it was due.  Actually, that’s not bad.

Now I emerge from my hermit-like existence, and offer several random thoughts which I shall call Thoughts on Sadistic Writing Goals, Post- NaNoWriMo.  For, like childbirth, I doubt that a participant remembers all the details in the middle:

1.  Starting December 1st, I will not feel like writing anything for a few days.  Not a blog post, not an email, not a grocery list.  I also will not feel like answering the phone.  Which was mostly OK, because nearly everyone I know will be afraid I did not make it to my 50,000 goal, and are not willing to call me and ask how it went until I come clean on how it all shook out.

2.  Do more meal planning in October so that we are not eating frozen waffles for dinner.

3.  Once the writing frenzy is over, everything I do type will be riddled with typos because I spent so many hours blazing through with nary a spellcheck.

4.  The Kitten Kjorn really does work.  And the middle 30,000 words are much harder than the first 10K or the last 10K.  So when one gets to that middle part, don’t give up.

5.  I will feel a sense of elation at attempting something that seemed impossible, but wasn’t.

So, 50,000 words. Way to go.  High fives all around.  What next?

Good question.  All I can say is, it is a start.  I am always trying to start by starting, and that is what I did.  I had a self-inflicted mission, and I made it through.  Please understand though, these are not all 50, 000 high-quality words — I would occasionally type

“this is lame. this is lame. this is lame.”

and those words count just as much as the brilliant ones.  When the kittens walked across the keyboard, I left those “words” in.  But I completely surprised myself by creating characters that did all sorts of interesting things.  I surprised myself by writing scenes that flowed out of my hands like water.  We participants were urged to not spend time going back to read or check anything already written (when I broke that rule, I then understood why they made the suggestion in the first place;  rereading only compelled me to write things like “this is lame, this is lame, this is lame”).

But some of those scenes I went back to check?  I barely remembered writing them. Sometimes I did not remember them at all.  Those scenes wrote themselves.   Along the way some goofy, lovable characters wandered in and out of the story, and at the very end?  Some mild-mannered elderly lady who lived down the street in the story ended up doing something very surprising.  I did not see that coming at all.  I wrote the ‘original’ ending in week two, and filled in lots of scenes for the next two weeks.  Then, Mrs. Bentley showed up and suddenly it all made sense.

I say “made sense” in that brave way of someone who has not yet gone back and read it.  I am going to float on my post-marathon high for a while longer.  Then the revision process will start.  There is still much happy work to be done.

leap before looking

With advance apologies to the many excellent housekeepers I know, please disregard the state of my windows.

Wait, um, I mean, those are not my windows… Ha! Silly me.  Yeah this is definitely someone else’s house and that kitten just looks like my kitten Cowboy.

But the point remains:  I have hit the 30,000 word mark on my NaNoWriMo quest, and am reminded that balancing on the very edge of my personal comfort zone makes my heart race, and the idea of leaping before I look? It is not the worst idea in the world.  Sort of liberating, actually.

10 days, and the honeymoon? Already?

It is Day 10 of my great writing escapade, and I have this news flash to report:

NaNoWriMo Honeymoon.  So.  Over.

I look back at my bright-and-shiny post from a week ago (Really?  Has it been a whole week?  What have I been doing?)

Oh, I remember, yesterday I pruned a bonsai instead of writing.  Because that couldn’t wait another year or two before doing.  Sunday I dredged a small pond instead of writing.  That did need to be done, but still.

Then, two things happened:

1)  I woke throughout the night with my brain suddenly filled with ideas of where the story would go.  For days, those lousy characters had been lounging around my brain, eating cheetos and staring at the TV screen even though it wasn’t on, not talking to each other and frankly not doing anything.  At.  All.

Then suddenly last night the characters started to talk again, talking to me, just like the writing experts said they would.  Wow, I need some sleep.

2)  All that character chatting was well and good, until The Professor shared some advice that got the wheels turning again.  He heard me tell a friend last night that I was floundering at about 7600 words, which was a good 8000 words behind the freakishly ridiculous schedule.  This morning, he came up to me out of the blue and gave me some writing advice — he said if I was stuck, I should just keep writing anyway.  If I was on a roll, I should stop.  He said it would make sense if I just did that, because if I quit while I am on a roll, I’ll be excited to sit down again and restart.  If I keep going when I’m stuck, some words will come out anyway.

I love that kid.

And you know what?  It worked.  I just banged out 5000 words this afternoon, for a new total of 12,460.  I guess that technically means I did not quit while I was on a roll, but it sure felt good.  Now I am a mere 4000 words behind pace, and at the rate I am going, I think the NaNo gurus are right — I can sneeze out that many words if I want to.  The honeymoon may be over, but I’m still planning to stick it out for the long haul.

a picture is worth a thousand words?

NaNoWriMo Day 5, and I am at 5881 words.  Behind schedule, but better than I expected.  And I am enjoying the process more than I can say.

All participants can opt to receive email pep talks from the MotherShip;  here is a passage, from NaNoWriMo guru Chris Baty, that sums up part of the appeal of the whole exercise:

We get so focused on doing the things that pay the bills that we sometimes neglect to do the things that make us feel truly alive. You have a world of people depending on you—family, friends, co-workers, bosses, teachers. Taking care of everyone’s needs while still finding time to buy groceries and bathe every couple days can be a feat. Unfortunately, this means that activities like writing and art and music tend to disappear into the margins of our lives.

… For one month, you get to orient your life around your creative spark, rather than vice versa.

So, here I am with my spark, which is at this moment staring blankly back at me, but I know we’ll figure out something more to type.  In the meantime… if a picture is worth a thousand words, then I’ll be posting a few here for your enjoyment (because words written here are not words written there…)