The Mirror Self: NaNoWriMo Week Four Check In

standing woman holding a mirror surrounded by goldenrod
Photo by Noah Buscher on Unsplash.

As I’ve been diving into National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) this November, I’ve been trying to root myself into the present moment, focusing on the words in front of me in order to allow myself the joy of writing itself.

Even so, sometimes I can’t help but imagine a reality different from the one in which I exist. My mind drifts, draws up plans for the career, the house, the relationships I might or could have one day. A kaleidoscope of possibilities both achievable and not.

The person who exists in these scenarios is not me. Or not me exactly. Instead, the person is kind of a mirror self with a little mental photoshopping thrown in. An Andrea refracted into something better — braver, wiser, smarter with her money, confident in speaking her mind, and overall easier to love. The flaws and sorrows and doubts all vanish in this reflected persona.

For all my efforts to stay in the present moment, I don’t want to discount the value in such imaginings. As I noted in a previous post, there are points when drifting off into pontnetial furture can hinder progress in the here and now. At the same time, being able to visualize my dreams and goals provides me with a signposts for how to achieve what I want in life.

In other words, it helps to know what you want in life in order to achieve it.

Focusing on the now during NaNoWriMo has been an incredible blessing. I was looking to experience the joy of writing — and that’s what I’ve achieved.

I don’t necessarily want to write every day and I writing is still work, but its work that comes with surprises and delights and deep emotional resonance, when I let go of worry about the future and let myself setting into the process.

Currently, I’m around 10,000 words behind on my daily word count goals — and in all honesty, there’s a chance I might not make it to 50,000 with all my other commitments. (Writing this post is itself a kind of procrastination in that regard.)

But the word count, in and of itself, is not necessarily the point. I’ve written nearly 35,000 words and am still finding the story compelling. The events that have transpired on these pages have through the course of writing managed to both make me cry and creep me the hell out. My main character is messy and complicated and fighting so hard to survive. I love her and my heart breaks for her.

Regardless of where my actual word count lands on day 30 of November, I aim to hold to the story and the process of writing it. The work will go on and change, and I’ll discover new challenges along the way.

I may never reach the glassy perfection in the imagined reckonings of myself — and that’s okay. As a human, I’m messy and complicated and fighting hard (almost) every day to be better.

There is a value of envisioning the high in the sky possibilities.

There is a value in staying focused on the present moment and the tasks at hand.

The way forward (for me, I’ve found) is often through the blurred boundaries between the two.

What are some of your big dreams? What practical ways can you work to achieve them?


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Write in the Now: NaNoWriMo 2019 Week One Check In

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash
Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is in full swing, with writers around the world diving into their novel or rebel projects. Words are spattering themselves upon page like rain — either in drizzles or downpours. Plotlines are taking root. Characters are waking up and blossoming into shape. Scenes are growing lush and vibrant.

At least, that’s the blessing I send out to all my fellow writers this month.

When I announced my intentions to partake in NaNoWriMo this year, one of the main methods of preparation was to eliminate all future considerations — all the little thoughts of what this new novel might be or become. In my first four days of working on the project, I have managed to get ahead of my daily goals, reaching just over 8,500 words. Along the way, it has been interesting to observe the little games my mind started playing, jumping past the present to future possibilities. Each time, I had to rein those thoughts in and find a way to keep writing.

Brain Game One: Future Success — The first day of working on my new novel was incredibly successful, which was a surprise and a delight. It had been a long time since I had such a smooth writing day, and I was proud of the words I wrote and the direction the story was taking. My brain, noticing me reveling in the pleasure of my success, immediately began jumping ahead. THIS would be the novel, this will be the one to achieve an agent and a publisher, oodles of money and awards, and —

Knock it off, I told myself. None of that matters right now. All that matters is here in the story. Who is this person you’re writing? What comes next? Stick to writing in the now.

Brain Game Two: Future Editing — As I continued on the second day, I found myself discovering the characters and what would happen to them through the act of writing. I allowed details and traits and events to evolve throughout a scene, allowing contradictions to take place and letting them lie, knowing I could come back and visit it later. My brain, however, would not let it be, insisting on telling me all the ways the previous passages would need to be fixed and fixed immediately.

Story Idea vs draft meme

Thank you, I told myself. But let’s worry about those things at another time. We’re focusing on the first draft. Let’s write in the now.

Brain Game Three: Future Failure — The process of writing is always shifting and not every day will flow smoothly. It was inevitable that self doubt would make its appearance, and it did on the third day. My brain fell right into lock-step, questioning whether these words would be good enough or whether this would just be another novel to sit languid in a drawer, ever unfinished.

Hush, I told myself. Everything’s okay. It’s a draft. It doesn’t have to be good enough. Just keep going, stick with the story and see where it leads. Write in the now.

. . .

As the month continues, I’ll have to face thoughts like this over and over again. It’s a continual process of pulling myself back to the present moment, taking a deep breath, and writing from where I’m at in the her and now. For the moment, I’m just enjoying the act of writing — which is exactly what I was hoping to get out of my NaNo experience this year.

