November Flurries

Ah, November. You are a month designed to test my resolve, try my patience, and build my character — the hard way. For a rather long month, you tend to fly by in a flurry of activity. We are still getting used to our new town and all of our new schedules. Band has been busy. Hubby’s work has been busy. Our weekends have been filled with activities and yard work. In truth, there has been a LOT of yard work! We had gusting winds recently, and I think every leaf in the neighborhood ended up in our back  yard.

Believe it or not, we are STILL unpacking. When we moved in at the beginning of July, I felt so overwhelmed by the stacks and stacks of boxes all around me. There were boxes in the kitchen, in all the bedrooms, in the hall, in the basement, in the garage … Well, you get the idea. There were boxes everywhere! I bet you guys remember. I showed y’all the pictures. I looked around and wanted to cry, but I consoled myself by looking forward in time. “By Thanksgiving and Christmas, we will be all unpacked and settled.” Yeah. Not so much. We are getting settled, though. It is happening. It is just happening slowly.

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In the midst of all this family activity, I have been busy, too. As if I didn’t have enough happening in November already, I decided to jump in and tackle NaNoWriMo. I posted about it the last time I was here in the blog. So, I’ve been writing! Yay!! I have been sneaking in some writing time in the mornings and also here and there between errands and housework.

It’s been good! I can’t say with confidence that my story is any good. Or that my characters are any good. But it feels darn good to be writing again on a regular basis. I am not going to hit my 50,000 word goal. We are traveling, starting tomorrow, and we are going to be visiting old favorite haunts in Virginia and catching up with old friends. I don’t expect I will have time to write over the weekend. But, if I had the weekend to spend writing, I would make it. I’m at 40,812 at this moment.

And you know what? I’m okay with it. I don’t feel bad about not hitting the NaNo goal. Because I wanted this year to be different. We are in a new town, a new house, a new school, a new job. It’s time for a new start, right? And that’s what I wanted from NaNo this year. I wanted to rediscover the joy of writing. I wanted to feel satisfied with the knowledge that I managed to carve some time out of each day to let ideas and dreams flow onto a page. No matter my final word count, I did that. I’ve had fun with it. I’ve started to learn, once again, how to listen to that dreamer inside my head. I think this makes November (and NaNo) a success. I’m okay with that.

NaNo Me!

Y’all!! It’s the end of October. And you know what that means, right?

Well … yes. Halloween and trick-or-treating and scary ghost stories and all of that. But October 31 means tomorrow is November 1. And November 1 means the beginning of NaNoWriMo.

Heaven help us all.

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I think I’m going to give NaNo a try again this year, for the first time in a few years. Just thinking about it makes me alternately excited and nervous as heck. I can feel my fingers shaking just a little bit on the keyboard as I type this thought out loud. To be honest, it scares the hoo-hah out of me. The rational part of my brain knows this is silly. It’s not like anyone is watching or paying attention to what I do or grading my performance or anything like that. It’s not like anyone even cares whether I attempt NaNo. And, certainly, the universe doesn’t give a flying flip about whether I succeed in it or not. Rational me knows this.

But there is another part of my brain where Creative Me lives. She has been locked away for what feels like a very long time now. She has almost forgotten the giddy feeling of ecstasy that comes with writing and creating and bringing a thought to life. Creative Me has forgotten she exists. She has become bogged down in the daily struggle with Life and Depression. She has forgotten how to breathe. She has forgotten how to live.

I need to create. I need to write. I need to watch words fly off a keyboard and onto a computer screen or off a pen and onto paper. I need to feel the joy of that once more. I need it so badly that just thinking about it makes me want to cry. And yet, I sit here every day and waste seconds, minutes, even whole hours. I tell myself, every day, I am going to write. But it doesn’t happen.

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I’m scared. That’s the truth of it all. I am scared to death to sit down and write. I feel this way about pretty much anything, which is why blog posts have been few and far between in here. But the idea of writing fiction scares me so much more. I think it’s because I want it so much more. Or because I need it so much more. What if I can’t? What if my creativity is gone? What if it never existed, in the first place? After all, if it was true and real, would Life and Depression be able to steal it away so easily? What if, all this time, I have told myself I am a writer and that the words will come back to me one day, only to find out I was wrong? Only to find out they are gone for forever?

