No One Loses NaNoWriMo

Any long time reader of this blog knows I love NaNoWriMo. For those who don’t know what that is, it stands for National Novel Writing Month and happens every November.

Each year for the past 4 years, I have awaited November, more or less, eagerly. Until this year that is.

It wasn’t that I didn’t have stories to write. In fact I’d spent some time working with a story that I’m quite excited about still.

It wasn’t that I didn’t have companions to go on this journey with me. TC Wrimos is an active group and within driving distance. We tend to meet up throughout the year for this alone.

It wasn’t that I couldn’t write the requisite 50000 words, 1676 words daily. Quite the opposite, I’d proven over and over to myself that I can be a prolific writer.

Earlier this week, I announced that I was giving up on “winning” at NaNoWriMo and I am still amazed at the outpouring of support.

I felt shitty about giving up because I knew I could make it. If I tried hard and got less sleep than I was getting, I could reach that magical number.

One of my writer friends as she was supporting me said the following words: “No one loses NaNo.”

Now, these are words I’d said many times over the years and on one level, I truly believe that. This year, I’m working on believing them on a whole other level.

What was different this year?

What made the difference this year in my conceding my “win”? Well, sit back, the list is long:

1. I haven’t been writing daily. For so long, this habit was the foundation for my NaNo “wins” and I was quite proud about that. I love writing and to write every day keeps the creative juices flowing.

2. “Time is always against us.” Morpheus from the Matrix. This is one of my most remembered quotes from that movie. I’m not sure if it is truly a memorable quote or if it is so relevant in my own life. But this year, during this time of transition, time was something that wasn’t on my side.

3. I wasn’t excited about NaNo. This one is hard for me to admit but I wasn’t. I knew I wanted to write a particular story – after all I’d been trying to write this one for a few years but I wasn’t excited about all the effort that NaNo takes.

4. Energetically, I’ve been low for several months. The energy it takes to keep life going and be creative is low, oh so low, right now. I had the basics premise of my story but I struggled to keep the end in sight.

5. There was simply so much going on in my life that to add something as big as writing a novel in 30 days was crazy to begin with.

6. The mind may be willing but the body says no. Sometimes, our bodies know better than we do that we need to stop and rest. Mine protested and I wasn’t able to summon the energy to fight through. So I rested.

I could go on but I think you get the picture.

Lessons Learned

Life always throws lessons at us, whether we want them or not. I’ve learned a few things about my less than stellar “win” this November.

I’ve learned that letting go of outcome is important in all areas of my life. Now, I’m not fabulous at this – hence, the lesson. But it is something that keeps coming into my life.

I’ve learned that having fun and laughter are good for the soul. Spending time with people I am getting to know, and in some cases complete strangers, writing, laughing, learning, is the best medicine for a weary soul.

I’ve learned that I can still write, even when my life feels out of control. I may not enjoy it, but I can get the job done. Or in this case, write some words.

I guess that is what makes even this NaNo a “win”. The fact that I managed to get over 31,000 words is fabulous. I have this story to build on. I have a story that will fill my soul as I write it as I transition in my life.

That is the most amazing lesson of all: the story is in there, I just need to write it down. It doesn’t matter what else is happening, if I am meant to write a story, it doesn’t go anywhere.

So, I’ll take my 31,000 words and declare myself a winner. I stood up and gave it my best. I will take what I’ve written and build on it, my novel will get written. It will just be a bit slower.

But isn’t that the point? To get the story down, novel written?

After all, there is always Camp NaNoWriMo, which means I have two more chances before next November to proclaim a “win.”

I may be an overachiever.

Until next time,

Using Daily Check-Ins To Create a Journaling Habit

I must confess I thought I knew so much about journaling but I didn’t know about daily check-ins.

Journaling is one of my favorite things to do. I’ve written in a journal on and off since I was 13 years old and have even kept most of them too. I never knew there was a whole world of journaling out there. I was missing so much.

Turns out, there is so much more in the world of journaling to learn.

It’s always come easy to me – journaling my thoughts. I’ve never been intimidated by the blank page. Once I put pen to paper, words seemed to flow out of me. At least most of the time.

The type of journaling that I do and have done is called free-writing. It’s easy to do. You simply put your pen down on a blank piece of paper and write. Beautiful words, and mostly not so beautiful words, come out on the paper.

However, this is the exception.

For most people journaling isn’t easy and is intimidating. Even knowing that journaling could benefit them, it takes too much effort.

One of my goals in life is to show people that journaling doesn’t have to be horrible. Even if you aren’t a “writer” you can still journal.

New Learning

Through taking a class about journaling, I’ve been teaching a Write to Heal class through my day job and have been learning a lot about journaling. More than I ever thought possible. I’ve discovered things that I only knew by instinct.

One of the things that I have recently learned is about daily check-ins. Normally I am a morning pages person, which means that anything that comes out, is what comes out.

