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.

 

#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.

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!)

Committed…or Nah?

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Commitment. That is my theme for my yoga classes this week. Got it from The Power Path. I love that it falls in September which is the time of year I commit to my routine, structure and goals again as we head into the last quarter of the year.

I know I am committed to writing. How do I know this? Because of the actions that back it up:

~ I show up to the page severy single day.

~ I post here.

~ It’s why I read so many books.

~ It’s why I take classes and workshops with writers I admire.

~It’s why I create the time and money to honor this commitment

While I am committed to writing, I can see that I am not committed to publishing. How can I see that? By my lack of consistent action. My submission process is spotty at best. I started off the year on a roll. But as the year has progressed and the rejections have stated to appear, my enthusiasm has waned. But I have to remember it is part of the process. So many great writers and books were rejected at first.

So, how can I commit to publishing in the same way I commit to writing? What has worked for writing that I can apply? 

Frist, I show up every day to write. It doesn’t matter if I know what I am going to write, or what I work on. It could be Morning Pages, my blog, my current WIP, exercises from “You are a Badass at Making Money,” or from the on-line class I am taking with Bryonie Wise, “Human is What We Are.”

It doesn’t matter what or how much I write. It only matters that I show up. 

Second, I keep track of those days on a chart in my office. Keeping track keeps me motivated.

These are the two main things I do. Show up and track.

So, every day I need to either submit something or research where to submit.

I will make a chart or find an app and keep track of the days. I think 5 out of 7 is a good goal for this.

Commitment takes action. Action pushes through fear. Obviously, there is something about publishing that scares me. Hmmm…can’t imagine what. Putting my heart and soul out into the world to be judged. Sounds easy-peasy…

But I am going to try and harness this commitment energy. If something is important to me and I say that this is, then I have to act on it. Every single day. Forward momentum is my friend. Stagntation is not.

Onward!

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Acknowledging Ms. Rule-Maker.

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Today I felt like a slug.

I took one nighttime sinus pill last night to help with a lingering headache and the effects seem to weigh me down. I laid on the couch until it felt like I was melting into it.

Finally, I hauled myself off of it and into the shower. Got myself dressed. Came to the bookstore. Ordered a chai (hoping the caffeine would help jumpstart me out of this energetic stupor) then began to write my morning pages (even though it was two o’clock in the afternoon.)

One of the first things to come out was this so-called rule that if I had to go to the bookstore to write rather than sit in the perfectly lovely writing space I created at home, then I wasn’t a real writer.

Wait, what?

I recently unearthed a bunch of rules I have absorbed over the years about food. It was a long list.

So, I decided to do the same with this. What other rules were lurking around?

I should have a degree to be a real writer.

I should have a book published to be a real writer.

I should write a certain amount of words or for a certain length of time on my current WIP to be a real writer. (The amounts are always totally unrealistic.)

I should work on my WIP and not the ten other kinds of writing I may do on any given day.

I picture this rule-maker as an older woman, dressed in black, with a tight severe bun, pacing around, slapping a ruler against her palm.Once I have a visual it is easier to remember that her job is create rules. She thinks she is helping me. Just like it is my mind’s job to churn out thoughts. My job isn’t to stop either one. My job is to observe and then move on.

Meditating doesn’t mean not thinking. That happen when we die. Meditation is about observing the thoughts, becoming intimate with the mind while not getting swept away by the current.

Same with Ms. Rule-Maker. Once I acknowledge her, I can give her a brief nod that says, “Thank you for your input, I’ll keep that in mind” then go on my way.

That is exactly what I did today. And I managed to get everything on my writing agenda done:

Morning Pages 

Writing Practice

Read and do exercises from “You Are a Badass at Making Money”

Work on WIP

New rule: Writing anywhere, on anything for any length of time makes me a writer.

 

 

Don’t Be Tossed Away.

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“Don’t be tossed away by your monkey mind. You say you want to do something—“I really want to be a writer”—then that little voice comes along, “but I might not make enough money as a writer.” “Oh, okay, then I won’t write.” That’s being tossed away. These little voices are constantly going to be nagging us. If you make a decision to do something, you do it. Don’t be tossed away. But part of not being tossed away is understanding your mind, not believing it so much when it comes up with all these objections and then loads you with all these insecurities and reasons not to do something.”               ~ Natalie Goldberg

 

This is one of the first lessons I learned from Natalie Goldberg when I read her books then studied with her. But it is only recently that I feel I have really absorbed that lesson. It is only recently that I feel that I live that lesson.

I rarely allow myself to be tossed away now that I have decided to show up daily to my writing, to my mind through meditation. She is right. We must become intimate with the way our minds work and see monkey mind for what it is.

