Thursday, November 28, 2013

What Am I Thankful For?

It seems to be a simple enough question, yet so hard to answer at times.

The answers that immediately come to mind are that I am thankful for good health, a good job, happiness, a loving spouse and a caring family.

On deeper reflection, there is so much more to be thankful for on this day of Thanksgiving and all other days of the year.

Besides the obvious things, below is a list of other things I am thankful for:

I am thankful that the Sun rises every day.  There was a time in recent history (1800's) where a massive volcanic eruption (Krakatoa) blocked out the Sun for weeks, causing crops to fail and subsequent starvation of many people.  The Sun rising each day is a frequently overlooked and very important thing to be thankful for.

I am thankful for the abundance of food in America.  Many people in many countries do not have enough to eat. I have felt hunger many times in my life, but cannot imagine starving on a daily basis.

I am thankful for the clean water that runs to my house from a deep well in our back yard. Many people on this Earth do not have clean water and this simple necessity of life is out of reach for so many.

I am thankful that there is a drama-less, at times boring, routine to my daily existence. This helps me to see when there is indeed a true crisis to be addressed.

I am thankful for not being a parent, (hear me out on this one, please). Although I know I would have been a very good one, I find raising animals to be my calling over human parenthood. Anyone who really knows me, knows that my pets and farm animals are treated as my children and I will go the extra miles to make sure they are healthy and happy.

I am thankful that opportunities given to me early in life were acted upon and I had the discipline and patience to see those opportunities blossom into tangible results - personally and professionally. My "overnight success" took decades to accomplish with a lot of blood, sweat and tears in the process.

I am thankful that others do not always like me, are jealous or envious of me and at times have said and have done hateful things to me. These instances have only made me a stronger-willed person and have made me grow a thicker skin.  But, most importantly these negative things have spurred me on to acting upon the things that I am passionate about.

Lastly, I am thankful for having things to be thankful for.  This may sound like circular logic to some. But, in the grand scheme of things, if you have nothing to be thankful for, your time on this Earth is most likely nearing its end.

So, be thankful for everything you have each day - including  being grateful that the Sun rises, water is plentiful, food is available and that you actually have many things (if you look hard enough) to be thankful for.

Happy Holidays to Everyone ... And may all of you continue to have things to be thankful about for many years to come.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Day 24 - National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo)

It has been almost two weeks since my last blog post on Day 13 of National Novel Writing Month and I bet you are wondering how I am doing in my quest for the elusive goal of writing 50,000 words in 30 days.

Without further ado and a drum roll, please ...  I sprinted to the finish line this past weekend and surpassed the goal with a final word count of  50,812.

This was a rather daunting effort and believe me when I say that I  had a tremendous amount of doubt of whether I would finish the remaining 8,000 words to complete NaNoWriMo 2013.

Despite the hurdles this past week, which included an insane amount of overtime at work and a trip to the Emergency Room for my husband, I was able to write those remaining words this past weekend.  All the while dealing with some other personal issues that I will not go into here.  Suffice it to say, life did get in the way, especially near the finish line.

I have had a day or so to digest what all of this means to me and frankly, it can be summed up in a few bullet points:

  • I set out on this journey to determine if a short story author like me had a full length novel within her.  I have successfully proven to myself that, yes, I do.  And even better than that, I have determined that I have several ideas for novels within me - many of which came to my mind during NaNoWriMo. These ideas have been added to my  list of what to write next.
  • There are some people who hate NaNoWriMo.  At times during the past 25 days, I hated it, too.  But, in the end, I absolutely loved where it brought me as a writer and as a goal oriented person who needed it to move forward in life and in writing.
  •  I have a rough draft of my very first book to show for this effort - to edit over the next few months.  That was the result I was looking for and that is the end result I have.  No more, no less.
  • Thanksgiving has not been cancelled.  I know many of you were very concerned about this.  So relax, I am going to eat, drink and be merry with friends and family on Thursday.


Thursday, November 14, 2013

Day 13 - National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo)

After thirteen days of this emotional roller-coaster ride called NaNoWriMo,  I have now made it through the "Week 2 NaNoWriMo Doldrums" and am over halfway to the coveted goal of 50,000 words.

The doldrums  in this context simply means -   a state or period of inactivity, stagnation, or depression. Not to be mistaken with the nautical reference of the doldrums -  a belt of calm and light baffling winds north of the equator between the northern and southern trade winds in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.

But, what an awesome place to be -  to write your novel in November on a sailboat in the ocean where the winds are calm and the sound of the water is so relaxing... sorry, was really visualizing that scene for just a moment and was shamelessly emulating  Word Girl.

I am currently at 25,443 words!

I thought I would be so much more excited about this accomplishment, and I was for about five minutes.

Then reality came crashing down upon me and the thought of another 25,000 words to finish this crazy endeavor seemed like another humongous mountain to climb - after just having climbed Mt. Everest in the  first  two weeks (in the literal sense, of course).

Which led to the most horrifying thought ... that my best plot twists and turns were already written in the first two weeks.  <very heavy sigh>

Miraculously, the words of  my mother's many sayings flashed in my mind: 

"Pull yourself up by your boot-straps and dust yourself off".

"You can do anything that you set your mind to do". 

So, I took her sage advice and hammered out another 500 words last night for good measure.

I know you all have questions, so I will  attempt to answer the most pressing ones here, such as  - What have the first two weeks been like for a first-time NaNoWriMo participant and what is my plan for the remaining weeks?

