Things Learned from a Month of Perceived Insanity

So here it is twenty-three days in to National Novel Writing Month and The End is in sight. Literally.

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The idea of writing a novel in a month is a little crazy town but so worth it. Not only will I have accomplished a goal and have the skeletons of a novel by the end of November but I’ve learned a lot about myself in the process. Which for me, is a win all the way around.

So what have I won? Well hopefully I will win Nanowrimo with a 50K word count by the end of the month. Here are some other things I’ve won( or learned over the course of this month):

  1. I am much more capable of “doing” than I give myself credit for. I quit things so  easily. Maybe quit isn’t the right word?  I get done the required amount and quit after that. Maybe you find yourself doing this too? We do just what is asked for, no more. Rarely do we push ourselves beyond our own feelings, or fears to something  bigger, more.
  2. Having a deadline looming is a good thing. Having a deadline looming with a cast of characters watching and cheering you on, motivates you even more. I did not want to come back with anything less than 50 000 words.  They preach it at Nanowrimo.  Telling people makes you accountable!
  3. I waste a ton of time. I don’t need to say anything else. Ugh.
  4. Reading is actually research. Hooray! I’m closing in on 130 books read this year and honestly felt a little guilty. But here’s the thing; I would not have been able to write so quickly if I hadn’t read so much. Reading lots of different genres makes you a better writer. It’s advice seasoned writers always hand out to up-and-comers.
  5. The excuses of why I wasn’t writing do not hold up any longer. I told myself I couldn’t write at night because I was too tired. I told myself I could not get up early to write because I’m tired. I told myself I didn’t have stories to tell that came from my imagination. (Even though I have been telling myself stories since I was a little kid when I couldn’t sleep at night. What did I do during those long dark hours? I made up stories in my head with characters from tv shows. Early fan fiction when it wasn’t even a thing. I think a lot of writers have this experience.) But this month, I wrote at night. I wrote in the morning and I wrote in the afternoon. Did I have time frames that I was more productive? Yes. I am a morning person. The words flowed easier in the am. BUT I still got my word count at other times. Huh. I’ve almost written 50 thousand words. I had a story to tell. Maybe more.

Some Practical Do’s & Don’t’s of NaNoWriMo that I learned:

a. Stay in your chair or on the couch or bed until you have your day’s word count. Wrimos (People doing Nanowrimo) tell you this and it’s true. Do not get up to do dishes (Well, really, why would you do that?) or any other chore that suddenly occurs to you. Stay still until you reach your goal. It’s amazing what your brain will do if you give it a chance and still your body.
b. Don’t get caught up in a good book during this month of novelling. Why? Because if you’re like me, you will get caught up in someone else’s characters and not care as much as you should about your own while you are reading said book. I read mostly what I call fluff stuff and books that had no intense plot lines or were totally different than the book I’m writing. Because you know, I couldn’t stop my research! 🙂
c. Do have a separate folder entitled NOVEL NOTES opened when writing. The wise people at Nanowrimo suggest this and it is pure genius. You will be adding things or coming up with new ideas as you write and you want to be able to put them somewhere easily accessible. For example when the protagonist’s parent’s job changes from a mechanic to an engineer by the end of the book and as an author you don’t catch this nor do any other early readers.  So after publication, your reader is left going, “Wasn’t he a mechanic in the beginning?”  And then has to search through the book to find it.  Hence Novel Notes. It saves everyone from going crazy or thinking they are!
d. If you have a family to feed while trying to writing an outlandish amount of words in a month, do invest in a lot of easy prep food. It will save your butt more times than not. You will be a superhero because chicken wings and fries are awesome! Instead of being the person who at five o’clock in the afternoon, is searching feverishly through the freezer, looking for somehting, anything to eat that will be ready NOW. FYI no one fainted from hunger here during the month of November. Next year they learn to cook for themselves!
e. Do have some writing buddies who are writing along with you. It is inspiring and fun. It takes the solitude away and they can talk you off a ledge better and faster than anyone else.
f. Finally Do have a pet rabbit or any other kind of pet who will keep you company as you type feverishly. Who will listen to plot ideas or character assassinations. Who will let you pet them to relieve stress. Or provide you with a good laugh as they give you fodder for material for your book.

So will my first nanowrimo be my last? Definitely not. This month has been everything I hoped it would be and worth the insanity.  It was also a lot of fun.  In some ways I am sorry to be done.  But I’m not really done, there’s revisions in the months of January and February.  You know, adding flesh to that skeleton I’ve created this past month…

 

Asking for Directions

My scenery has changed this week. As I look out the windows, I see trees and cedars and I hear the waves crashing on the beach just beyond the front door. You can see the lake from the big front window.