Part of me deeply regrets that I resisted meditating for SO long. At the retreat with Goldberg, she basically said it is the one true secret to writing and that while she din’t make it mandatory, she highly encouraged us to show up to the early morning meditation before the activities began for the day.

I blew off the meditation. I slept instead.

And as I write that, I realize I mean it literally ( I slept in) and figuratively. I slept through much of my life, allowing monkey mind to be in charge. Believing the stories it churned out and boy, did it churn out some doozies.

Those stories tossed me away.

Tossed me away from the page.

From the stories I yearned to tell..

From my goals.

From my dreams.

Now, I am not staying that I no longer have that voice taunting me, trying to derail me. Nope. Not at all. But now that I write every damn day, now that I meditate every damn day, I no longer care so much what money mind has to say.

I no longer wait for the perfect circumstances or the perfect beam of inspiration or the perfect feeling that that will propel me effortlessly to my desk or meditation cushion. If I waited for that, I’d be waiting forever. There’s always a reason not to write, always a reason not to meditate.

Instead I show up no matter what.

Being tossed away is no longer a thing I need to constantly fight against.

I just show up.

 

 

 

Books Read in August.

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“Three Women” by Lisa Taddeo

When my mother was a young woman a man used to follow her to work every morning and masturbate, in step behind her.

Elizabeth Gilbert raved about this book on her IG feed and I went out and bought it that day. Liz never steers me wrong.

This book was no exception. It’s an amazing journey into the heart of female desire told from the vantage point of Taddeo’s exquisite research over the course of 8 years and thousands of hours spent with three women across the country.

Lina is a housewife and mother in the midwest who only longs for her husband to kiss her on the mouth. 

Maggie is a high school student from North Dakota who, at first, finds a confidant in her married English teacher then it slips into something more clandestine.

Finally, in the northeast, we meet Sloane, a beautiful, successful restaurant owner who is married to a man who enjoys watching her have sex with other men and women.

This book is nonfiction but so often the writing carried me so deeply into their lives that I forgot that and thought that it was a novel. It is a fascinating and harrowing descent into how women’s desires are so often dismissed, ignored or become a vehicle of shame.

An essential read.

A sentence that blew me away:

We pretend to want things we don’t want so nobody can see us not getting what we need.

“Women in Sunlight” a novel by Frances Mayes

By chance, I witnessed the arrival of the three American women.

It was interesting to read this novel on the heels of the previous book. Both are about what women want and if they will allow themselves to indeed admit what they want and then, will they allow themselves to take it.

Susan, Camille and Julia meet at an open house for an active retirement community. They are at the point where either they or their families, think it is the next right step in their lives. The women come to believe the exact opposite. Instead of heading into the pasture of retirement living, they embark on an adventure together in Italy, renting a villa, connecting with the locals including their neighbor, another American, Kit who is a writer.

It’s a beautiful story filled with luscious descriptions of the Italian countryside, food, wine and friendship. It explores women’s desires and creativity and reinventing the second or third acts of their lives.

As a writer, I was particularly intrigued by her very effective use of combining first person and omniscients points of view.

It was the perfect novel to begin to wind down my summer reading.

A sentence I love:

My words fly off the page and float over the desk, rearranging into what I meant to say.

“Boundaries & Protections” by Pixie Lighthorse

What is a boundary? Why do we need protection and from what?

Boundaries are dividing lines between sand other creatures this application, humans.

Her words really speak to me. I loved her book “Honoring Voice” and I used it as guide through a few months of teaching my Poses, Pens + Inner Peace class. She cuts through all the surface bullshit and gets down to the raw heart of being human.

Boundaries have always been a struggle for me. Actually, for many women if my conversations are any indication. Women are taught to be nice. To not make waves. I know that I am often uncomfortable standing up for myself, asking for a raise or naming a price for my work. I am uncomfortable calling a person out if they say something racist or misogynistic in front of me. I often say yes when I want to say no and no when I want to say yes. 

All of this reflects on my struggle with boundaries. And she addresses all that and more in this slim but powerful book that I know I will return to again and again as I empower myself to set those necessary boundaries in my life.

A line I underlined:

Boundaries make room for the deeper connections and intimacy we actually want to have.

“Shame is an Ocean I Swim Across” Poems by Mary Lambert

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my body is terrifying,

idaho is a giant shithole,

and other wholesome stories

I am trying to read more poetry. Dissecting it in high school kind of ruined it for me for a long, long time. I felt I didn’t “get it.” Now I understand that I don’t have to get it, I just have to feel it.

When I read this title I knew I had to read it. Sadly, I didn’t know who she was before I picked it up. Now I do and her music is playing as I type this. So, I gained a new poet and new music to inspire me.

