Happy New Year to all you beautiful people who have helped make my 2012 so interesting. May love, peace, and joy, accompany you on your life journey.
One of the bloggers I follow just posted a thoughtful piece about writing, and comparing ourselves with other bloggers. You can read it here: http://thegreenstudy.com/2012/12/09/deflating-the-ego/
So that made me think about how often we compare ourselves to others, and wrongfully I might add. It’s like comparing apples and oranges; both have their place but one is not necessarily better than the other. We can aspire to be as good as someone else, but we should never compare ourselves to that ‘someone else’ because we are not them. I used to do that with my writing. I would read someone’s story or poem, then read mine, and feel totally depressed because my writing wasn’t as good as the other person’s. But then one day I had an epiphany; my writing was just as good as anyone else’s, just different! And the same goes for blogging. I write now because I want to write; I enjoy writing. I’m not trying to impress anyone; I’m not trying to write the next Great American Novel (of course, if that happens, I’ll be thrilled!!). I am writing for me.
Granted, I do get a little twinge of prideful happiness when someone tells me s/he likes my work, but in the end, that isn’t why I’m writing is it? I do enjoy getting kudos or pats on the back for my work, who doesn’t? But sometimes I have to remind myself that just because nobody has viewed/liked/commented on that particular post doesn’t mean it isn’t any good. It just means it didn’t resonate with that particular person(s) and it will with someone else.
I don’t really have a ‘theme’ for my writing on this blog (my other two blogs do have themes), I write about whatever I want to write about. Sometimes my posts are inspired by something I’ve read, like this post; sometimes it’s something that pops into my head; or it can be triggered by something I see or hear; I never know what will inspire me. People who are well-known authors often describe how they go about writing, figure out plots, and all those other mundane parts of writing. But just because that works for them does not mean it will work for everyone else. I can no more write an outline for a story and stick with it than I can fly to the moon; I know, I’ve tried it. Same goes for blogs; I can write about something that moves me in some way. If I try to write about something just to be writing, it sounds forced, and isn’t very good.
Just last week, I found this quote that I think is quite appropriate here:
Yet we always envy others, comparing our shadows to their sunlit sides. ― Margaret George
So my advice to me is to write when I want to write, about something that means something to me, whether it’s my blog or my fiction. And if other people like it, that’s just lagniappe.
It’s a good thing I did NaNo last year, because this year I knew what to expect. I have heard from other participants that this is not uncommon. I call it the post-NaNo blues, or letdown. Whatever you want to call it, it’s a reaction to a month of living, breathing, writing, a novel. The pace is frenetic, the feeling is one of frantic panic. And then it’s December 1st, and there’s nothing to write. There is time to bask in the knowledge that we spent 30 days writing in every spare moment, and whether or not we met the goal doesn’t matter, we survived NaNoWriMo.
So now what? It’s a curious feeling, and one that is strangely familiar. It’s like those first few days and weeks after graduation when I could read whatever I wanted; I could read a novel, or two, or three; there was no research to be done; no papers to write; no deadlines to meet. Yes, it’s like that.
And then there’s the fact that it’s December, and the hours of daylight are dwindling fast. It’s dark when I leave for work and it’s almost dark when I get home. My energy level sinks, and by around 7pm, I’m ready to go to bed. But I don’t. I stay awake and keep busy, writing, reading, playing with the dogs, watching TV. I know that winter doesn’t last very long. I spend time outside as much as I can because I know sunlight is good for me. I take Vitamin D, extra Vitamin B & C, watch what I eat, and wish I was a bear so I could hibernate through these months. I remember when I lived back East, and it was dark by 4 or so, and the days were cold and the nights colder, and I’m glad I live in Arizona where here in Dec we’re still seeing highs close to 80 and think it’s cold when the lows get in the 40s.
So the December blues only last for a month. January comes and the hours of daylight start increasing again. And before I know it, we’re all complaining about how hot it is, and it’s a dry heat so it’s somehow not quite as bad as the heat and humidity in places like Alabama and Florida. But it’s still hot, and miserable, and we start wishing for fall.
And the cycle continues.
Done for another year. Last year was the first year I participated in NaNoWriMo, so it was interesting to do it again and see if the same things happened as last year. Yep, they did.
Writing frantically, every day for 30 days, means there isn’t time for editing. Last year was difficult because first, I’m a short story writer, and second, I tend to edit as I go. I didn’t think I could write a novel of 50,000, but I did it last year, and again this year, so last year wasn’t a fluke.
The other thing I found interesting is that my novels didn’t go where I wanted them to go, and people and events crept in when I wasn’t paying attention. This year, I wanted to write a history of the Divine Sisterhood of Animal Magick, which was something I came up with in a short story. I thought I would start way back in the Dark Ages to show how the sisterhood started and then write vignettes about the sisterhood and its members at different times in history. Silly me!! I should have known better! These were to be people taken in as young girls and tested for their ability to talk to animals, and how they were treated, etc. But I ended up with People who are Magic, and can either time travel or live forever as each vignette had the same characters. And that wasn’t being lazy, as I had all the names for each time period picked out.
There were also storms at sea, and storms on land, and a ship getting blown off course during a hurricane and ending up in the New World. And when I came up with a name for the ‘castle’ in North Wales where it all began I was kinda spooked to find out there really is a ‘castle’ with that name, and it was built in the 16th Century.
So now I don’t plan to write at all during December. I will catch up on the stack of books waiting to be read, and the blogs that need to be read and commented on, and the new followers and commenters on my blogs that need to be acknowledged, and the list goes on. In january, I will go back to editing last year’s novel and start editing this year’s. And I will probably do some research that I should have done in September and October. But it’s hard to do research if I don’t know where the novel is going to take me.
