Day 14 ~ #NaNoWriMo2019

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I find myself getting mired in the murky middle of this draft. Again.

I am going back through it, taking notes on each chapter, seeing where the story is at, where it needs to go. Noting when something is a repeat. Filling in with new chapters.

But I find myself avoiding my novel. The enthusiasm to finish it this month has waned,

This morning I realized why.

I am editing when I need to just be writing.

Writing it through to the end. Not caring if I change tense or repeat a scene or throw a whole new story arc into the mix.

I can fix all of those things. But only after I have a full next draft done.

So, that is what I am doing now. Just writing the damn thing through to the end no matter how messy or imperfect or incoherent or poorly written it is.

I can fix messy and imperfect and incoherent and poorly written.

I can’t fix not written at all.

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Day 12 ~ #NaNoWriMo2019

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I haven’t been posting every day but I have been writing every day. There’s only been one day where I wrote but didn’t work on this novel. I’ll take it.

Learning a few things about myself and my writing as I get deeper into finishing this draft:

• I desperately need to learn the different between lay and lie (I had a cheat sheet at one point but I’ve lost it.)

• I also need to learn the difference between effect and affect.

• I need to write as early in the day as possible. My focus fades fast the more I get into my day.

• I am learning to write good enough for now. Good enough for this draft, this scene. Good enough to be able to come back and fix it up in the next draft.

• I am learning to use placeholders. Just put a random name in of a person or song or singer or street that I can then figure out later (with FIX IT in all caps after it). Don’t let “research” be an excuse to stop writing.

• I work best in 30-45 minute increments. Then I need to get up and do something for 15 minutes to get the energy flowing: yoga, browse the bookstore, play with the dogs or do some light household task.

• Accountability is key for me. I know that nobody really cares if I finish this draft or not, but since I declared that I would, I feel pressure to honor that.

• Planning for the next day is really helpful. I like to know when and where I plan to write and have little assignments ready to get me started.

• Mostly, I am learning to be my own personal cheerleader instead of constantly judging and criticizing my efforts. I mean, I am writing a novel! Another one, actually. Not many people do that. It is a huge deal. A huge commitment. It is helping me let go of the I-am-lazy story I tell myself and replace it with I-am-a-badass-writer-devoted-to-her-craft story.

If you are participating in NaNoWriMo, what are you learning about yourself? Your writing? Your process? I would love to hear!

 

#NaNoWriMo2019 ~ Day 3

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Change of plans today. My writing buddy is feeling under the weather so we are rescheduling. But since I had already planned on going out to write, I stuck with that. Brought a PBJ, got a soy chai and now it’s time to write!

Session 1: 12:17 PM Set Freedom for 30 minutes

It’s amazing how much progress can be made when I lift my perfection filter and just write a scene, even if it’s the shittiest scene ever. At least a shitty scene can be revised. Now for a short stroll through the bookstore to refresh my body and mid then time for another session.

Session 2: Set Freedom for 30 minutes

Finished a chapter. Moving onto next one. Making notes of pieces that need to move up earlier. 

Plan for tomorrow:

At desk by 7 AM. 2 sessions before going to yoga at 9:30.

Besides making progress, I am immersing myself in wondering and dreaming about this story and the characters again. so even when I am not physically at my desk, I am still writing. 

Notes:

Need description of Lydia’s house

Write Thanskgiving scene

Reward: Finally check out the new indie bookstore in town!

#NaNoWriMo2019 ~ Day 2

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Day 2

7:36 AM Set Freedom for 30 minutes

Just about wrapped up this chapter. Now that I am giving myself to permission to just stay at my desk, with my novel and allow my imagination to wander, I realize that I do a disservice to my work by merely relying on word count and it is why I have been avoiding it and focusing on what I consider “easy writing”: morning pages, writing practice, blog posts.

Sitting with what is unknown is uncomfortable. Writing shitty first drafts of scenes and chapters doesn’t feel good. Not being able to say here is a finished piece at the end of a writing  prompt leaves me questioning my so-called productivity.

