There Is No Try

There are 46 posts in my drafts folder. This is a new record for me, but it’s not anything to be proud of. I hate to see so many unfinished posts, especially the ones about the kids. It also saddens me that some posts don’t seem worth finishing now, so they represent a lot of wasted time

I need to get my writing act together. The half-ass approach I’ve been using is wasteful and depressing. If I were to print out every unfinished blog post, essay, short story, novel, verse, song, and piece of work documentation, I’d be smothered by the resulting mountain of paper. I don’t want to die under a mound of unfinished work! If I must be buried in paper, let it be my collected published works, so I could at least die knowing that I’d accomplished something.

It’s time to commit to writing or give it up. Fish or cut bait. Or, as Yoda would say, “Write. Or write not. There is no try.”

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Lessons Learned

I learned a lot from working on my nature photo album. I wanted to apply those lessons to my current project, so I put them into a handy list. Now I’m going to post the list here, where I can find it any time.

  • If the project is too big, break it into smaller pieces.
  • Keep track of what you’ve done, what you’re doing, and where you’re going. Don’t throw away anything until you’re done, because you never know when you’ll need to backtrack.
  • Look for better solutions. Just because you’ve found a workaround doesn’t mean there’s not a better solution. Do what you have to do to keep your forward momentum, but don’t give up on the idea of a better solution until you’re absolutely sure there isn’t one.
  • Work on the project every day, and do not stop until it’s done.
  • Accept that there will be mistakes. Better done and flawed than never done.
  • Ignore the voice that says, “No one will like this. This has no value. I am wasting my time. This is a stupid project, and I am stupid.” It doesn’t know what it’s talking about.
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Mental Clutter

The daily target for NaNoWriMo is 1,667 words. I exceeded that number on one day. Otherwise I’ve consistently failed to meet it. Any gain I might have made on that one wordy day was immediately lost on the next, when I wrote only 175 words.

The most annoying thing is that when I sit down and write my stream of consciousness, which is essentially brain clutter, I can write pages and pages of it. That writing has no purpose other than to clean up my brain. I have embraced the idea that getting rid of the mental clutter is part of how you move on to better writing. Still, it’s galling to be able to write reams of throwaway text with such ease but trying to write with purpose still feels like pulling teeth.

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I don’t think I’m going to win NaNoWriMo this year. I’m not really “in it to win it.” I’m in it to write a novel, not just 50,000 words, but as many words as it takes. The 30-day time frame has lost meaning for me. In the stats tracker of the NaNoWriMo website, they tell me that at my current rate I will finish on December 30. That doesn’t bother me much. I think to myself, “Hey, that’s pretty good. I’d be thrilled to have written a novel by the end of the year!”

I’m falling a little further behind every day. I’m at my creative best when I spend a lot of time researching and reading and thinking, then fuse all of that into something new. That’s how I work. I also tend to do my best thinking in writing form (blog posts, journal entries, lists, writing exercises, etc.). These things take away time from the actual novel writing. Plus I’ve got two children, a mid-November work deadline, and the impending holidays to manage. The odds are against hitting the 50K mark by the end of November.

But NaNoWriMo will be gone at the end of the month, along with all of its benefits: permission to write poorly, pressure to keep writing, a supportive community, a handy stat-tracking website, and friendly competition. Without those, I’m not sure I can stick with my novel until it’s done. Or, to put it another way, NaNoWriMo is serving a purpose, and I don’t know what to replace it with come December.

So I haven’t conceded yet. Instead I’m trying to embrace the best parts of the NaNoWriMo philosophy without allowing myself to be caged by them. I’m going to continue working on my novel in my own way, even if that means fewer words per day. It is my hope that there will be days when the research/reading/thinking pays off by illuminating large sections of the story. On those days I will write for all I’m worth. Maybe I’ll even catch up. But if I don’t, I’m not going to feel bad about it, but rather devote myself to finding another form of motivation.

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I Like What?

Yesterday I found out that I like to listen to “atmospheric electronic” music while writing. I started listening to it simply because I thought it might suit the sci-fi bent of my novel. As it turned out, I enjoyed some of it enough to replay it.

I keep telling the kids that “you learn something new every day.” This is true. And sometimes the new things we learn are about ourselves, the people we had thought we already knew inside and out. Isn’t it a wonderful thing to be surprised by yourself?

