NaNoWriMo, Here I Come

I was talking with my friend Rebecca a while ago, who was telling me about a challenge she had undertaken at her barre exercise class. “The goal is to complete 45 barre classes in 30 days,” she told me.

I was no mathematician, but those numbers gave me pause. “Wait. That means you’re gonna have to do at least two classes per day sometimes.”

“Yep,” she said. I could tell by her determined, terror-stricken grin that she had come to this revelation long before that moment. As someone who worked full-time (and oftentimes double-shifts), as well as–you know–having a social life in other endeavors, adding that type of commitment would definitely force her to make some adjustments to her daily routine.

“Yep,” she said again when I voiced this, but this time her expression softened into a serious resolution. “I don’t know how I’m going to manage it–but Ima manage it!”

To my glee and admiration (and her own initial shock), she did more than that. She completed her challenge well before the deadline, even giving up some of her favorite pastimes temporarily to make the challenge a legit priority.

I’ve repetively told her how proud I was of her. I hadn’t doubted that she could do it; she is someone who is quite resolute when she plans out activities. In fact, her dedication inspired me.

Despite writing more in general (primarily personal journals), I have not focused any time on actually writing a novel itself (there are other reasons for that, but anyway…). Perhaps I’ll have a day of delight and bust out a page or two, but by the next day, the inspiration is MIA.

Seeing what Becca did with her challenge reminded me that sometimes, the key to success is just deciding to do it–and then, just commiting to it. So, that’s what I’m going to do.

And I’m going to do it by adding a resource that I never have before. I’m using the aid of National Novel Writing Month–also affectionately known as NaNoWriMo.

What is NaNoWriMo?

Well, aside from being really fun to say (and debate its pronunciation among others: “Am I saying it right? Am I–am I saying it correctly?”), and residing in the best month evah (*ahem*Scorpios of the world unite*cough*). NaNoWriMo is a non-profit global organization that promotes the creative drive of novelists everywhere. What started as 21 writers in 1999 has since exploded into a resource with sponsors, education programs, word-tracking capabilities, and more. Beginning November 1, novelists will blaze into a flurry of writing with the goal of getting out at least 50,000 words–a solid start to any novel–by the end of November 30.

Despite my love of writing, I’ll confess that signing-up the word-tracking “required” for NaNoWriMo intimidated me. As a child, my writing was my private safe haven. The most publicly I ever shared my works were in college, both in my creative writing classes and my slew of WWE wrestler slash fanfiction that I posted on an online, members-only private forum.

(The Rock and Triple H. Mmmm, those were good times.)

Timidly, I clicked the link to the NaNoWriMo site. The image of a typewriter and a bagel (half-eaten) lured me into its embrace, while the “sign-up” button beckoned me closer.

Scrolling down further granted me an excerpt of NaNo’s vision statement:

NaNoWriMo believes in the transformational power of creativity. We provide the structure, community, and encouragement to help people find their voices, achieve creative goals, and build new worlds—on and off the page.

From NanNoWriMo.org. LEARN MORE ABOUT THE ORGANIZATION

…They said my favorite word.  “Creativity.”

…How have I denied my urges for so long??

But NaNoWriMo doesn’t just promote writing and creativity–it thoroughly enforces it. Apparently, over 900 volunteers will organize “communal writing sessions” throughout the world during November, giving its attendees both a place and a sense of support that has never been seen before 1999.

Weighing the Odds…as They Crush Me

I continued to peruse the site, building hope and promise that maybe–maybe this could help me get on track towards finally getting over my fears of writing.

Why do I think it will work? Apparently, several novels were penned with the help of the challenge.

  • Wool by Hugh Howey was a fun, freaky scifi series book that I utterly enjoyed when I found it on Amazon.
  • Water for Elephants is another. Heck, that one was turned into a movie starting Robert Pattison, Reese Witherspoon and Christopher Waltz.

Though my goal to write was not to become a famous, popular author, it was nice to know that NaNoWriMo had served as a solid foundation for serious writers who, perhaps, just needed that extra boost of accountability and community support to keep going.

I scrolled down further on the front page, my heart lightening with each line–and then clenched as two sets of numbers suddenly rolled into view.

  • 798,162 active novelists
  • 367,913 novels completed

Welllll, son of a mother. That’s…a lot of writers.

The Game Plan

If I do Nothing, Nothing will happen.  If I do Something, Something has no choice but to occur.

–Anonymous

Just looking at those stats alone was enough to make me sway and bring back some of my original fears to start writing again. Out of such a high number of novels completed, there is bound to be a notable percentage of those novels that are actually brilliant, witty, emotionally life-changing, literary masterpieces.