But this allowing myself to stare out the window and write a crappy scene that gets the gist of it down and is no where near perfect is part of the process that I have been hesitant to dive into. Well, consider permission granted. 

I hereby give myself permission to leave blanks, leave questions, skip ahead or back in chronology, stare out the window as I try to see the scene unfold behind my eyes, and to write the shittiest draft necessary in order to keep the momentum moving forward. 

Plan for tomorrow:

~ Meet a friend at the bookstore to write together. Writing is so solitary that having somebody  else next to you is comforting. And accountability really really works for me.

~ Start with phone call to Grace. End of chapter.

~ Bring The Observation Deck to shake things up.

 

Books Read in October.

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“The Testaments” a novel by Margaret Atwood

Only dead people are allowed to have statues, but I have been given one while still alive. Already I am petrified.

I was both thrilled and terrified when I heard that a sequel to “The Handmaid’s Tale” would be coming.Thrilled because that story fascinated me. Terrified because it often feels like that fictional world is merging with our reality.

I went to the theater on pub day to watch the live presentation and interview. Atwood is brilliant and funny. Actors read from the book and I left itching to dive into myself.

Once I did, it was hard to put it down. I appreciated that it wasn’t a sequel in the sense the that it merely continued with June’s story. It is so much more than that. We get a wider, deeper perspective on Gilead and its citizens. What it was like to grow up there, what was intended compared to what actually manifested.

Rarely have I been so enthralled and pleased with a sequel.

A sentence that made me laugh out loud (In a story that is anything but funny):

“Nobody is any authority on the fucks other people give.”

“Man’s Search for Meaning” by Viktor E. Frankl

This book does not claim to be an account of facts and events but of personal experiences, experiences which millions of prisoners have suffered time and again.

This book has been on my radar and TBR shelf for years and I finally made time to read it. With all that is going on in the world, it felt extremely, even urgently, relevant.

Frankl, a psychiatrist, labored in four different camps between the years of 1942 and 1945. His parents, brother and pregnant wife died. He had every reason to allow the events happening to him to define his life and his experience. Instead, he chose to cope through finding meaning in suffering.

It is a moving and thoroughly inspiring story of finding resilience within no matter what you are experiencing outwardly.

A sentence that resonates:

They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.

“The Reason I Jump” by Naoki Higashida

When I was small, I didn’t even know that I was a kid with special needs.

So begins this wholly original, thoroughly enchanting memoir written by a 13-year-old boy with autism.

Each chapter starts with a question posed to him about being autistic. Questions he is often asked.

In incredibly self-aware, often poetic language, he describes what it is like to be him in this world. What it is like to experience the world through his brain, his body. 

A passage that blew me away:

But when I’m jumping, it’s as if my feelings are going upward to the sky. Really, my urge to be swallowed up by the sky is enough to make my  heart quiver. When I’m jumping, I can feel my body parts really well, too—my bounding legs and my clapping hands—and that makes me feel so, so good.

“Mrs. Fetcher” a novel by Tom Perotta

It was a long drive and Eve cried most of the way home, because the big day hadn’t gone the way she’d hoped, not that big days ever did.

Exploring her new empty-nest life, Eve embarks on a sexual awakening that makes her question much of what she thought she knew about herself and those closest to her. Perotta takes us to the teetering edge of what could be catastrophic consequences but pulls back just enough to allow his characters the space to royally fuck up while still managing to grow.

A passage I love:

It was nothing, really, just a passing shadow, and Eve had lived long enough to know that it was foolish to worry about a shadow. Everybody had one; it was just the shape your body made when the sun came out.

#NaNoWriMo2019~Day 1

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I am using this year to finally finish the draft of my current novel. I think this will be the third. But it has changed so much that it almost feels like the first draft again.

First session: Set Freedom for 30 minutes and go.

