Courtesy Inky Elbows — a great site for all procrastinating writers!
Courtesy Inky Elbows — a great site for all procrastinating writers!
crossposted from my personal blog
and this past week, a lot of doctor appointments happened and other sundry bits of attending to sick self, sick kids, etc. So in the interest of pediatrics, Nanowrimo fell somewhat behind and has been having trouble catching back up. also, I really got walloped by news of Brother Blue passing away.
Nanowrimo is an excellent tool to get yourself writing if you call yourself a writer but don’t find yourself doing much of it. It’s an excellent jumpstart, you feel inspired, and even if you don’t, you push to meet that 1667 words per diem minimum. But once you fall behind, it becomes really hard to scramble. but I figured out a a few little secrets today:
1. I don’t have to write 1667 words per day.
2. But it works a heck of a lot better if I do. Otherwise I’m playing a deceitful game of catch-up – which is really very much like swimming against the riptide during hurricane season.
3. Nanowrimo becomes an obsession. Possibly a very unhealthy obsession. I sat in the pediatrics office for six hours on Wednesday thinking not so much of my kids and their various stages of this long, non-h1n1 flu we’ve had, but of how I could be writing instead of sitting in this waiting room, exam room, phlebotomy department, radiology department because when I took my daughter to the hospital the previous week, they didn’t run all the tests they now had to run during Nanowrimo. The boys were with me, too for their wellness appointments, etc, vaccines, etc. I was barely concerned, except when C was crying from getting stuck with a needle for bloodwork or having a big loud machine shoot light boxes all over her leg and hips, while mommy wore a big lead apron. Nano becomes unhealthy when your spouse and you are sitting right next to each other all night long on separate computers not saying a word to each other until he does, and you get annoyed that he’s interrupting your train of thought, but more importantly, your word count. It becomes an obsession when every time your toddler wanders over and whines and pulls to be on your lap, you act like it’s the end of the world because you can’t finish your train of thought or your word count. Same with the preteen mom-mom-momming in your ear and poking you in the arm or the teen mom-mom-momming you on the cellphone until you realize in a half-attention moment you allowed him to sleep over someone’s dad’s house and you don’t even know where he lives, because you were still typing when he was asking and you just wanted him off the phone.
4. But Nanowrimo is important, because you will write a novel in thirty days, whether you make the word count or not, and you will have another manuscript to edit and eventually shop with the other one, because you now can market it to agents as a series of sorts….and you will have two books at the end of this! And at the end of this, you’ll pay better attention to your spouse and your kids and yourself for that matter, and to the fact that maybe the sun is in fact shining outside and oh, yea, there’s an outside…..
5. I don’t have to write the parts in the order in which they come chronologically, but in the order in which they travel through my bleeding brain.
6. Ok that’s more than a few things, but I also figured out it is much better to write about what you know than have to research about something for a novel you’re trying to write in thirty days. Set it in a country you’ve been to, and forget about wildlife, unless of course, it has become a central theme in the book….
OK, so many of this blog’s readers are too busy with NaNoWriMo to do much blog surfing — or anything else besides keeping chaos at bay while trying to bang out the daily word count. This month, the word “balance” is probably not in your vocabulary. That said, if you can find a minute or two between carpools or diaper changes — or while on your lunch break at the office — it’s worth your time to check out the collection of pieces on balancing life and writing featured this month at WOW, Women On Writing. As is often the case, the useful nuggets in this content can be applied to most any creative pursuit.
Here’s a tasty sound bite from Christina Katz: “Who says you have to choose between writing and family? You don’t! If I can do it, so can you!” Definitely read WOW’s terrific interview with Christina Katz, aka the Writer Mama.
Enjoy — and then, get back to work!
What lengths will you go to in order to protect your creative time?
I’ve come to depend on my Saturday morning “me time.” My husband and I split the weekend mornings; he gets Sunday. This means I can either sleep in on Saturdays or get up early and start writing — or a combination of the two. But I have from whenever I get up until 10:00 or even 11:00 (if I push it) all to myself, assuming that I don’t have to leave the house to go do something. Like pick kids up from sleepovers.
Sleepovers. A few weeks ago I came to realize that my Saturday morning time was increasingly being sacrificed to pickups for one of my older kids after a Friday night sleepover. Sleepover pickup time seems to be 10:00 by default. This means I need to leave the house by 9:45 in most instances — so I have to start showering/getting dressed by 9:15. If my husband and I were up late the night before and I want to sleep in a little, maybe I get out of bed at 8:00. So, up at 8:00, make coffee….by the time I’m happily ensconced back in bed with my coffee and laptop, I might have an hour left before having to stop. Now, an hour is nothing to sneeze at, but it’s a whole lot less than nearly THREE hours. And without question, once I’m up and have joined the family, that’s it. There’s no going back to my morning hidey-hole. What’s a mama to do?