It’s big stuff, this fear. These feelings aren’t for the faint of heart. I have them every time I sit down at the keyboard. I hear those voices in my head every time I put my fingers to the keys: You are not good enough. You will not succeed. No one believes in you. You are nothing.

But, really, I can’t keep going like this. I need something different. We are in a new town now. We are in a new state. I’m happier, overall, because this town is quieter and more peaceful than our previous home. I feel like I can breathe here, without the trapped feeling that dogged me in Virginia. I love our new house. I’m not working yet, although I hope that will come in a few months.

It’s time. It’s time for me to take a deep breath and give this a try. I still don’t know what I’m going to write. But NaNo 2019 … here I come!

The Slog … Of Failure?

I think I may have failed at NaNo this year. Part of me is giving the pep talk and reminding myself that it’s way too early to call it. I mean, we still have 11 days left! (Well, 10, technically, since it’s 10:30 PM in my corner of the world, and I am planning to head to bed as soon as I finish this post.) There’s a little crazy woman who lives inside my head that keeps adding up the days and dividing the word count and telling me I can still reach the 50K word goal if I write a gazillion words a day. Okay, so not really a gazillion. But somewhere around 5K, which, on most days, might as well be a gazillion.

If I had been consistently hitting the word goal every day, I should have somewhere around 32,000 words by now — or a bit over that amount. I have about 6,800 as of tonight. Womp-womp.

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Today, I woke up feeling pretty crummy about myself. I feel like a failure. This was my only goal for the month, and I couldn’t even make it happen. In my defense, life took me for a ride this month. There has been work anxiety, and school anxiety. I’ve had to have “serious conversations” with my daughter’s guidance counselor, which, by the way, were useless. I’ve had to have “serious conversations” with one of her teachers: in the form of one very unpleasant phone call and a long string of slightly more pleasant emails. It’s been stressful and frustrating. My daughter broke her foot, so there’s been that, too. Along with doctor’s appointments and an unexpected and unplanned trip out of town. I really don’t understand how everything in my whole freaking universe happens in November when I’ve decided to do NaNo. I almost feel like the universe was sitting there, holding its breath and waiting for me to decide whether I was going to NaNo or not. And, as soon as I decided yes, the universe was like, “Okay! We are a go for NaNo! Let’s send all the cruddola now!”

I have been a distracted, worried, anxious mess all month. On the days when I tell myself and my family I am going to sit down and write, it never fails that something happens. Yesterday, for example, my husband decided there were errands we needed to run. Which took pretty much all day. After he told me I could and should spend the whole day writing. My lack of ability to concentrate and the distractions inherent in being the mom in a family — even a small family like mine — really need to be in a whole post to themselves. Because there’s a lot of this kind of thing going on. Sometimes, I feel like my family is working against me, instead of for me or with me.

But I work against myself, too. I get too bogged down in worrying over whether I’m writing something good. I get too caught up in my own brain, and I overthink everything. I get too bogged down in feeling miserable over where I live. Basically, I get too caught up in everything around me, and I let my writing go by the wayside. In many cases, I actively push it there. I’m not sure why I procrastinate and avoid it so much. But I suspect there is a good deal of fear in the mix, as well as a big helping of feeling like a failure. The point is that I forget to have fun with my writing. It’s been a long time since I have felt the giddy joy of watching a story spin out from my keyboard. It’s been a long time since I have felt the heady excitement of knowing I had no control over the story, but, instead, it was controlling me. And I couldn’t stop until it was done. I miss that. I don’t know how to get it back. I was, I think, hoping NaNo would help me do that this year.

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Perhaps I expected too much of NaNo and of myself. I don’t think this is something I can fix in a month. Or even two months. I think it’s going to take a long time. Maybe things will never be the way they used to be for me and my writing. But, hopefully, I can find a new way for us to co-exist.

Which brings me back to this year’s NaNo and my feelings of failure. Have I failed?  Yes, I am far below the projected/expected word count. I might even go so far as to say I am pathetically below it. But, I started my day with a little over 2,000 words. And I ended with 6,800. Pathetically off course, yes. But a failure? Not by a long shot. Not as long as I keep calm and write on.

NaNo Me, Baby!