Her writing is raw, the truths she writes are dagger sharp. There were moments when I had tears in my eyes quickly followed by laughter bubbling up in my throat. 

Some lines I had to underline:

All I now of love is hunger.

Yes, I want the promise of the cathedral

of your mouth for the rest of my life.

Yes, I want to be the temple of your unraveling.

“Eleanor Elephant is completely fine” a novel by Gail Honeyman

When people ask me what I do—taxi drivers, dental hygienists—I tell them I work in an office.

As a writer, I appreciate the hell out of this first line. It reveals so much about our character in very few words. We learn that her world is very small because the people who ask that question are people she goes to for a service. These are not friends. 

I read many comments about this book before picking it up. Most were good. Some said the character was too unlikeable. That is a criticism that I tend to dismiss. Why must a character be likable? And it is often reserved for female characters just as it is reserved for female CEO’s, politicians and women in general who claim their space in the world. 

But once I started reading this amazing novel and getting completely drawn into Eleanor’s world and story and her POV, I couldn’t imagine what people were thinking with that comment. Did they not read the whole story? Did they not understand that she acts in such a way to protect herself from some horrific pain that we, as a reader, have yet to learn? That why she acts the way she acts is, in fact, the beating heart of this beautiful story about being human in all of its messy complex pain and the moments of beauty.

A sentence that made me both laugh and wince at its truthful precision:

At the office, there was that palpable sense of Friday joy, everyone colluding with the lie that somehow the weekend would be amazing and that, next week, work would be different, better. They never learn.

“Fearless After Fifty-How to Thrive with Grace, Grit and Yoga” by Desiree Rumbaugh and Michelle Marchildon

The inspiration for this book came some time ago when Michelle and Desiree each turned 50 and discovered that life was now very different both on and off the mat.

The irony is not lost on me that I hurt my low back while I was reading this book. 

But, it was also the perfect book to be reading when that happened. I was finally past the fear of hurting my back, 4 years after the initial injury. I had traipsed across Europe for 16 days and felt like I could finally trust my back again. I did yoga that morning, hiked for 2 hours then played on my mat with poses I had been too afraid to try like crow. I felt great! Then, I moved in just the wrong way (or the right way) and I was down. Like in the fetal position sobbing. Less from pain and more from anxiety and that feeling of being blind-sided and far from home. 

This book helped guide me off that precipice of fear and back into the reality of my body and my mind and life at 54.

Sure, I will still feel fear but I can’t let it hold me back. The first time I hurt my back I was SO afraid to move that I didn’t move unless sit was absolutely necessary. Not this time. I walked every  30-45 minutes and did some chair yoga after each walk. 

Movement is essential in life. Not just physically but emotionally, mentally, spiritually. 

Stagnation is something I struggle with but this book helped me see that even the smallest movements are progress. That aging doesn’t mean curling up in a ball waiting to die. Aging does mean meeting my body were it is on any given day and balancing resting with strengthening.

Desiree and Michelle guide us deeper into our lives through a physical practice that offers levels from grace to grit as well as how to weave the philosophy of yoga into our lives off the mat. 

A line I had to underline:

Aging, with all of its complexities, bizarre adjustments, strengthening and weakening of various systems, has the power to bring about our greatest transformations.

Aging can make us better human beings. We might seek out answers to long held questions about our behaviors, our fears, and our willingness to change our focus to what matters, and practice non-attachment to the things that don’t matter.

“The Opposite of Loneliness” Essays and Stories by Marina Keegan

We don’t have a word for the opposite of loneliness, but if we did, I could say that’s what I want in life.

This has got to be one of the most heart-breaking yet inspiring books I have ever read. Keegan, a recent graduate of Yale University, had already had a play produced and had a job waiting for her at the New Yorker. Her final essay for the Yale Daily News, “The Opposite of Loneliness” went viral.

She had a voice.

She had stories to tell.

She had truths to share that resonated.

Five days after her graduation, she died in a car accident. She was just twenty-two. Tears fill my eyes as I type that number. Twenty-two.

This book gathers her essays and stories that explore the POV of a woman struggling with what lies ahead of her, wanting to make an impact on the world.

The epigraph comes from a poem of hers and is eerie in its prescience:

Do you wanna leave soon?

No, I want enough time to be in love with everything…

And I cry because everything is so beautiful and so short.

I closed this book, holding it close to my heart, holding her words close to my heart, determined to be in love with everything, taking the time to create anything and everything that honors the fact that everything is beautiful and so short. 

A line I underlined that broke my heart:

We’re so young. We’re so young. We’re twenty-two years old. We have so much time.