I realize that I often edit as I go and that is why it is taking oh so long. Now, I am placing notes to move a scene or blanks to fill in later so I can just keep going.

After the 30 minutes, I got up and did the dishes, folded a load of laundry, made the bed then went up to my yoga room for a few sun salutations. Now, I’m back at my desk and ready for round 2.

Second session: Set Freedom for 30 minutes. 

Started a new scene. Bringing back in an old character. Trusting that even time spent staring out the window and wondering is time well spent. 

Bundled up and took a 45-minute walk through the neighborhood while listening to IMG_1035an interview with Dani Shapiro and Gabrielle Bernstein on the Beautiful Writers Podcast.

Session 3: Set Freedom for 30 minutes.

I notice that part of my process involves writing my way backward into a scene. I’ll start in the character’s head then realize I need to ground them in a body and in a place then that usually sends me into a flashback that I then realize is not actually a flashback but part of the current story.

Got a shower and got dressed for the rest of my day.

Plan for tomorrow:

Pick up with current scene.

Be at desk by 8 AM. (I was going to say by 7 but I just saw that an event tonight will keep me out until 11:00.) At least one session but more likely, two, then it’s off to a 90-minute yoga class at 10:00.

Permission Granted.

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Image found via Pinterest.

Remember being a child and needing to ask for permission for just about everything? To watch a show. Go out with friends. Have a snack. Stay up later. 

We needed permission to keep us safe. To help us learn to make choices that were good for us. And we looked for that permission from our parents, teachers and caregivers.

We looked for that permission outside of ourselves.

Often, we carry that permission-seeking well into our adulthood. I know I have.

I sometimes look to agents and contests to give me permission to be a writer. If that person out there sees something worthwhile in my work, then I must be a writer, right?

Wrong.

I am a writer because I write.

I am a writer because it is how I live in the world

It is how I inhabit this life.

It is how I process this being human.

I don’t need permission to call myself a writer.

I don’t need an agent or a publishing contract to call myself a writer.

I grant myself permission.

What do you need to grant yourself permission to do or be?

Maybe you need permission to :

To speak up.

To rest.

To not finish that book you started. (Seriously, let it go.)

To say no.

To say yes.

To go after a new dream.

To let an old dream go.

To accept an apology you never received.

To extend forgiveness to yourself.

To embrace your body as it is right now.

Whatever you need permission to do or be or say or believe, consider it granted.

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Image found via Pinterest.

(Feel free to share what you are granting permission for in the comments!)

The Day I Fell Back in Love with Writing.

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Writing is my way into the word. It is connection. It connects me to what I think, feel, experience, believe, fear, want. Writing is who I am at the deepest level.

Writing is like breathing. That essential. That integral to my being.

Lately, even though I am showing up to write every day (I am well into my fourth year of this) I’ve lost the joy in writing. The playfulness. I often feel like I am merely showing up to page in order to make the “X” on my dry erase board. The accumulation of these marks has been immensely satisfying and motivating but I am afraid I am giving up something in the process of showing up. Giving up a depth of experience, giving up a certain lightness or playfulness.

Just as I was articulating these feelings, an ad for a workshop called “Fall in Love with Your Writing” appeared in my Facebook feed. (One of the few perks of their invasive algorithms). I didn’t know the writer but I loved the title. And it felt like a gift from the Universe so I wasn’t about to turn it away. 

I joined 16 other writers for an afternoon of writing filled with laughter and tears, getting out of our comfort zones and just filling the page for the sake of filling the page.

I wasn’t trying to add an “X” to my board.

It wasn’t about finishing a scene or a chapter for my WIP.

It was about seducing my writing.

Seducing it back into my life, not out of obligation but out of desire.

Desire to play on the page.

Play with words.

Play with language.

Play with genre.

Desire to explore out of curiosity.

Desire to immerse my self in the process rather than focusing only on the end-product.

I once had an art teacher give me some advice. I had drawn a self-portrait in pencil that was all monotone. He told me to just get in there and create some depth and contrast and he didn’t even care if it turned into one big black hole of a mess. My stomach clenched at that. I couldn’t “ruin” it that way. Could I?