That being said, I appreciated about NaNoWriMo (aside from the heavy promotion of nurturing creativity) is that it is not a contest. In fact, they make a point to say that this is a community, a place to support each other as everyone works towards our same, singular goal: to complete our 50,000+ word works.

During a time when physical ability has been a heavy strain, writing is one tool that makes me feel sharp and alive. That–and I can’t say this enough–I love to write. At this stage in my life, I want to do more than leave my random scrawlings in a handwritten notebook.

I have good ideas for novels. I know I do. And I want to share them with others to evoke the joy and delight that my favorite novelists and writers have done for me since I was a child.

If the initial goal is to write at least 50,000 words in 30 days, that averages to 1,667 words per day.

Is it possible? Well, sure. Many things are possible.

But there will be days when the desire to sit and type will wane. There will be days when the last thing I will want to do is stare at my dumb computer screen and paw through the slush that will be the first draft of this novel. There will be times when I’ll feel like I’ve written myself into a hole, and the hole seems a bottomless pit with no hope for landing.

And then, there will be those days when I just think: “This sucks, and I hate everything and what’s the point.” And then, I’m gonna run from my desk like Ron Swanson.

…But.

The very reason I’m joining this challenge is because…I have unofficially written for nearly 30 years, and I have yet to try and publish anything. My self-esteem and fear of producing boring, laughable crap has left me prone, stuck.

I have family and friends who have long since been writing and have successfully published. They were able to push past the inner fears and life struggles, bear down, and do what they needed to get their work to the masses.

I envy them. I admire them.

I want to grab them by the lapels and screech, “How did you do it?!”

But, more than anything…I want to join them. Maybe not in just publishing books, but also in the power of their desire.

I want to know their strength and their ability to commit to a project. I want to know what worked for them. I want to know what didn’t.

But…you know? I actually already kinda do.

I’ve talked with the family members, and I followed the blog of and occasionally chatted with an old friend as her books ranked higher and higher on Amazon.

I truly think I have all the tools I need. There is nothing left but the doing.

Final Thoughts

I don’t want live in excuses or fear anymore. I don’t want to procrastinate.

Committing to this challenge will allow me to hold myself publicly accountable for writing a novel for the first time. Honestly, I’m not even sure what the layout of the site is much beyond the sign-up button. Once I finish writing this post, though, I will find out.

If musicians can lock themselves in studios for 72 hours to get an album done, and my friend Rebecca can dole out multiple barre classes in a single day and still rush into work that same day, then I can sit, plug my ears, shove my insecurities aside, and freakin’ write.

…Wish me luck.

Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not: nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not: the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.

Calvin Coolidge

Any other first-time NaNoWriMo novelists out there? I’d love to hear what’s driving you this year!

Writing Prompt: The Password

Writing Prompt:  As a kid, you made a “time travel password” as a joke if your future self ever tried to contact you.  You had forgotten all about it until today — when you received an email with it as the subject line.

😁 Enjoy!


Subject:  Suit juicer is another name for rabid rainbows

I can’t write your name.  You know who I am. You made this up 27 years ago.  We promised that if anything were to happen — and I mean THAT thing — this would be the code for you to believe.

I don’t have much time — and, neither do you.  You have ten minutes to get out of the house. Take only what you need.  Lock your front door. Turn on the security system. Leave your garage door open.  Get in your car and drive north on 75 for two hours, then off the exit at timestamp until you see a little town with a church with a yellow steeple.  Park behind the church, in front of the tree with the red circle on the trunk. Enter the back door and through the kitchen, into the pew. Sitting on the playing organ’s bench is someone who will be able to help you.

There is no guarantee that doing this will change the future.  But we have no other choice. We are more important than we could have ever realized.  Someone is coming to your house. If you are caught, they will kill you. And everyone and everything that you know will be gone.

Please, for all you know, LEAVE.  You have ten minutes.

When I was eight years old, I read my mother’s doctorate thesis on temporal causality, and how forcing the past to repeat itself could be achieved if the proper action was sent back in time.  In this case, the action was the future telling the past what to do to create that same, identical future.

Say that your future self was kidnapped.  Your abductors knew that you were important to the fate of the world, yet you were so brilliant, so cunning, or just so off the radar, they would never find you or capture you (or even know who you were in the first place) with their skillsets or technologies alone.  If they used violence to weed you out, they would waste too many resources and still be unsure of who they actually needed to obtain. They only have one option:

You would have to come to them.

How would they know that?

Because that’s what happened the first time.

Can a causality loop be stopped?  My mother’s thesis answered this question.

Yes.

What we see happening over and over again, she hypothesized, is not in fact a perfect loop.  It is, in fact, a spiral.