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Life Without the Internet

A nor’easter hit the Northeast on the Sunday before last. Had it brought snow, who knows how bad the damage might have been. As it was, the winds (hurricane-strength in some areas) knocked down trees and power lines all over the place.

Our lights flickered, but we did not lose power for any extended period of time. We were very lucky. Not everyone else was. My sister-in-law lost power for several days. Our kids got two days off from school as the town struggled to get the power back on.

But our Internet was out for at least four days, leaving me cut off from the blog, my e-mail, my Facebook and Twitter feeds, Netflix, and also my workplace. Our telephone was out, too. I barely get a cell phone signal here, so I had to walk down the driveway just to call my boss and let her know I was offline.

It was strange to be cut off from the outside world like that. I had no idea what was happening out there in the world. I had this terrible, nagging feeling of things going bad at work. There was no way to know, and the whole episode made me realize how pathetically dependent we are on our wi-fi.

There was one benefit, though. Without the Internet to distract me, it was fairly easy to make myself sit down and write. I started NaNoWriMo on time. I didn’t write nearly enough, but at least it was something. I have written every day since.

Except today. I just don’t feel like it. I thought that maybe if I sat down in front of the computer I could convince myself to write. And I did, only I wrote this, which is not what I needed to be doing.

I’m not going to wish for more Internet or power outages. That would be stupid. But I do hope that I can learn to ignore the Internet when I don’t need it. I shouldn’t allow it to distract me from the things that are more important!

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Oh, Murphy, You Sly Dog

We had another power outage this afternoon. As the minutes turned into hours I was starting to worry about dinner, because I wouldn’t be able to cook without any electricity. So I called the hubby to ask him to bring dinner home with him.

He was too busy to talk right then, but he called me back half an hour later. “So, is the power still out?” he asked. “Yes,” I replied. “The power is still out. We are completely powerle…”

And at that very moment, like magic, the lights came back on.

Murphy’s Law strikes again!

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It’s a Law

We woke up this morning and found that we had no electricity. The kids had to eat cold cereal and drink bottled water for breakfast. After putting them on the school bus, my hubby and I went out for coffee.

When we got back home, my hubby asked what I was going to do. Normally at that time of morning I’d go online, check the news, and read my Facebook and Twitter feeds. That wasn’t an option with the wi-fi out. So my choices were to write, take a walk, play the piano, or go to work without any Internet access.

It was too early to start working. We suspected, though, that the other three choices would be subject to Murphy’s Law. Choosing any one of them was likely to bring back the power immediately, which would spoil all the fun.

Such a conundrum! I hesitated, hoping that the power would come back right then and spare me the choice. It didn’t, though, and time was a-wasting. I had to make a decision.

I chose writing. I ran upstairs, grabbed my notebook, and headed toward my desk. I was about three feet away when the lights flicked on.

Murphy’s Law—it’s not for nothing that it’s called a law!

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Sweet Mommy, Sweet Daughter

I usually get up late on the weekends. It’s my reward for getting up early during the week. When I finally dragged myself downstairs this morning my husband said, “Watch out, kids. It’s the Red Woman Morning Monster!” The kids thought that was pretty funny, but Livia gave me a hug and said, “No, you’re a Sweet Mommy Flower Delicate.”

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Before November

I’m giving some thought to joining NaNoWriMo this year. It’s the first year since Marshall was born that I feel like I could possibly have time. I certainly feel the itch to write!

I’m not sure I want to follow their rules and restrict myself to just their type of writing during one particular month, though. I’ve decided to postpone that particular decision until the last moment. But whether I join officially or not, I want to free up as much time for writing in November as possible.

In order to clear the way, there are some tasks that I need to take on now. I already wrote a letter of dispute over an excessively high medical bill. I finished the first volume of my nature book (the printout is en route as we speak!). I am tackling Laundry Mountain right now. I have already started Christmas shopping. So things are looking good.

But I still need to…

  1. Pay the regular bills and follow up on that disputed bill.
  2. Write blog posts about the kids so that I’ll have something to include in my year-end photo album
  3. Sort through the pictures I took this year and choose the ones I want in our year-end photo album. This is critical not only for the small, shared version of the album, which must be completed early in December, but also for our Christmas card.
  4. Get everyone’s Halloween costumes ready.

November, here I come!

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