I’ve decided to do NaNoWriMo this year. I have done this insanity in the past. I’ve even been successful at reaching or surpassing the 50,000 word goal more than once. It’s been a blessing and a curse, really. On the blessing side of the spectrum, my past NaNo experiences have caused a creative and writing frenzy. There’s nothing quite as exhilarating as listening to your fingers clacking across the keyboard as you write with giddy abandon. On the curse side … Well, I have to admit my giddy abandon usually doesn’t survive past the month of November. In my younger years, I think it would have. But, as I am now, it ends up being one month of giddy abandon followed by eleven months of sitting around and obsessing over how much I suck.

Writing used to be an escape for me. My “Great Escape”, even. For all intents and purposes, I was a happy and well-adjusted kid. Anyone who knew me or met me in my daily life back then pegged me for fairly cheerful, painfully responsible, and, perhaps, a bit too quiet. I used to hear “You should smile more!” a lot. A LOT. In reality, I wasn’t particularly happy. I don’t know if I qualified as well-adjusted, but I do know I wasn’t happy. I hid it well, behind things like being cheerful and painfully responsible. I wasn’t free to express my feelings or to dream and try new things. I had to keep everything all to myself, hidden down deep inside for fear I would be mocked. Or, even worse, that nothing I had to say and nothing I had to feel would be taken seriously. I was good at being invisible. This is where writing came in and saved me. In my writing, I could dream. I could be anyone I wanted. I could explore and feel and hope. I could be visible.

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It seems writing isn’t that thing for me any longer. Instead of my escape, it has become my prison. I avoid it, day after day, feeling guilty and low for doing so. The words don’t come easily to me any longer. The stories still live in my head, but they are shrouded in dust and fog now. Writing isn’t alive for me any more. I’m just … tired. I feel small and awful and beaten down by life. I have good days, where things seem hopeful and grand. But, mostly, I feel tired. I feel like a shell of the person I used to be, of the person I want to be. I want my escape back, to a certain extent. I want moments where I can feel, well, REAL. I want my world to have color, instead of the drab same-ness it has become.

And so, this year’s NaNo … I hadn’t planned on giving it a go. For the past two or three years, I haven’t been able to summon up the interest to give it a try. I love the giddy writing part. But the let-down that I have experienced in the months after didn’t feel worth it to me. Maybe I’m not a writer. Maybe I have to come to terms with that and let it go. I don’t want to, but is this a realistic way for me to feel? I mean, am I just clinging onto something I want to be true, when it isn’t true?

I don’t know. And I don’t expect NaNo will answer any of those questions for me. I don’t expect it will lead to some creative renaissance on my part. With the way it’s going so far, I don’t even expect it to be fun. Although I have a start to my story, the past couple of days have been filled with adulting things: doctors’ appointments for my Child Unit, a vet visit for one of my dogs, anxiety over potential life changes, worry over my elderly parents, Halloween (although this isn’t in November, but it takes a toll), grocery store runs, dry cleaning, and errands of all kinds. I’ve hardly been home for more than an hour at a time. It’s been hard for me to clear my mind so that I can think about my potential story in any meaningful fashion. The words are slow to come, and they feel clumsy and awkward, like bashful eighth graders at their first school dance. I haven’t yet tapped into the part of my brain that lets me write without second-guessing myself. Maybe it will come. I hope it will come, if I keep slogging along.

Mainly, I decided to jump into NaNo again this year because my Child Unit is doing it. She wanted me to participate, too. If you’re a parent of a teenager, you will know this for a universal truth: If your teen wants to do anything at all with you, you will do it. Without question. Because they are mostly all about putting distance between themselves and their parents at this age. This is natural, and I know it’s natural. But it still hurts like H-E-Double-Toothpicks.

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At this point, we are officially two days into the madness, and I am already woefully behind. If I were running on my self-imposed schedule, I should have around 3,400 words by day 2. I might have 1,000. Maybe. If I turn my head to one side and squint at the page hard enough. It’s looking rather bleak. It’s feeling rather bleak. A big part of me wants to throw the mother of all hissy fits, flinging papers all around my writing space and tearing pages from my Moleskine.

But you know what? It might look bleak. And it might feel bleak. It might feel damn near impossible at this moment in time. I don’t have three thousand words. This is true. But what I do have is this: a beginning. A brand new beginning, for a brand new story. Maybe that’s what NaNo is all about. At any rate, it’s a good enough reason to keep calm and write on!