Each cut of the spiral is a parallel universe, each with a future you and a past you.  To keep the spiral going , the future you reaches out to the past you — but not behind itself to the past you in the same spiral cut.  Instead, it reaches forward into the spiral cut of the next universe–to the past you directly in front of it. The new past you follows through to become the future you of the same universe, then begins the cycle again.

My mother’s thesis went on to say that the spiral could go on through multiple universes.  In the case of my example above, if abductors tortured the future self that walked right into their camp, that future self might weaken enough to convince its past self to walk into the abductors’ trap by receiving a message that could have only been sent by her future self.

They would demand proof that the future self wasn’t warning herself.  How, then, does the past self know that the message was sent by a future self?

After I read my mother’s thesis, I made myself a promise.  I would never get caught in a causality loop. Even if I wouldn’t remember it or see any proof of such a catastrophe, I didn’t want myself or other universe me’s to repeat the same thing over and over again for the rest of time.  I–present me–would be the one to break the cycle. Somehow, I wouldn’t be the one to fail.

So, I created a password that only I knew.  I shared it with no one, not even my beloved Mr. Nekko-man, my stuffed rabbit.  I wrote it on a piece of paper, burned the note on the gas stove while chanting the phrase, sang it to myself, danced to its tune, mumbled it backward when the teacher called on me in class.  No one, not anyone, could ever get this password back to me — except myself.

Then, I turned 10.  I threw all the silliness of childhood out of my mind.  After all, I was an adult now.

Torture could be cruel.  It could make people say or do things nothing could ever make them do otherwise.  It could resort you back to the fun, harmless times of your childhood, make you go to the sweet, safe inner sanctum where you were truly happy and carefree.  It could make you remember things thrown away carelessly after a year or two of simple thinking.

Suit juicer is another name for rabbit rainbows

What if the abductors are telling you what to write?  What if they’re looking over your shoulder, making sure you’re transcribing exactly what they’re telling you?  What if they said, Write this, or we’ll kill you and everyone you love?

You tell them the password.  They watch you write it. They tell you exactly what to say to continue the loop.  You have no choice.

But what if the password wasn’t just a stamp for recognizing yourself?  What if it stood for something else, too?

What if you made more than one password?

Suit juicer is another name for rabbit rainbows

I loved rabbits.  Mr. Nekko-man was my best friend, even after I stopped being a child.  When I was sick, or sad, my mother would make Mr. Nekko-man talk and make me feel better.  I always listened to Mr. Nekko-man. He always loved me, always made me feel good about myself.  If he told me what I should or should not do, I would listen to him. Things always turned about better when he was near me.

One night, my father and some friends watched Monty Python and the Holy Grail and Fatal Attraction as part of a strange, surreal movie marathon.  I remember peeking around the corner into the living room and loathing how he cracked up at the rabbit scenes.  He laughed even harder when the Holy Hand Grenade blew the bunny into bits, or the camera just did a tight close-up on the rabbit in the boiling pot.  I had left Mr. Nekko-man on the couch, and one of my father’s friends grabbed it and chucked it at him. Mr. Nekko-man cracked my father in the head, but it was an accident.  He didn’t mean to, and I’m sure he would have explained himself if my mother had been around.

My father scowled at Mr. Nekko-man and threw him at the wall; I heard him hit the wooden paneling with a sickening thump.  Mr. Nekko-man never moved on his own, but this time, he moved even less.

My father was a hunter.  He thought he was the perfect marksman if he could nail a rabbit between its eyes.  He killed one once and laughed as he dangled it by one bloody, half-torn back leg right in my face.

Suit juicer is another name for rabbit rainbows

When my father laughed, foam would spittle down his mouth, frothy and putrid like from a wild dog.  Just hearing him would make me want to close my eyes and plug my ears and stay as far away from him as possible, just so I didn’t have to hear him laugh.  It made me want to erase him, stay away from him at all costs. He wasn’t fun, really, not to me or my mom.

Suit juicer is another name for rabbit rabid rainbows

What captor would think that an 8-year-old would have not one, but two passwords to call out to their selves of the past?  Who would care when she’d said the password aloud? After all, they both sounded pretty much the same when you spoke them.

Suit juicer is another name for rabid rainbows

In one of the spiral cuts, the old future me finally got smart.  She knows the abductors have no idea where past self lives. So she can follow their instructions to the letter.  When they execute her–because that was always going to happen–they’ll lose their chance. Because now–finally–past self knows what happened in the future of the previous cut.  And she will know what to do to avoid it in her own.

Patting the matted head of Mr. Nekko-man, I archive the email, then rise from my desk and head downstairs for a cup of tea.