But check-in pages are different. Basically, daily check-ins are sentence starters that you answer each and every day. It doesn’t matter if you do these in the morning or evening. I’ve been experimenting with my days to see which works for me and this is a night thing.

The other thing about a daily check-in – it only takes a few minutes. Literally, writing out a few sentence stems each day takes 2-3 minutes and is normally less than 5. And I am often surprised by my answers as I write mine out.

Journaling is a uniquely personal thing!

Before I give you the questions I want you to keep in mind a couple of things.

1. Journaling is your very own practice. There are no right or wrong answers.
2. Let the template I give you be suggestions. If you are working on a specific goal – add that in. If the questions don’t work for you, change them. Make it personal.

Here are the daily check-ins sentence starters:

-I feel vulnerable about…
-I feel grateful about…
-I feel pride regarding…
-I aspire to someday…
-Achieving my goals would be easier if I…

That’s it. Six sentence starters that can help you make positive changes in your world.

If you aren’t someone who journals, I would encourage you to find a simple journal and begin with these sentence starters. Since they only take a couple of minutes, there is nothing to hold you back from starting a journal.

Let me know if you try this journaling technique. I would love to hear from you. Please leave a comment below.

Until next time,

Creating Writing Rituals That Work

Creating Writing Rituals That Work

Even if you don’t feel like writing!

We’ve all had those days. Days where just rolling out of bed seems like too much effort. Not to mention, writing is hard work on the best of days. What do you do when you have goals and deadlines you’ve agreed to?

One way you can set yourself up for success is to create a writing ritual. One that moves your writing forward and create a habit that will get you moving no matter how you feel.

Creating Rituals

When you begin to create rituals for yourself, the first place to look is what you are currently doing and what is working? If something is working, keep doing that. However, if you are struggling to maintain what you are currently doing, perhaps looking at the following items will help you find ways that work.

1. Setting: Where are you currently writing? Does that work? If it doesn’t seem to be working, look around, what things do you like about your space? What things aren’t working? If your space is in the living room with your kids running around and the TV on, perhaps it is time to carve out another space. What about a coffee shop? Are there too many distractions? Do you need quiet or a bit of chaos?

2. Time of Day: There are writers who swear by morning writing and others who can’t write until their families go to bed? Still others who write on their lunch hours, if they get one. What time of day to you feel the most creative? Are you a morning person and don’t mind getting up an extra 45 minutes earlier to write? Or, do you feel your energy renewed in the evening and can crank out 1000 words with little effort? Finding the perfect time of day may take some experimentation but eventually you will find your sweet spot.

3. Beverage: I cannot begin my writing ritual without a hot cup of coffee. I may not drink it all but the sips I take help me to think and unclog my mind. Do you need coffee, tea? Or, nothing but water. If you write in the evening, does a glass of wine help you to relax and pump out those words? Do you need anything at all while you write, finding liquids too distracting? Not to mention, all the trips to the bathroom break up your flow.

4. Tools: What are your favorite tools you can’t live without? Do you need to write (and count) every word on a lap top or tablet? Can you write with a simple word processing program or do you like something with a bit more substance, such as Scrivener? Do you like the sound of that old typewriter, to get those creative juices flowing? What about pen and paper? Do you like writing with a roller ball or fountain pen? What about pencils or gel pens? Having your favorite tools on hand and in good working order takes away any barriers that may keep you from sitting down to write.

5. Music or Silence: This is a hotly debated subject within my personal writing communities. Some of my fellow writers create writing play lists on their favorite music sites. Others, like myself, prefer mellow music, played at random, often without words. Still others need absolute silence and resent any breakthrough sounds. What type of environment you can write in is a matter of taste. There is no wrong answer. However, a word of caution, if you feel the need to create a writing play list to accompany your current WIP, please do so outside of your chosen writing time. It takes time to create the perfect music list; time that you’ve dedicated to writing.

To be a writer, you need to write. It’s as simple and as difficult as that. Creating rituals can encourage writing. By spending a few minutes to think about what works for you, will help in the long run to keep you writing.

My Own Ritual

My own ritual involves the previously mentioned coffee, lighting a candle, a short affirmation and then morning pages with some meditative music playing in the background. I read Julia Cameron’s book, The Artist’s Way, a few years ago and have been hooked on morning pages ever since. Once those words are done, I’m warmed up and ready to begin work on my current project. After my words are written, I blow out my candle and move on to the rest of my day.

This ritual is what works for me. Though it has evolved over the past few years, the basics don’t usually change. I’ve been able to create and maintain my writing habit so that even when I don’t feel the muse, I can still sit down and get the words out. They may not be the most wonderful words I’ve ever written but the truth is you can revise crappy words but cannot do anything with a blank page.

Until next time,

P.S. I have openings for creativity coaching. Please click Yes! I want to work with you!!! and we can get started.