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It’s a week to unwind, rejuvenate, and create. It’s a week I have begun to look forward to every spring. Last year I put the finishing touches on Whole here. Who knew then, what a year would bring!

This year I am in a different place on so many levels. I feel like I have ended, started and am in-between. Can you be in all those spaces at once? Do you ever feel like that?

I feel like I need to stop and ask for directions.

I’ve walked along the beach the last couple of mornings in the sunshine and wind. Watching and listening to the waves roll in is hypnotic, soothing. My shoes dig into the wet sand. (No I’m not a barefoot sand person!)

I see footprints (someone is a barefoot sand person!) shoe prints and dog paw prints in the sand. I notice the colour of the water – grey up close and a thin line of turquoise and cobalt blue along the horizon.

I beach comb by taking pictures of interesting things as I walk. Driftwood, rocks, little streams feeding into the Great Lake.

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As I reach the point where I’m going to turn around, I see a sailboat beached. It’s yellow and pretty. Reminds me of summer stories of fun, sea and romance.

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After taking a couple of pictures, I turn around and head back the way I came. I’m thinking about the boat. I liked it. I wonder about what it would feel like to sail it?

As I’m walking back, I spot another boat. A blue rowboat. It looks like it’s made of wood.  I hadn’t seen it on my way up the beach. I stop and take a few pictures. The beauty is in it’s rustic appearance.

How could I have missed it before? I had walked right by it.

Blind. How many times are we blind to things that are right in front of us? Like the rowboat, we pass by, absorbed in our thoughts, our worries, our stuff.

How do you walk? Do you walk with your head down? Where are you looking? I often walk looking at the ground, intent on where my feet are taking me. Do you do this too? We miss a lot because we are not looking up, don’t we?

I had caught myself a couple of times staring at the sand rather than the beautiful water and trees and sky around me. I was missing the good stuff because I was looking down instead of up.

Look up.

Wake up.

Get up.

It’s starting to become my mantra. Perhaps it’s the directions I’ve wanted to ask for.

Looking up instantly engages us in our surroundings. We see who’s there, what’s happening. We are free to enjoy the scenery. We become aware of where we are and our place in it.

Waking up frees us from our blindness. Sometimes we are so involved in our heads, in what we are doing, in just trying to keep up with everything, that we fall asleep to everything else. We miss the boat so to speak. We don’t see the offer of something else, something new, something different. We bypass the beauty because we are engrossed in our small worlds.

Getting up is action. Don’t just sit there but go investigate that invitation, that beauty. Get up close to the boat. Touch it. Get in it. Take the next step.

If we don’t start to look up, wake up and get up, what are we missing? I think we miss not only things in this world but also in the spiritual world. As we look up, wake up and get up we become engaged not just physically but emotionally, and spiritually. We become more in tune with what is going on in both the physical and spiritual realms. We are ready to receive the next directive.

We become available. “Here I am Lord send me.”

I’m not sure about you but I want to be that person who doesn’t just see the boat, but gets in the boat and heads out to sea, following the One who does know the way.

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Three Years Later…

Cinder458: Your blogaversary is coming up, right?
(From Cinder & Ella by Kelly Oram)
I was reminded today by my host site, it’s been three years today that I began blogging here. It made me think of the line above from a novel I recently read. “Blogaversary.” Three years can seem like a long time but I’m still an amateur when it comes to blogging. I have learned a few thing however these past three years:

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I could write about how blogging takes perseverance and commitment but you know that already. What I’ve learned is if you have the passion about something you will commit to it even if you don’t think you have it in you. I’ve surprised myself. How bout you? What have you committed to that you didn’t think you’d be able to?

Words are powerful. They can build up or tear down, give life or destroy it. In a day and age where anyone can write anything to anyone, words can be used as inspiration to do great good or as an even greater weapon to destroy. The temptation is there for all of us as we navigate our way through all forms of social media. Words stick, we need to use them wisely.

The final thing I’ve learned is how generous people are. Writing is solitary which suits me but the final created product is not. A fellow creative and I were discussing this the other day.  We create alone but once it’s done we want people to see it, read it and enjoy it. To find some worth in it that will maybe, hopefully, help them or make a difference for them in their own lives. People’s responses have blown me away. You have kept me encouraged on days I felt like I didn’t have anything to give. I have been humbled when you have shared little bits of your life so candidly with me. I am so grateful that you take time out of your busy days to read Whole. I can’t even describe how amazed I feel at that. I am always grateful when you share the blog or make a comment. Thank you.