Fin.

The Return of Writer’s Block — and How I’m Dealing

Any writer’s who’s a real writer will feel the pain of sitting at their desk, their brain pumping and flowing with ideas — when suddenly, to their absolute horror, they don’t remember how to get any of it out on paper.  It is the dreaded writer’s block, the scourge of the Seven Pens (heh — just thought of that), the mortifying realization that you just.  Can’t.  Write.

Oh, don’t get me wrong.  The desire is more than there.  You really, really want to.  It’s just…well…there’s that thing for work I need to work on, and the laundry to fold.  And oh, if I had children, they’d need dinner — so I guess I should get started on that…

Yeah.  It’s not pretty.

Today, I have the perfect reason to sit and do nothing but write:  the inability to walk, and doctor’s orders.  And yet, all I want to do is plop myself on the floor and sort through that office closet full of junk that I’ve been wanting to clean for the last six months.  But I’m not!  I’m here, typing viciously to get this out before what little inspiration and time I have tell me to stop.  I’m also here to tell you just how I am choosing to get through this year’s current bout of writer’s block.

 

1. Writing through the Pain (aka Denial)

Okay, so, I know I used to be able to write.  I know that I could at one time sit and write for hours.  I know that I felt so satisfied doing it.  So, how in the freak do I get back to that?

Simple.  I mentally grab myself by the collar and say, “Look.  We both know what this is really about.  You don’t have writer’s block.  You never had writer’s block.  You think that just because you’re tired and stressed from other things, that gives you the right to make excuses?

“Do you want to be an award-winning novelist?  Do you want to make your own schedule and type on those beaches of Hawaii in the middle of nowhere?  Well then, stop sulking and start scribing!”  And then I shove  myself into a chair, fold my arms, and wait until I’ve nervously loaded up my laptop.  Yeah — that’ll teach me.

 

2. Stream of Consciousness Writing on Steroids

I think my biggest fear in taking the time to write again is both building up the stamina to write like I used to (my longest session was 8 glorious hours) and giving myself permission to dedicate that time to it without feeling guilty or like I should be doing something “better” with my time.  You hear it all the time:  writing is a lonely sport, and it can be easy to feel like you’re wasting time.

Anyway, I’ve decided to set aside a minimum of 30 minutes a day to write pure stream of consciousness on anything, for anything.  The bottom line is, I can’t stop writing.  This is going to be time different from writing a blog entry or in an actual story.  Hopefully, this time will allow me to “purge” all the crappy content that is blocking the real flow of dialogue and scene-setting.

 

3. Eating a Weird Meal

Tonight, my dinner consists of two sardines, a raw bell pepper, a yogurt “cheesecake” tart and a navel orange.  First course — the pepper — was about an hour ago.  Time for the main course!

 

4. Listening to James Blake Radio

About a year ago, while morphing into a basket case under the weight of being picked for jury duty, I met a young lady who introduced me to James Blake via his song “Retrograde.”  I was immediately hooked and started listening to more music of his genre: folk, indie, Douglas Dare, Corinne Bailey Rae, Citizen Cope, with a little Seal and Michael Franks here and there.  I welcomed, needed, and enjoyed the music that was inoffensive, soft, real, and simple.  The kind of music that’s equivalent to sitting on the back porch in the summer, drinking tea and watching the moon rise among the choir of crickets and owls.

Ah, I can just hear the opening chords of Michael Franks’ “Lotus Blossom” now.

 

5. Editing Something Else

Believe it or not (I’m Robert Ripley!  No, just kidding), but I actually have 90% of a rough draft of a novel that I completed in April or so of last year.  It was a 300-page, hardcore labor of love, and I felt like singing when I finished that last sentence.

Then, three weeks after that, I read it again — and wanted to cry from my perceived sheer boredom of the content.

Fast-forward to about a month ago.  While sorting through ye ol’ closet o’ junk, I found the aforementioned manuscript, beat-up and losing a few corners.  Curious, I flipped through few pages and realized — huh.  Tweren’t half bad, it weren’t.  So, I’ve decided to resurrect the poor thing and see if there is a story yet to be salvaged within.  Maybe the new-found hope will spark my currently fizzled-out muse.

 

And that, friends, is my current curriculum for beating writer’s block.  I can only hope that I’ve given the next poor, unconventional soul some pearls of wisdom (or a grain of shrewd sand) to help them defeat this cruel, unbiased beast.

And now, I must close, because my head is feeling heavy, and it’s getting hot in this room, and my eyes are crossing, and I need to finish eating before my fat-burning window closes.  Until next time!

(Durn this lack of writing stamina.)