But his advice was perfect. He saw how tightly I clung to not wanting to make a mistake. How I wanted to do it “right” And how that kept me stuck and safe on the outside.

It was the first time I had been given permission to “fail.” 

At the end of this afternoon workshop I once again had permission again to fail. To play. To not play it safe all the time. I felt I had loosened the incredibly tight reins I hold on myself to be productive. 

And true to the title, I fell in love with my writing again.

(Huge, heartfelt thanks to Kristine E. Brickey for gathering us together and giving us the space to play and explore in a safe, supportive environment!)

100 Observations After 100 Days of Sobriety.

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  1. I sleep better. 
  2. Not perfect, but definitely better.
  3. It’s easier to fall asleep, I stay asleep and wake up refreshed.
  4. I have more energy.
  5. I am more focused.
  6. I read more.
  7. I have dreams that I drink and I am so disappointed in myself in the dream. 
  8. Then I wake up relieved that it was just a dream.
  9. I am glad that I decided to share my story. 
  10. It has allowed other women to reach out to me for support.
  11. My skin looks better. 
  12. Actually, it looks to me like it is glowing.
  13. I am getting more comfortable being uncomfortable.
  14. I feel all my feelings.
  15. I am finding new ways to decompress after a long day:
  16. Tea.
  17. Meditation.
  18. Guided body scan.
  19. Play with my pups.
  20. Reading.
  21. I binged on sugar when I first stopped drinking. 
  22. That has leveled out.
  23. I also binged on social media at first. 
  24. Still working on that one.
  25. I find it easier to make other heathy choices.
  26. I am easy on myself when I don’t.
  27. That’s a surprising development. 
  28. This newfound compassion for myself.This tenderness.
  29. I didn’t go out often at first. 
  30. I am slowly making my way back out into the social world.
  31. I am saving money. 
  32. Like probably $50 a month.
  33. I go out to eat less so I am saving money there as well.
  34. And when I do go out, the bill isn’t bloated with booze.
  35. Everyone has been supportive so far.
  36. No awkward questions about why I’m doing it or suggesting that I don’t have a problem or attempts to peer-pressure me into having just one drink.
  37. I do notice that some people feel compelled to justify when and how much they do drink. 
  38. I listen but I am not judging. 
  39. I am doing this for me. 
  40. Your path is your path.
  41. My dreams are more vivid and involved, often spooling out like novels or movies.
  42. My digestion is smooth.
  43. I no longer say things drunk that I wouldn’t say sober.
  44. If it can’t be said sober, it doesn’t need to be said at all.
  45. No hangovers!
  46. No shame.
  47. I collect sober celebrities.
  48. They keep me company on this journey.
  49. And they remind me that I am in good company.
  50. Demi Moore.
  51. Mackelmore.
  52. Jennifer Hudson.
  53. Jennifer Lopez
  54. Bradley Cooper.
  55. Brad Pitt
  56. Among many, many others.
  57. There is no longer this haze shrouding my vision.
  58. I see clearly who I am.
  59. And who I want to be.
  60. I feel like I am living my life on purpose.
  61. Not sure how this is related but I no longer buy a bunch of stuff.
  62. I am buying less books.
  63. Less clothes.
  64. Less stuff to clutter up my life.
  65. I go to Target and actually stick to my list.
  66. Maybe I am not longer trying fill myself up.
  67. Maybe I no longer see myself as broken.
  68. In need of fixing.
  69. Maybe I am finally able to embrace all parts of myself.
  70. No longer numbing to parts I don’t like.
  71. No longer trying to not feel what I am, indeed, feeling.
  72. I listen more intently.
  73. To myself.
  74. To those around me.
  75. To my body.
  76. To my intuition.
  77. I have space in my life to do the things that I always say I want/need to do:
  78. Meditate.
  79. Yoga.
  80. Writ.
  81. Read.
  82. Walk.
  83. I am clenching my jaw less.
  84. I don’t feel guilty when I feel the need to have a jammie day.
  85. I am starting to cook more.
  86. To be honest, that is probably partly due to the season change, too.
  87. I still have the urge to drink.
  88. Out of habit.
  89. After a long day.
  90. Out for a nice dinner.
  91. While cooking dinner.
  92. I no longer tell myself that I’ll probably drink again at some point so why not now?
  93. I have fun without drinking.
  94. Even if people around me drink.
  95. Summer was a test that I passed:
  96. Patios, birthday, Anniversary, Art Fairs. 4th of July without booze.
  97. I am experiencing more:
  98. Clarity.
  99. Grace.
  100. Ease.