I am posting a link here to my first blog here on Whole. Hopefully when you write, you evolve!   I have found my voice writing here so it may have changed! I hope my writing skills have improved too!  You can be the judge!  🙂

Thank you again for inviting me into your lives as you read Whole. I hope the next years are even more creative and that we all see ourselves grow and mature into the people we were created to be.

Happy “Blogaversary!”

Jen

BRAVE: What I Learned from Failing

“The truth is that falling hurts.  The dare is to keep being brave and feel your way back up.”  Brene Brown, Rising Strong

It might be the fact that I’m in my forties. Or maybe it’s dealing with the lies I have believed for so long and finally giving them the heave ho. Perhaps it’s because I’m tired of being defined by something for over twenty years. One failure does not a person make. It’s taken way too long for me to understand that. But I kinda do now and maybe that’s why I’m at the point where I can take it apart and dissect it.

All I ever wanted was to be a journalist. Make a long story short. I got into university to study journalism and graduated with an english degree. It wasn’t because I didn’t bust my butt to get good grades either. I did. I was so close. To say the disappointment was deep and cutting is an understatement.

Gr. 4.  I knew where I wanted to go!
Gr. 4. I knew where I wanted to go!

The day I graduated from Carleton University with an English degree instead of a Journalism Degree was bitter. I remember handing my degree over to my parents after the ceremony, telling them I didn’t want it. All it symbolized to me was one thing: FAILURE. Four years of nothing. That’s what I thought.

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That defeat defined me for a very long time. It didn’t help that life circumstances added to the lie I was believing. But as I sit and look at it now, two decades later, I realize that I actually learned a lot from it. And if I could, this is what I would tell my much younger self but more importantly, what I am learning to tell myself, today.

Dearest;

1.  Don’t let a piece of paper or the absence of one, tell you what you can and can’t do. This was reiterated for me recently as I was listening to Michael Hyatt interview one of his friends for the Impact & Influence Summit. For far too long, two pieces of paper have kept me from doing things I love. It’s true that I have not gotten jobs because I didn’t have a degree in journalism. I can’t do some dance training because I don’t have a certificate in teaching dance. On the other hand, I have used those as an excuse to not do something rather than get creative and find a new way.

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2.  Take risks. I did and it didn’t work out. I went after a childhood dream, far away from my small town home and family. After  it didn’t turn out the way I wanted it to, I wouldn’t take any more risks when it came to writing and employment. Today, I would tell my younger self to get back up – I was brave once. Do it again. Risk. Repeat.

3.  Don’t be afraid of failure. Mistakes happen. Lick your wounds. But get back up and try again. Learn. Move forward. Don’t sit paralyzed. Don’t let the failure be a negative in your life. Use it to move to a positive outcome. It’s all about mindset.

4.  Talk to lots of people about what they do for a living. Network. Don’t be afraid. People generally like to tell you what they love to do. The work they do. Ask a lot o questions and people will generally be generous in their answers and with their time. Learn from them.

5.  Don’t be afraid of changing your mind. Maybe this isn’t the path for you. Don’t be legalistic about what is right for your life because you might miss out on something great. Things change. YOU might change and mature and discover some new passion. Or maybe the path is different than you imagined. There is nothing set in stone! Follow that path and see where it goes. It might lead you to your promised land.

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6.  Share the journey. Unfortunately in the world of journalism, we were taught to keep things secret because it was such a competitive program. You did not want someone stealing your ideas or story. The writing world was that way for me for a long time. Too many people you couldn’t trust. It’s taken a long time to get over that. I’m glad I have because I have discovered some wonderful people to travel with. I wish I knew that a long time ago.

7.  Let yourself off the hook once in a while. We are our worst task masters. Learn to extend some grace to yourself.

8.  Accept the gifts God has given you and then give them back to Him. It’s called freedom. Then you really can go out and use them to change the world.

9.  Know that you are so much more than what you can do. It’s all about who you are. The people who really love you, don’t care what you do, they just enjoy your presence. That would include God.

10.  Finally as I heard Mark Buchanan say once at a writing conference, “You’re not sick, you’re a writer.” Or whatever that blank is for you. Believe it.

PS: I did eventually get my degree back. It took about ten years. I even hung it up.