My commute to my day job was effortless this morning. The roads were nearly clear and traffic was almost nonexistent. As someone who generally drives a minimum of two hours a day, this would normally be a cause of celebration. But these open roads are the result in numerous Silicon Valley folks working from home in the face of the corona virus — a reality that left me melancholy.
Turns out, nearly empty roads are a strange, haunting sight.
This month, I started a challenge to write 30 poem drafts in 30 days (a challenge I normally do in April during National Poetry Month, but I got confused and started it early, so here we are). I found a nice rhythm to the work at the start of the month, but have since fallen behind and am having to play catchup.
As more and more news flows in about all the messed up goings on in the world, the writing of poetry or fiction feels like a frivolous thing. How could putting words on a page possibly help anyone or anything?
Apparently, there’s communities of folks making Book and Authortube videos, in which they essentially talk about books, writing, and publishing. Since I’ve been wanting to get back into making videos, these community topics seemed a good way to focus my ideas around.
One of the things that a lot of folks in this community do is the Newbie Tag — which is essentially a list of questions about you and your interests as a means of introduction. It sounded like fun, so I thought I’d go for it — although with my own flare.
Booktube and Authortube each have their own unique set of questions (listed below), created by Brenda C. and Jenna Streety, respectively. Rather than making them as two separate videos, I decided to incorporate them together, editing to avoid repeated questions and (hopefully) making things flow.
I hope you enjoy the video, and if you decide to do your own newbie tag, please let me know. I’d be happy to check it out.
I tend to start off each year with high hopes for what I’ll be able to achieve — and 2019 was no different. But looking back, the first half of the year was a struggle for me. Having set myself a single goal for the year, I was pushing and punishing myself to finish a novel that wasn’t connecting for me. That frustration overshadowed a lot of my work and my perception of my value as a writer.
When people asked me what I was up to, I often answered that I was hermiting — which sounds like a purposeful withdrawal from word in order to delve into self reflection. However, in reality, I was hiding, too timid to come out of my shell.
But recent months have been more positive. Letting go of the need to finish the novel was the wisest decision I made, providing a huge sense of relief. Subsequently participating in National Novel Writing Month and allowing myself space to dive into a new story and just enjoy the process of writing was a giant boon for me. The work was no less difficult, but the joy of writing was more present.
And then, I recently learned that Corvid Queen nominated my short story “How Bluebeard Ends” for a Pushcart Prize — a delightful acknowledgement for a story that was rejected numerous times before finding a home. (Here’s all the wonderful works Corvid Queen nominated.)
These recent wins have provided me a different perspective on my year. Looking back with a more positive lens, I can see more clearly the huge amount of work I’ve done.
I had three poems published this in the year — “Belatedly, The Refusal” (Glass: A Journal of Poetry), “A Little Background Information” (Cotton Xenomorph), and “Bride of Frankenstein: Our Lady of Rage” (Star*Line). I’ve also received an acceptance for a project coming out next year that I can’t quite announce yet.
I’ve also done a tremendous amount of work on my blog, publishing around 70 posts. Among these, I’ve conducted 15 interviews with poets — sevenPoet Spotlights on my blog and eightpodcast interviews for New Books in Poetry (the fact that I started cohosting a podcast alone is a wonder). Not to mention the number of other blogs, newsletters, poems, stories, and projects that I’ve have been and am continuing to work on.
In the midst of all this, I took three major trips this year to Venice, Iceland, and a family trip to Alaska. All while consuming an enormous number of books, movies, tv shows, games, and podcasts.
I’m grateful for this year. I’m grateful for words — those I’ve written and those I’ve read. I’m grateful for the breath in my lungs, for the rain pattering outside my window, and for the cozy sweater wrapped around me. I’m grateful for making it through the adventures and struggles this year has brought me — and I’m grateful to you for being here to share the journey.
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?
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.