I started telling my older kids that they had to nail-down pickup time BEFORE dropoff. Either they needed to know that I could pick them up at 11:00 or later, or they had to arrange for a ride home. If neither option was feasible, and the sleepover couldn’t be moved to our house, then no sleepover. I figured that this was only one of the two weekend nights anyway, so it couldn’t be too problematic.
My new edict took hold. Things were going well. I started remembering to remind the kids about pickup plans before I agreed to take them anywhere on Friday nights. More time to self = happier me.
Then, this weekend, my mother came down to babysit while my husband and I went to the David Gray concert in Boston. As we were leaving — late — my daughter asked if she could sleepover at a friend’s house. She needed a dropoff, however, and it was out of our way. No go. But then Grandma volunteered to take her, with the two little ones in tow. Fine. Daughter was happy and packed her stuff in a rush. Just as we were all heading out the door at the same time, I remembered: “What about tomorrow? Are you going to need a ride before 11:00?” Oh. Daughter wasn’t sure. She made a few calls. No, she had to be picked up by 10:00 because the host had a soccer game, and the other girl who was also sleeping over was unable to give my daughter a ride.
I thought about my morning, and how I was so looking forward to getting back to my manuscript. I thought about what I’d just said to Cathy about how your family won’t take your creative commitment seriously unless YOU take it seriously. I want to finish this book, and I need to treat my work LIKE MY WORK.
I told my daughter I couldn’t pick her up at 10:00.
She was sweet, and didn’t give me a guilt trip. “It’s OK,” she said. “I’m going to have a busy weekend NEXT weekend.”
I felt like crap. Really, was it such a big deal to cut my morning a little short? I couldn’t do it. “It’s fine, I’ll just get you in the morning,” I said (a little reluctantly). “No, Momma,” she said. “It’s fine.” She headed back to her room, and I let it go. We left, while I fell into maternal self-flagellation. Isn’t it a mother’s JOB to drive her kids all over the place? Was it really fair to deprive my daughter of a fun night with her friends, just because I selfishly wanted MORE time to myself?
I don’t know the answers to those questions, and I don’t know if I want to know. But my daughter didn’t go, and I used my morning time effectively. I kind of owed it to my daughter to do that, didn’t I?
What would YOU have done?
Some of our readers are contemplating (or have already committed to) NaNoWriMo. What are you going to do to protect the amount of time required for churning out 1,600 words a day? Sure, most people here (even non-writers!) could churn out 1,600 words in a single day. But EVERY day, for THIRTY days?
Despite the sheer terror mild panic, I’m thinking of running “bandit” on the NaNoWriMo road race. I can’t commit officially, because I want to work on my current fiction project and NoNoWriMo rules specify that all projects MUST be from scratch. I’m also more than a little intimidated by the 1,600 daily benchmark. Even just committing to 500 words a day might be a struggle for me. Once I get going, I’m fine, but finding the sit-in-your-seat-and-get-started window, every day, is pas evident.
Stepping up your game, and making sure that YOU are clear on your commitment and that you then communicate that commitment to your family, are essential steps. What else can we do to create — and protect — our time?
[Photo courtesy Shawn Allen under a Creative Commons license.]
In case you hadn’t heard, November 2008 is NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month. Not a month for celebrating the novel; rather, a month for actually writing one. From the NaNoWriMo website:
Because of the limited writing window, the ONLY thing that matters in NaNoWriMo is output. It’s all about quantity, not quality. The kamikaze approach forces you to lower your expectations, take risks, and write on the fly.
Make no mistake: You will be writing a lot of crap. And that’s a good thing. By forcing yourself to write so intensely, you are giving yourself permission to make mistakes. To forgo the endless tweaking and editing and just create. To build without tearing down.
As you spend November writing, you can draw comfort from the fact that, all around the world, other National Novel Writing Month participants are going through the same joys and sorrows of producing the Great Frantic Novel. Wrimos meet throughout the month to offer encouragement, commiseration, and—when the thing is done—the kind of raucous celebrations that tend to frighten animals and small children.
In 2007, we had over 100,000 participants. More than 15,000 of them crossed the 50k finish line by the midnight deadline, entering into the annals of NaNoWriMo superstardom forever. They started the month as auto mechanics, out-of-work actors, and middle school English teachers. They walked away novelists.
What an amazing event. I don’t think I can pull this off (not this year, anyway) but I would really like to try a year or two down the line. I love the concept of simply encouraging output — given the deadline, there really isn’t time for editing or hesitating over the keyboard.
Here’s how to sign up. I see from her blog that Brittany has already committed. Anyone else? (Is this actually possible with young children at home?) Brittany, please keep us apprised of your progress!