If you’re participating in NaNoWriMo or working on any kind of creative projects this month, let me know how you’re doing. Do you find yourself fighting future thoughts? How do you deal with such thoughts and keep moving forward?

. . .

Note: This was first published in A Seed to Hatch, my (semi)-monthly newsletter on the writing life and things that are interesting to writers. If you enjoyed reading this, please check out the archives and/or subscribe:

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Taking a Break from Perfection: Jumping On the NaNoWriMo Bandwagon — and How to Prepare

I’m a long-time fan of the National Novel Writing Month (belatedly called NaNoWriMo) challenge to complete 50,000 words of a novel in the month of November. (If you want to know more about it, a recent episode of Annotated looks at the history of the NaNo challenge and why people dig it.)

I’m not entirely sure when I first starting taking part — probably around twelve or so years ago (way back in my LiveJournal days). I was immediately drawn in to the sense of camaraderie inherent in the challenge and often attended local write-ins, where I was able to sit down with a dozen other writers at a coffee shop and share in the experience of putting words on the page.

Some of the years, I completed the challenge, and some of the years I didn’t. Either way I always enjoyed the experience — regardless of whether I churned out anything editable or not.

It’s been several years since I’ve participated in NaNoWriMo (the last one being in 2014), and I’ve finally decided that it’s time I jumped back on the bandwagon.

Continue reading “Taking a Break from Perfection: Jumping On the NaNoWriMo Bandwagon — and How to Prepare”

November Recap, or how did I manage that?

It’s hard to believe that November is already over, even though it vanished in a flash of activity, including a week long trip to the U.K. for work with a couple of days to tour London, a full day of helping my sister move into a new apartment, several events leading up to a lovely wedding for a good friend, and two Thanksgiving dinners combined with a variety of other family on-goings.

In addition to this, I participated in two November challenges — National Blog Posting Month and Nanowrimo.

The goal for National Blog Posting Month was to write a blog post a day during November. I managed to pull off a total of 21 posts over the course of the month. My personal favorites:

  • Autumn, which incorporates poetry and creative nonfiction
  • Bluebeard, a flash fiction piece that may or may not lead to more stories or a longer work

I fell short of Nanowrimo’s goal of 50,0000 words, as well, managing around 14,500 words, which is still a hefty chunk for a novel in poems. I’ll post an excerpt and thoughts on my process later.

While I did not reach my set goals for either challenge, the point was to get me writing and, in that, I feel successful. Words have been put on the page and progress made.

The next step is to maintain that progress. So, while my December is likely to be as busy with events as November, I’m planning to write at least three blog posts a week (Monday, Wednesday, and Friday posting) and use what time I can in order to finish draft zero of the novel in poems. That will provide me with plenty of work, I’m sure.

Did you participate in any November challenges? How did they go for you?

Facing the mountain

Tom Frost - Robbins ventures up - 1961
Photo by Tom Frost (Creative Commons 3.0).
Saturday morning, I came to the sudden realization that I was doing Nanowrimo whether I liked it or not. After several hours of denial in which I instituted time-old delay tactics, such as twitter and tumblr, I decided on a story to work with — a novel in poems involving the interweaving and retelling of many fairy tales and myths — and began to dig in.

This weekend was an excellent lesson in making time to write.

On Saturday, in between switching out laundry, I wrote. After going for a 4 mile run/walk, I wrote. In the few minutes before I had to leave for the awesome Dia de los Muertos party, hosted my fantastically awesome friend Lise, I wrote.

On Sunday, I woke up early and wrote, because I knew the majority of my day would be given over to helping my sister move from one apartment to another — both apartments were on the second floor. Well, one was on the second and a half floor, because there was a flight of stairs just to get to the second floor, which means my legs are all wibbly wobbly today. While my sister and mom were organizing all the moved-in things, I sat in the living room and wrote some more.

The result: 3,079 words written.

Already, with just that start, I feel better. The poems are more prosey than I’d like, but that’s for editing to fix. The months of feeling stuck and miserable from not writing has slid off my shoulders. This was exactly what I needed. I have a mountain of work ahead of me, but if I continue to be creative with my use of time, then I’m certain I can make it all work.

This is the mountain of things to be done during the rest of November:

1 — Trip to the U.K. for work. I’ll have a day and a half in London to tour the city, which will be action packed

3+ — Bridal party events to attend, including the bachlorette party, the rehearsal, and actual wedding itself.

2-3 — Thanksgiving dinners. The family dynamics are shifting this year and I’m not sure how it’s all going to fall into place.

27 — Blog posts left to be written as part of NaBloPoMo.

46,921 — Words left to be written for Nanowrimo.

Unknown Number — Of books to be read, runs to be run, and hang out time with friends and family have to be fit in.

Are you participating in any November challenges? Have you had a good kick off to the month?