Books Read in September.

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“Future Home of the Living God” a novel by Louise Erdrich

When I tell you the my white name is Cedar Hawk Songmaker and that I am the adopted child of Minneapolis liberals, and that when I went looking for my Ojibwe parents and found that I was born Mary Potts I hid the knowledge, maybe you’ll understand. Or not.

Continuing my dystopian fascination, Erdrich leads us into a future where evolution has stopped. Pregnancy and childbearing become matters of state security and concern. 

Cedar is four months pregnant when the world begins to dissolve. She is on a journey to bring her child into the world, to find her birth family all while navigating  a new society where pregnant women become a commodity.

Fiercely moving and original, I couldn’t stop turning the pages. 

A sentence that gave me chills:

The first thing that happens at the end of the world is the we don’t know what is happening.

A sentence I love:

Perhaps we function as neurons ourselves, interconnecting thoughts in the giant mind of God.

“Sober Curious” by Ruby Warrington

When I first got Sober Curious, one persistent question kept blinking into view, like a lighthouse on a stormy night:

Would life be better without alcohol?

That same question blinks at me.

Warrington coined the term “sober curious” which I like. It allows someone like me who has not hit a dark rock bottom to find a space in which to begin to question my drinking. To rethink the role it plays in my life, own my health, in my body. 

She weaves her own sober curious journey with research and interviews, laying out a possible path for each of us to find on our own. No judgment.

She is honest, funny, engaging and invites us on this path she has lit for us, but always encouraging us to find our own way. This is what works for her and she is generous in sharing it with the world.

A sentence that makes so much sense:

Thinking back to Marc Lewis’s theory that all human behavior stems from our desire to seek out pleasure or to avoid pain, it seems obvious that our specific FOMA (fear of missing alcohol) triggers will be individual for each of us, even if they are rooted in the same basic needs.

“Ursula K. LeGuin- Conversations on Writing” by Ursula K. LeGuin with David Naimon

The interviewers I fear most are the ones who’ve read what the publisher’s PR people say about your book, along with some handy pull quotes.

Divided into 3 parts with passages of her own writing interspersed, Naimon discusses Fiction, Poetry and Non-fiction with LeGuin. The title is accurate in describing them as conversations rather that interviews. Luckily, Naimon is not the kind of interviewer she fears most. Each conversation ends up being a dance between two intelligent people about literature and its role in society.

I am ashamed to say I have read very little of her but that will be changing. She has a fascinating mind and is not afraid to say what needs to be said. 

One of my favorite pieces was “On Serious Literature” in which she responds to a review of a Michael Chabon book and it is clear that the reviewer is not a fan of so-called genre fiction. The lesson? It was never a good idea to piss off LeGuin.

A passage I love:

Science describes accurately from outside, poetry describes accurately from inside. Since explicates, poetry implicates. Both celebrate what they describe. We need languages of both science and poetry to save us from merely stocking endless “information” that fails to inform our ignorance or our irresponsibility.

“I Remember” by Joe Brainard

I remember the first time I got a letter that said “After Five Days Return To” on the envelope, and I thought that after I had kept the letter for five days I was supposed to return it to the sender.

Those two little words create a life. 

