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Tuesday, November 5, 2013

put success in the crock pot

NaNoWriMo Day 5. 10,211 words down. 39,789 to go.

I'm beginning to write scenes in little blips and flashes.Getting bored, giving up and coming back. Trying to stay patient with the process and tie the plots, the subplots and the sub-subplots together.

Fiction is hard.

Success does not come in a microwave, it comes in crock pot.

That's what I keep reminding myself when the writer's life is stale and tricky. When it seems as though I've become the very worst version of the "starving artist" cliche. Or worse, someone who sits and complains about her lack of daydreamed fame and cleverness when the only thing she's really been doing is pushing words around on a page–rearranging stories, rather than actually creating them.

The biggest lie that I've been repeating is that I'm a writer not a storyteller.

I guess, what I mean is that it's "easier" to write about events that have already happened. It's so simple to talk about the world as we see it. As we've lived it. To talk about who-said-what over the tops of bistro tables and steam from coffee cups.

It's so much more difficult to see it through a hero you've dreamed up. And even then, she or he may be based off of one of your best friends...

But, I think all of us "crock potted" people---the nearly 300,000 of us writing some sort of draft in one way or another---needed to remind ourselves that we can do this.

That we are storytellers and writers. That we do have the ability, talent, drive to arc a story and its characters together. That we can bring plots and stories and people together, two by two, and send them on their merry ways.

And we do know the difference between an arc and an ark, thank you.

We also need to remind ourselves that nothing truly valuable comes quickly. Ironic, seeing as how a lot of us are in the midst of violently punching out a first draft of a novel in 30 days.

But, for those of us who have achieved, well, anything in our lives, we all know the best way to get anything done is to make yourself extremely busy, tired and all-out crazed. Right? Right?!

Plus, the next few drafts and edits will not come quickly. They will not be stamped onto a blank page. They will be placed and folded neatly into sentences. Eventually.

This is the "dumping" part of the process. The part where you take the words and you chop and peel them. The marinating of the words and story comes later. This process is a pressure cooker, remember?

This is also a process that none of us should try to do alone.


I was just going to type quietly in the trenches. By myself. No harm if I didn't finish, because who would know, right?

But then the ungraceful extrovert in me confessed to a coworker about this project. Now, a little bunch of writerly friends are all in this together. And the community is just on the climb of unfolding.

Because, community is a little bit like a pressure cooker, too.

The support is already wild, though. Even my friend, on his wedding day asked me how this writing project was going. Which is either a sign of how good of a friend he is, or how much I blab about NaNo. Likely a mixture of both.


I'm writing a fictional story following the streamline of one woman's success. Or lack of success, actually.

I've got her going through a Starbucks drive through. In reverse. I've got her ditching her fiance at the altar.

And yes, her hobby is speed-dating. But, she tries to speed-date through love and life. Through working. Through grad school Through friendships.

She's learning, just like me, that success isn't quick. That love isn't quick. And that discovering your calling is a slow, marinating process.

And that she doesn't ever have to do it alone.

Happy reading/writing, friends (and Nanos!).

photo credit: mysterymoor via photopin cc

Friday, November 1, 2013

clearing it out: why I'm writing a novel in a month

Day 1 of NaNoWriMo: Woke up, made coffee and wrote in bed. Started with 564 words written at 6 a.m. And somehow ended up with 522 at 6:30 a.m.

I guess I'll have to stop cutting and editing as I go. This may be harder than I thought.

Desks used to be a hutch for my daydreams, while I was in school. I told my mentor once that I couldn't write unless I had one. A space to lay out my thoughts. A place for my colorful post-its to flutter and fall.

"What's stopping you from buying one?" she asked.

I couldn't think of an answer. And so, that day I hopped on over to Office Max and bought a black desk. And another bookshelf (who can't use another bookshelf?).

At first, it was great. That my was domain. That was the place I knew my writing would be done.

Now, it's become a place where I store my dirty coffee mugs. Where bills pile up. Where I display my month-old birthday cards and pictures of my family at our annual trip to the Outer Banks. Where I check my Facebook and email.

It's become a place where my priorities have shifted.


This month, I'll have gone to five weddings in five months. Most of them out of town. I've been to Boston, Baltimore, Richmond, Asheville, NC. And this weekend I'm heading to Philadelphia.

And I love it. I love the travel. I love being on the road. I love living out of my Vera Bradley duffel bag. I love carrying with me the minimum of what I need for a few days. I love sleeping in hotels. I love feeling like I'm an escape artist, and that I'm moving and shaking.

I say all of this knowing that my other priorities, writing, relationships, friendships, prayer, sanity...didn't exist.

I know this because I didn't even have a place in the apartment that was reserved for my craft. It was superseded by scraps of paper and unpayed bills and criss-crossed to-do lists.

I had to clear out the clutter and create space for creativity to unfold.

A lot of people, when I tell them I'm a writer, look at me with a sort of panicked "I should be doing that, too" face. It's kind of the same guilt they show me in their eyes when they confess that they're "not really readers."

The same guilt I'm sure I so when I think about the last time I went running or played tennis.

They say things like: I'd write if I had the time or I'll write when I retire.But that sort of language worries me on several levels.

First, if you're waiting until you retire to start writing, you'll be surprised how it is, in fact, more work and discipline than it is a hobby. You have to make time for it, or else it will never get done.

Of course, I can't get too carried away. After all, we all have different interests.

But it also worries me when I think about all of the things that we always say we'll do, but never quite get around to doing. I worry about the people that we love the most that we tend to neglect. I worry about the words and travels and music that we're inspired by that we haven't picked up in days or months because we haven't created space for it.

Like my desk, I've taken advantage too much of the fact that my friends, family and writing will always be there for me. I haven't cleared out enough space to allow all of this to unfold.

I want my life to look like a pop-up book. I want the pictures and adventures to surprise me in a three-dimensional way. And in order to do this, I need to let go of the notion that life is about balance.

It was never about balance. It was about priorities.Writing and friendships with my sweet sisters are mine.

That is why I've committed to this crazy NaNo project. That's why I created a user account, and linked up with other writer buddies and told myself to write 1,667 words for 30 days.

That's why I cleared off my desk, so I'd have space to write. That's why I'm taking a break from Netflix and prime time television, to make space for my friendships to flourish.

I'm clearing out space for the thing I'm most passionate about: freedom.
photo credit: mugfaker via photopin cc

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