For Whom the Bell Tolls

It tolls for me.

Or, something like that. And I thought, at first, it was the bing-bonging herald of abject failure. After some reflection, I have decided this might not be true. Perhaps it’s not the sound of failure at all, but the sound of my mind and creativity being liberated from the mire and the muck of that dreaded phrase: “have to”. After all, I just used the words “bing-bonging” and “abject” in the same sentence. Could someone who is a complete and utter failure do such a thing? I think not.

But I sense you staring at your computer screen, reading these words with your head tilted to one side and a quizzical expression on your face. “What,” you wonder, “is this nutty woman nattering on about now?” So, let me explain …

Night before last, I decided NaNo was over and done for me. I started off the month woefully behind on my word count. I managed to catch up, which thrilled me. I also managed to catch a humdinger of a cold, which, needless to say, I found less than thrilling. This month has been a whirlwind of stuff: errands and after school activities and vet appointments and church meetings and family obligations and piano lessons and on and on and on. This is the endless, merry-go-round cycle of my life. I know this. But, somehow, things seemed to get kicked up a couple of notches this month. I know this is because of NaNo. It has happened before, and I even expected it, sort of. Anyhow, I am now at a point where I’m standing in the middle of life’s freeway, watching the holidays coming at me full-blast, their headlights bearing down on me, and I have concluded there are only two choices: jump for safety or get plowed into roadkill. I chose “safety”, by the way. This is not always a forgone conclusion. I have chosen “roadkill” in the past. I’ve decided the likelihood of me hitting the 50,000 word count before the end of November is slim. I’m at about 30,000 words, so it could happen … maybe.

leaf with rain dropsBut here’s the thing: I realized I don’t even care.

This is huge for me. HUGE! This is (I think?) my fourth time participating in NaNo. I have proven I can write 50,000 words in a month. Don’t get me wrong; this is a stunning accomplishment. I applaud anyone who can pull it off, and I felt incredibly proud of myself in those years when I managed to hit that elusive goal. But NaNo became just that for me: a goal. It became all about hitting the final word count, instead of being about getting some time in with the muses and some work completed. Every year that I hit the word count, it was like I got to the end of November, looked around, and said to myself, “Well, great. I’m done! Where’s my web badge?” I didn’t pursue the projects I had started. I didn’t finish anything. I just stopped and left everything dangling once my word counter hit 50K.

This year has been different. Perhaps it’s because writing, at the moment, is not fun for me. I no longer enjoy working on my in-progress book. I hope I will get back to those feelings of giddy happiness with it, but I’m just not there right now. Right now, it’s all about slogging forward. And making progress with the new scenes that need to be included in this story. And working the story around to where I know it needs to be. And delving into emotions and thoughts I might not want to explore in order to get to know my characters a lot better. None of this is fun for me. My characters have begun to feel like people I invited over for a party, who then set up camp in my house, ran up a huge phone bill, and ate all of my food. This year, even though my word count didn’t pile up as quickly as it had in years past, I felt really good about the fact that I was moving a long-standing project forward. 

And then it occurred to me: I needed this attitude adjustment. I can’t afford to hit the final word goal for NaNo and, then, walk away from this project again. It can’t be all about the act of “winning” this contest-thingie or about proving to myself that I am a writer because I can write 50,000 words in 30 days. No. It has to be about making progress and getting something completed. It has to be about THE WORK, not the goal. It has to be about breathing life into this story that has simmered in my brain for so many years now. Because I am a writer, and because I need to own that for myself, instead of treating it as if  it isn’t real. As if I need someone or something else to validate it for me.

So, for perhaps the first time in my life, I have decided to walk away from a challenge. I may hit 50,000 words, and that’s all right. I may not hit 50,000 words. And you know what? That’s all right, too. I feel lighter already.

Glitter Me This

I think I have mentioned this before, but it bears repeating: I am not a “girly” girl. I like big, slobbery dogs and muddy, rainy days. I like jeans and old t-shirts and sneakers or hiking boots. I like motorcycles and fast, loud cars. And, sometimes, I forget to brush my hair every day. I know. I probably shouldn’t admit that out loud, but there ‘ya go. My poor mother always wanted a girly girl, I think. I must have been such a disappointment to her, considering I spent most of my childhood covered in dog, cat, or horse hair from hours spent with my pets, and I much preferred mucking out our horse enclosure to dances and parties.