And yes, I’ll do it again next year.
Phew! Another 50,000+ word novel is written but not yet finished. Now it will sit and I will ignore it until January when I will pull it out, dust it off, and see if there’s anything worth salvaging. I think there is, but that just may be the November euphoria speaking. So now I have two novels to finish and edit, which is probably a good thing; this way I can switch back and forth when my head starts to hurt from one of them.
So now I can catch up with all the blog posts I’ve missed, and visit all those who were gracious enough to visit and/or like and/or follow my blogs.
For those of you still writing – Onward and Upward!! I’m rooting for all of you.
Only three days left after today, and I’m running out of steam, but I’m not giving up. I have written several vignettes, each in a different time period, so when I run out of ideas, or plot, or dialogue, in one, I can pick up in another. But even that is getting harder to do. This is the point in November when I realize I have no idea what I have written; when my plot lines start to tangle or fall apart; when my characters either go AWOL, or refuse to do what I think they should do.
As I realize I have a little over 3,300 words to write to reach the goal, I find it harder and harder to write. Suddenly, the dusting needs to be done, there are dust bunnies to be vacuumed, dishes to wash, dogs to play with – well, I think you get the idea. This is when I tell myself I won’t do this again. But then I look at that little Certificate from last year’s NaNo that says I wrote a novel in November; and I look at that t-shirt that says ‘Greetings from the Winner’s Circle’; and I know I will do this again. It isn’t writing the great American Novel that keeps me coming back; it’s the fact that there is a whole community of crazy people out there who put their lives on hold for 30 days in November, to write. And that’s why I’ll do it again next year. After I finish my 50,000 words for this year!!
Halfway through the month and I’m waaay behind on word count. I’m struggling through this one. By the time I get home from work, sitting down to write isn’t always what I want to do. It’s a good thing I will have Thursday and Friday off next week. That’s four days of writing, I hope.
I’m not sure what my characters are up to, but they’re not giving me much help. But I’ll keep plodding along; and introducing new characters; and chiding the current ones to get with the program.
I’m behind again, but that’s okay, because a long weekend is coming up. And my characters are giving me fits. The main character from the beginning of the story, set some time in the 12th or 13th century has suddenly shown up in Regency London, and I have no idea how she got there. I guess I’ll have to just keep writing, and if I’m lucky, she’ll tell me how she got there and where she’s going. Then some crazy character showed up and looks like he might become another main character. Didn’t see that one coming at all. Maybe he’ll show up in London, too? Who knows! Stay tuned! 🙂
…National Novel Writing Month! Affectionately shortened to NaNoWriMo, or even just NaNo, it is a month of pure writing with no editing. The goal is to write a minimum 50,000 word novel. Considering that the standard average is 250 words/page, that’s a 200 page book; not very long really, but it’s a start. Of course, most of the participants don’t stop at 50,000 words; that’s just a goal, and that works out to 1,667 words every day.
NaNo is a program of the Office of Letters and Light, a non-profit dedicated to helping people write, including programs in schools to get kids to write. If you want more information about their programs, check out their website here: http://www.lettersandlight.org/
I participated last year for the first time and made my goal with a couple of days to spare. The hardest part for me was the not-editing part. Whenever I write, I have to fix typos and grammatical errors as soon as I see them, so stopping myself from doing that was really, really, hard. But then I discovered that in the past, I had used the editing as a stalling tactic, because it definitely interrupts the flow of the story. I went into NaNo thinking I couldn’t do it as I had only ever written short stories (and some very bad adolescent poetry!) So I surprised myself with how I was able to sit down and just write.
I know there are some writers who start with a plan and an outline, then flesh it out with characters, and timelines, and all sorts of details about what happens to whom and when. I’m a percolating pantser when I write; I have an idea percolating in the back of my brain for a while, but when I actually sit down to write, it’s a seat-of-the-pants kind of thing. (There was quite a discussion on the NaNo Forums about different methods of writing – very interesting!) I have tried the planning and the outlines, but it’s basically a waste of time, because as soon as I start writing, the characters take over and go, do, and say, whatever they want, not what I want.
So I will do it again this year. This time I have a plan of sorts; I at least know what I will write about. Last year, I sat staring at a blank screen until about Day 4. So beginning November 1st, I’ll be frantically writing every day when I get home from work, and all day on weekends and Holidays. And hopefully, I’ll have another story ready to edit by the time December 1st rolls around.
I have surprised myself: I have been writing in my Gratitude Journal for 15 days (I did miss one day because I forgot!) It has been quite an exercise for me in discipline and creativity. Since I participated in NaNoWriMo, which ended on the last day of November, I haven’t written much at all.
Some days are full of the mundane, and it’s hard to pick three things to put in the Journal; other days are so full of little miracles, it’s hard to pick only three to write into the Journal. And it hasn’t become any easier – yet. I suppose if gratitude were easy, everyone would do it. Wouldn’t that be a wonderful thing? People expressing gratitude for the day-to-day miracles that happen in their lives.
Nature itself is a miracle, if you stop and think about it. A tiny seed, no bigger than a pinhead, can grow into a giant tree; birds instinctively know how to build a nest, how to migrate and which way to go. I am constantly amazed at wild flora and fauna; at the way a hawk will catch the thermals and just soar in ever increasing circles until it is out of sight.
What exactly are miracles? To me, they are the everyday things that happen without any seeming interference from anyone or anything. I know that there are natural laws at work here, and I actually know some of them, but knowing doesn’t decrease my wonder at the marvels of our world.