  • First and foremost, I have learned to PACE MYSELF.  The jump out of the gate at the beginning of November is not an indicator of the normal daily average for word count that one will have after the first week.
  • Obviously, there will be bad days, mental blocks and distractions.  Write through these moments, even if the writing is total and complete rubbish.  You can edit the manure out at a later time.
  • Which leads to the next point. DO NOT EDIT in November.  No matter how hard you try not to, you will be tempted to edit your manuscript while you are writing. DON'T DO IT!  This is a slippery slope and will certainly  lead you into a doom loop of writing, deleting, re-writing and re-deleting words.
  • Apologize ahead of time for cancelling Thanksgiving. You know you will sneak away to write on this holiday, so own it and accept it before the day comes.
  • Let your friends and family know that you truly appreciate their support and encouragement.  Assure them that you will get back to household chores and social commitments starting on December 1st. 
  • Most importantly, try to HAVE FUN during the remaining weeks.  

If you do not reach the 50k goal, so what?  You are much better off than you were at the beginning of November.  You have dedicated time and effort to YOUR story and that is worth its weight in gold.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Day 6 - National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo)

After five days of hammering out all the words my writing muse could spew forth, I find it very quiet in my head today.  So quiet that I can now reflect on the past few days since the start of this challenge.

Lessons have definitely been learned.  I look back and realize that each day started with just one word. Yes, one word which leads to another and so on - it is that simple.  It is just like putting one foot in front of the other - a journey of a thousand miles starts with one step.   It is the same with writing, but you must write the first word each and every day to keep the momentum going.

I consider myself very disciplined with writing and am a master of tunnel vision and focus, but I must say that it has taken NaNoWriMo to motivate me enough to reach the 11,700 words that I had at the end of the fifth day.  This is definitely not a feat for the faint of heart or anyone who cannot stay disciplined or focused for an entire month.

So, what has kept me on track, you ask?   Here are a few answers:

  • No editing allowed - okay, maybe just a tiny bit.  Need to keep reminding yourself that this is NaNoWriMo - not NaNoEditMo. Edit out superfluous words later on - not now.
  • Limit your daily time on social media.  This is the hardest thing for us social creatures to do. 
  • Turn off the TV and Netflix and YouTube.  Seriously, folks, you can live without seeing the latest episode of Big Bang Theory or Castle - DVR your shows and they will be there December 1st.  Better yet, use TV/Netflix/YouTube viewing as a reward for achieving your word count goal for any particular day.
  • Get up an hour earlier or go to sleep an hour later.  The recent time change has messed up my sleep cycle - so this is not a huge deal. Just an hour more a day can make a striking difference.
  • Get your family to pitch in on the home-front - not an easy task, I know.  But it is needed to free your own time up for writing.
  • Try to remember, you are not alone in this endeavor. When you do get stuck with your plot or characters, reach out to the multitude of NaNoWriMo support groups that are out there.  They are amazing in helping others get past these hurdles.

I think my writing muse is now awakening from her slumber. So, I need to get prepared to capture her gifts before she drifts off to sleep again.

Good luck to everyone in staying focused and disciplined during the next 24 days of NaNoWriMo.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Day 1 - National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo)

If you have been following the author/writer/book blogs, tweets and Facebook pages as of late, you know that yesterday was the first day of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo).

For those who have never heard of it, NaNoWriMo is basically a competition to write a novel in the month of November.  Not that you would have a complete novel written in a month, but a good first draft to be edited at a later time. (At least, that is what I hope to have at the end of November).

This is the first NaNoWriMo that I am participating in and I was not really sure how to go about it.  So, I did what I normally do before undertaking any new endeavor or assignment - I panicked. Yes, it does seem silly to panic about a purely optional writing assignment, but let me explain why this was my first reaction in preparing for NaNoWriMo.

You see, I have a history of panicking at the first thought of trying anything new and outside my normal routine or comfort zone.  I know, I need to get over this, but the "deer in the highlights" reaction seems to be a genetic trait that is deeply engrained in my psyche and has been a life-long struggle to shake off.  It is no longer a debilitating reaction like it once was decades ago, it is now just a momentary pause where my subconscious mind screams, "No way!  You have got to be f'ing kidding me!"  To which I console my inner child with loving thoughts and calming words ... err, that sounds good on paper, but I  more often than not have to tell my inner child to "f'ng get over it" and move on.  Hey, whatever works, right?

So, once I was past  this initial "pause" in acting on my intent to dive into NaNoWriMo, the planning began in earnest.  Every spare moment, for weeks prior to the beginning of November, I would think about what I would be writing come November 1st - to the point of almost giving up before I even started.  But, alas, my inner child was placed in the corner for a time-out and not allowed to have a temper tantrum on the first day of NaNoWriMo.

Once my inner brat was safely placed (rather bound and gagged) in the corner of my subconscious, a wonderful thing happened - my writing muse appeared in a rather dramatic entrance.  She spewed forth sentence after sentence of well formed thoughts and ideas that had me breathless trying to catch up and record everything.  By the end of day one, she left me with 3,237 words - not a bad start to an endeavor I almost talked myself out of before it ever began.

Here's to a successful first day of NaNo and may the next twenty-nine days be as fruitful as the first one.

Good luck to everyone participating and may your writing muse continue to keep your inner child at bay for the next few weeks.