But then, there is glitter. Yes, you read that correctly: gloriously, grandly, glittering glitter. In all its many forms and shapes, I think glitter is one of the great equalizers between those of us who are less than feminine and our girlier counterparts, whom we both admire and fear. And do not understand — at all.

a rose that naturally grew half light pink and half darkAnd so I found myself staring at day 3 or 4 of NaNo. I had written nothing of consequence. I think I had about 350 of the thousands-plus words I was supposed to have written by that point in time. I should have been feeling pretty darn low about the whole thing, except I had discovered a new nail polish, which is an almost exact match for Tiffany Blue. In case you didn’t know this, Tiffany Blue is also one of those “great equalizers” between the girly and the not-so-inclined among us. There is something magical about that particular color; I can’t explain it.

Anyhow, my “Tiffany Blue” nails were making me pretty darn happy in spite of the frustration and annoyance of having heard the clomping of boots on the floor as my muses  had run screaming from the room. After a bit of additional rooting around in my nail polish stash, I came upon a bottle of glittery polish. I figured, “what the heck? I’m not writing, anyhow …”, so I applied the glitter over the “Tiffany Blue”.

And … BLAMMO!!

Thousands of words behind … yes. Feeling the hot breath of failure on my neck … oh, hell yes. Suspecting I am not at all cut out for this “writing thing”, no matter how much I wish otherwise … double-hell-yeah.

But I had Fairy Princess Nails. With glitter. (GLITTER!!) Which meant all was right with the world — at least, in some corner of my brain.

 

Muse Wrangling and Herding Cats

All right, kids! (Well, we’re all kids at heart, right?) It’s November, and we all know what that means, don’t we? No, not Thanksgiving and turkey dinners. Not football season and crisp autumn mornings. Not gorgeous splashes of color on the trees and overly frisky dogs in the cool weather. Not even the “official” start of Christmas shopping season at the end of this month. Oh no … I’m talking NaNo, people!

I know: You guys had this from the very first sentence. You’re all writers, too. I love that about WordPress. It’s kind of like being in the same club or something. Or, well, what I imagine it would have been like had I ever been in a club as a kid … which I wasn’t. Let’s move on, though, before I start to wonder about my anti-social tendencies and what they might mean. *ahem*

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Truthfully, I should probably whisper the dreaded name so that my muses don’t hear it. How does one whisper on a blog? Maybe if I put it in brackets and italics, like this –> {NaNo}. I’m convinced that, once my muses know I’ve decided to join in this yearly mental flogging, they will head for the hills. Or, even worse, sit around my brain eating pie and demanding fresh coffee. My muses are like that. I suppose it’s a lucky thing they don’t seem to read my blog. Score one for me!

In theory, NaNo is a wonderful thing. I love the thought of it, particularly since I am someone who is perpetually mired down in the doldrums of writer’s block. Every year, I think to myself, “Self, NaNo is here again! This is a great time to get the gears working. Let’s dust off this idea and give it a whirl. We will get so much done!” I slide into November full of eagerness and excitement. I just can’t wait to get those ideas down and make progress on some projects.

In reality, that 50,000 word goal … Well, it kinda looms. Over everything. In a menacing sort of way. If it had a voice, I am certain it would constantly chuckle Mwuahahahahahaha as it eats away at my free time, compounds my feelings of guilt and inadequacy, and generally turns me into the kind of crazy person who talks to herself in the grocery store and forgets to brush her teeth and hair due to lack of sleep. And my muses, all of whom seemed so excited and eager at the prospect of getting their two cents into whatever ridiculous plot bunny winds out of my brain, end up wandering off to find better things to do. It’s worse than trying to herd cats. At least cats are fuzzy and mostly cute, which makes it easier to live with the fact that one cannot herd them. Muses … not so much.

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At any rate, here’s to November. Here’s to all of you guys who decide to take on the booger-beast known as NaNo. Good luck and good writing to you all. I hope we all make progress on our stories. I hope we all have fun and still find time to laugh — at ourselves and at the world around us. But, most of all, I hope we all remember to shower … at least every other day. Or so.

Godspeed and good writing, my friends!