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Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Hurdles-Recognizing the Obstacles in Your Writing

       What are your hurdles? To writing I mean. Do you have family obligations? Are you working a full time job? Giving care to a loved one? Or are there more, esoteric ones, like your mind? This last one is the biggest hurdle of all. The others already listed are basically surmountable odds. Creative scheduling, having a spouse or grandparent take care of your kids, or any “Down time,”becomes writing time.
       I wrote at night after putting my adult 'baby' to bed when I was taking care of my mother. I'd write and then get to bed around 2 a.m. Getting up around 9 a.m. to start her day. Those are the surmountable odds.
       The hurdles that are not so easy to go over, are the ones your mind puts into place. This is, as Natalie Goldberg has called, “Monkey Mind.” The internal critic we all struggle against, and yes even me. I am always getting input in from it. I just say, “Yea, I see that, but this is first draft, go away.” This years National Novel Writing Month critics favorite saying was, “This is not any good, it is crap.” To which I would reply, “It may be, but this is first draft, I can fix it later.”
     So I have developed my way of getting around them. Those internal critics, they can be defeated. How? You ask with skepticism in every look you give me. By doing warm ups, writing practices, which use the rules of writing practice that I learned from Natalie.

  1. Keep your hand moving. Do not stop, except at the end of the line, but go immediately back to the left margin and repeat.
  2. Do not edit or cross out. Just keep the pen moving (1).
  3. Go with first thoughts: much like first impressions, just write them down, and move on without doing 2, but doing 1.
  4. Go for the jugular: don't play it safe, if you think “I can't write that?” you are giving into that pesky simian.
  5. You are free to write the worst crap in the World/Universe/Galaxy. And this is my favorite of all the rules. I exemplify this rule EVERY DAY! :)

       Writing is much like any other exercise, it needs to have stretching and warm ups are the way to do it.
So try this. Here is a prompt. Use it. Use a timer, set it for 10 minutes, and have a comfy writing pen, and paper to hand. Then go to it. You may use the comment section below to post it if you wish. I'll do it with you.

“I remember....” If you get stuck, just use this prompt again.


Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The Forty Thousand Word Slump

So you begin Nano with tremendous excitement, dreams of fancy certificates dance in front of your eyes, as you start your first word, your first 100, 1000 10k...then you keep going, you are on a roll, the sprints are pushing that word count into the ether, 20k, you are still going strong....30 k, not so bad, until you reach the dreaded 40 thousand mark.

<insert skidmarks here>

Yep, you stall out, you begin to think that you will never make it.  That the 50k was a fools dream.  You'll never finish right?  It's at 40k that I hit that wall.  It never fails...every year I hit it.  Everything up to that point seems ridiculously easy (at least for me).  But I smack right into it none-the- less.

Let me begin by pointing out,  I have won NaNoWriMo for the past three years (2009 through 2011, and also August Camp Nano as well 2012), so I know I can do it.  Since I have proven to myself I can do it, why is that last 10k so hard?

I think I have a theory, and it came to me years ago on the way back from a Star Trek Convention...yes, I said, a STAR TREK CONVENTION (and I'm a TREKKER not a TREKKIE so there :P)   Anyhow, I digress.  The convention had been a blast, and my firend Matt and I were driving back to Ohio.  We stopped overnight at a hotel, and I strangely felt badly depressed, I even cried (not letting Matt hear of course).  And for a week I was in that "Post Con letdown."

So I feel that is part of it.  I hit the 50k and win Nano and that let down feeling begins, so I'm already thinking about it.  I feel it is like a hitter in baseball, when they get a period called a slump.  Where they can't hit shit.  

And the closer I get to the 50k the worse it gets.  I try not to think about it, but it is there getting ready to pounce on me.  It's like maximum resistance on a treadmill or stair step, where every move is an agonizing hardship.  And it really hits bad when I've "reached" it only to find the Nano sites word counter doesn't agree with mine, so it is off to add more words (which sometimes I have had to write more words more than once).

That's when I see that it really is that old nemesis of mine, "Monkey Mind," (as Natalie Goldberg puts it in "Writing Down the Bones").  There's that evil simian, working his wiles on me and my writing.  Trying to crush the joy out of it.

So now it is back to basics time.  Change to a different scene in the book, one that will hold your interest so that the words flow like a stream, just focusing on that stream, and not the ocean; so that it will get to that ocean of 50 thousand words.  Or else I just think of it as a 10k word short story.  Whatever gets me out of the dangerous mindset.

Taking more breaks might also help, but sprints are more important than ever.  Change to writing longhand first.  I did so on a napkin at dinner tonight, working on part of a scene.  Which I believe will help me get to that coveted 50k.

So what tips do you have to impart with the "Rest of the class!"

Happy 40K everyone!

And may the odds be ever in your favor....sorry, I could NOT resist.

Saturday, November 10, 2012


Just a one off blog for now.  Just to keep my fingers moving across the keyboard.  Nothing really to impart, just random ramblings.  lol.  I'm just not in the mood to type up my newest blog on taking critiques.  Just not feeling it today, though I'm getting a better word count on NaNoWriMo.  For those of the uninitiated, NaNoWriMo is National Novel Writing Month.  Every November, people who participate in the insanity, write 50 thousand new words by the end of the month.  My fastest completion record is 18 days last year.  I have "won" it the last 3 years.

I think it was the first year I made it that I could prove to myself that I could do it! Once past that first year, it has been easy to do it.  It was the "Insurmountable barrier," that I couldn't see past that made me miss the 50  thousand or just give up.  I have been seeing the "I'm too far behind, and I know I won't make it..." statements a lot, and it is only day 10.

I tell people, that they can break it down by math.  They should take the amount of words they should be at, subtract what they got, and divide that by the amount of days remaining (in this case 20).  One of the people needs only 380ish words on top of the daily 1667 each day to make it.  Sprinting would have that in no time.

I did this method for August's Camp NaNoWriMo (put out by the same group that does the November ones), and came back twice and finished.  The "Insurmountable barrier" again rears it's ugly head!

This is an example of what I call the "Internal Critic."  Natalie Goldberg calls it, "Monkey Mind."  Sometimes this invisible beast comes to us in the voice of a well intention from a family member or friend.  It could be a teacher that says that you are "Not original, or you can't write."  Whoever it is, the more of these critics trying to stop me, shows that I'm on track.  It's the challenge to keep going I need.  I truly believe, the more obstacles you have in doing something, means that the universe is challenging you to take up the gauntlet and persevere.

So believe me when I say, just because you are behind, doesn't mean you can't catch up!