Those two little words were the first writing prompt I used. It opened a flood of words and images and memories that I then spilled onto the page. It is a prompt i still use to this day, along with the opposite: I don’t remember. 

When Dani Shapiro recommended this book, I immediately went on-line and found it. 

It’s truly amazing how an entire life can be revealed through memories. What we choose to remember, what we don’t. How one memory leads to the next. 

I can’t tell you how many times I read his words and thought, “Me, too!” like this one:

I remember milkmen. Postmen. Guest towels. “Welcome” mats. Avon ladies. 

This is an original book that reads like a path of memories laid out like breadcrumbs to reveal this particular human soul that is both universal and deeply personal sometimes humorous, sometimes deeply moving. Just like life.

A sentence I love:

I remember trying not to look lonely in restaurants alone.

“Awakening the Spine” by Vanda Scaravelli

This is not really a yoga book, nor is it a book on how to do the asanas.

This is a beautifully written and designed book that feeds both the eyes, the body and spirit. 

I can already feel how I carry my differently, or how it carries me. I feel like I am much more aware of my spine and how it moves. So, yes, reading this book helped me to awaken my spine. 

A sentence I love:

You have to learn how to listen to your body, going with it and not against it, avoiding all effort or strain and centering your attention on that very delicate point, the back of the wist (where the spine moves in two opposite directions).

“The Pursuit of Alice Thrift” a novel by Elinor Lipman

You may have seen us in “Vows” in the New York Times: me, alone smoking a cigarette and contemplating my crossed ankles, and a larger blurry shot of us, postceremony, ducking and squinting through a hail of birdseed.

I pulled this gem out of my stacks and am so glad I did. I don’t remember laughing out loud while reading a novel in a long, long time. 

Alice Thrift is a surgical intern, very smart but also very awkwardly social. In fact, at one point her own mother wonders if she might be on the spectrum. 

The life of an intern, doesn’t leave much room for romance but that doesn’t stop Ray Russo, fudge salesman and extreme extrovert, from pursuing her. 

Filled with memorable characters, this novel was hard to put down.

A sentence that made me laugh out loud:

Finding Ray’s chin hooked on her shoulder while asleep:

Didn’t heads belong on pillows? Hadn’t beds evolved to queen-and king-sized so that body integrity could be maintained during sleep?

“Her Body and Other Parties” stories by Carmen Maria Machado

(If you read this story out loud, please use the following voices:)

I don’t even know where to start with this remarkable collection of stories. They are mesmerizing, startling, lush and stake out new territory in this genre.

I began each story as if carefully opening a precious gift, never quite sure what I would find inside. I discovered worlds that (and I have to quote the back jacket) “blithely demolish the borders between psychological realism and science fiction.” A mysterious green ribbon around a woman neck tempts her husband. An inventory of lovers is revealed in the wake of a world catastrophe. Smack in the middle is this enthralling yet disturbing rendition of “Law and Order: SVU.”

Reading this collection as a writer reminded me to go where the characters take you, allow the writing to twist and turn and writhe on the page. And, most importantly, don’t be afraid to take risks.

A description of a baby that I loved:

She smells clean, but chemical. And behind it, an edge of milk, bodily and sour, like something tipped askance.

A description of being put under anesthesia:

As they put me to sleep, my mouth fills with the dust of the moon.

A description of autumn that took my breath away:

And then, autumn, the first autumn, our first autumn, the first squash dish, the sweaters, the burning smell of the space heater, never leaving the heavy blankets, the scent of smoke that reminds me of being a Girl Scout and being twelve and camping with girls who hate me. The leaves catch fire, color burning away green like a disease. More rain, another carpet of leaves, yellow as dandelions, red as pomegranate skin, orange as carrot peels. There are strange evenings when the sun sets but it rains anyway, and the sky is gold and peach and also gray and purple like a bruise. Every morning, a fine mist coats the grove. Some nights, a bloody harvest moon rises over the horizon and stains the clouds like an alien sunrise.