Thoughts at the End of Camp NaNoWriMo

Well, it’s the beginning of May, which means it is the end of Camp NaNoWriMo. Did you go to camp last month? Did you find it to be “an idyllic writers retreat, smack-dab in the middle of your crazy life”? I can’t say I found it to be an idyllic retreat, but it was useful and I wanted to share a few thoughts now that it’s over.

Unlike its better-known cousin, NaNoWriMo, which happens every November, Camp NaNoWriMo happens in April and July. And, unlike NaNoWriMo, during the camp months you get to set your own writing goals. You can still choose to do 50,000 words in a month or set your goal lower or higher depending on what you want to accomplish.

I decided, on a whim, about two days before April started, to do Camp NaNoWriMo this year. I know, not the best way to go about it, especially when I’m not a pantser. But even though I have strong inner motivation to write, I wanted to really make some progress on a work so I could move into revision mode this summer. So how did it go?

I set my goal at 30,000 words as it was ambitious enough that I’d have to write pretty much every day, but not so high that I’d never be able to reach it and get discouraged. With my teaching schedule this term and other assorted projects, etc., I knew that getting to 50,000 words wasn’t going to accomplish anything.

Then I just started writing. I wrote and wrote, scribbling some notes in the margins with comments for rearranging things later. I didn’t have a plan and I didn’t write in sequence, which is really strange for me. But it worked and when you’re trying to get words on the page and it’s working, who am I to question it?

I got to 30,000 words (yay!) and estimate I have around 10,000 more to write to wrap up this drafting to add to what I already had before April started. Then I’ll have a completed first draft with some parts that are wildly out of order, but that will work with revisions I’m thinking. (Besides, I quite like revising. I just need something on the page to revise.)

So Camp NaNoWriMo might not have been a relaxing or idyllic retreat, but it helped me get more words on the page, to have an “excuse” to carve out more time for my writing, and to find more joy in creating, which I really needed in a topsy-turvy month. Plus, I had my “ah-ha!” moment on the last day of writing and a plot point clicked into place that makes the story work so much better than before. And that’s what it’s all about, right?

Finding joy in creating, being surprised by the writing, and coming away smiling at the thought of doing it all over again the next day.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to go back to my cabin and write. 🙂

Spending Our Days and Our Lives

We have sunshine where I live for the first time in what seems like weeks. I know it hasn’t been that long, but the rain in California has been intense this year and it is nice (and necessary) to have a break. I always feel more energetic when the sun is out, but I wrote out this week’s quote when it was raining because it reminds me to get on with life even when I feel like just curling up and doing nothing.

How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. Annie Dillard

This is both profound and oh, so, simple, right? Our days make up our lives so we better spend our days doing what makes us create the life we want. I mean, that shouldn’t be hard, should it? But it seems like too often we let things get in the way of using our days in a way that is meaningful and productive. I know I’m guilty of fixating on work problems and conflicts or the dozen small tasks that I need to do, instead of focusing on whether I’m moving towards my goals and towards helping anyone in what I’m doing with my day.

So I need the reminder that our days create our lives. I need that reminder whenever I feel that time is going by too quickly and I don’t have enough time for those things that make life worth living for me: family and friends, time to create and to share, giving and laughing, listening to the birds, and walking without constantly looking at my watch.

I hope that you life your days the way you want to spend your life. Reframing my days in that way makes what I do have purpose and meaning, even if sometimes it seems futile. If you have any tips on what you do to make your days meaningful, even in the midst of busy work weeks, I’d love to hear them.

Also, if you have a chance, I highly recommend The Book of Joy by the Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu with Douglas Abrams. It is a wonderful read and a reminder of what makes for a good, meaningful life. Plus, who doesn’t want to exist in a place of joy? No one I know. So I wish you a joyful day and a joyful life. Let’s create something wonderful, okay? 🙂

Sharing and Having

Well, it’s February already. Did anyone else feel like January went by in a hazy whirlwind and you’re not quite sure what happened? The world is way too interesting for my taste right now and it is hard to fell like there is time for art when there is so much else to do, so many others to help. So today feels like the right day to share this quote b Leonard Nimoy:

the miracle is this-the more we share, the more we have Leonard Nimoy

It makes me smile and remember that sharing truly does give us more. Not just talking about “stuff” either, but the important things like more compassion, more empathy, more knowledge that we are enough no matter how flawed our attempts to share and to care might be. In doing things to help others, we inevitably help ourselves and that’s a good thing.

The world may seem to be getting harsher and less caring, but there are so many good people in this world sharing and caring and helping. So we need to remember this—I need to remember this—to keep up my energy and to keep caring.

And our art is a part of this sharing. It’s important. I got back to creative writing on my next manuscript a few days ago and it felt wonderful. It felt right. I hope to have more to share soon.

Keep sharing, keep caring, and keep making your art. We need it. We really do.



So this is easy and fun (not)

Usually on Wednesdays I post one of the quotes I’ve written in calligraphy that has helped or inspired me during the week. But last week I didn’t post anything and this week I’ve not quite found the energy yet to do so. Next week, I’ll probably be back to my calligraphy, but in the words of Stephen Colbert, right now, “this sucks.”

I don’t talk politics on this blog because it is one of my sanctuaries for writing and art and trying to share what makes my world a bit brighter, more beautiful and politics far too often isn’t beautiful and doesn’t make me inspired to create. But I can’t ignore that this last week has been hard, depressingly hard, and that politics is at the front and center. Or, perhaps, more accurately what the last election in my country has made painfully clear is front and center in my mind–and it hurts. And in my case, and in the case of a lot of others who have been writing and sharing, pain and sorrow and grief and anger do not make for easy creating of art no matter what the popular notion of a tortured artist shows us.

So for this post, I wanted to share links to other people’s writings that have helped me in the last week and I hope will help you, too.

Chuck Wendig’s blog posts have been thoughtful, funny, and full of good advice. I highly recommend reading, “Stronger Together, But So Far Apart” and “Mourn, Then Get Mad, Then Get Busy” It is okay to feel however you feel. And, when you’re ready, we need you back to make the art you make and to give the help and support you can give.

This post, “A Letter to My Blog Followers” by The Blabbermouth Blog sums up my feelings so well. Just because I don’t publicly share all my thoughts and actions and donations and such doesn’t mean I’m not involved and still doing what I can to help. All our help is needed, whether or not we choose to give a shout out to what we are doing on social media.

And, as always, there is Neil Gaiman’s “Make Good Art” Speech:

Next week, I’ll be back to sharing calligraphy and Saturday Shorts. Until then, I hope you have people who have your back, who you can talk with, and who can help you find your way back to those things that center you and remind us that there is still joy and meaning in creating art. Also, I hope you are on the side of empathy and understanding and social justice and kindness and you show that through your actions and your art. We need it now more than ever. Take care and, as Neil Gaiman says, “make good art.”