Pretending to Do NaNoWriMo

It’s November. That means it’s National Novel Writing Month and writers (and wannabe writers) all over the world are banding together and stockpiling the snacks and sneaking off at every possible moment to pound out words on their book.

It’s one of the best community feelings I’ve ever experienced – doing NaNoWriMo. People update their word count, have word wars, celebrate together, and cheer each other on. Writing can be lonely, but NaNoWriMo brings everyone together and plops them into the same category and makes writing seem so much more possible than any other time of year.

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This year me and NaNoWriMo…well, we just weren’t meant for each other. I need to edit, not write, and I’m going to be gone a third of the month anyway. Yet there’s still a stirring inside me whispering “It’s not too late to join the fun!” and I know technically that’s true. I’ve written 50,000 (awful) words in three days once, so I know I don’t actually need a whole 30 days to receive the winner’s badge.

Last night I got home late from Florida (and a non-planned stop at my sister’s house), got to bed even later, and woke up this morning excited about life. (Yo folks, it’s goood to be back home and back in autumn.) After spending a few minutes waking up and making coffee I set my timer for 29 minutes and then went to work. I unpacked, started a load of laundry, got ready for the day, and straightened and swept my room. My writing area is set up, my candle is burning, and The Greatest Showman soundtrack is playing.

And I’m going to edit and pretend for a few minutes like I’m actually part of the ranks marching toward my goal as a NaNoWriMo. Anyway else want to join me in pretending that they’re doing NaNoWriMo? 😉

The Five Am Type of Dedication

It’s 5:06 after a very short night of sleep when the calming strains of my alarm wake me up. “Wow, Lydia, what were you thinking?” I ask myself as I rapidly push snooze. Who in the world would get up at such an hour? I demand of myself. Then it hits me. Me: I would get up at such an hour when I have to leave for work in less than an hour.

I get up and stumble around the room getting ready for the day and finishing the packing I need to do: One pile for the weekend, another pile for what I’m grabbing for Florida during the brief moments when I’m home between the retreat I’m going to tonight (that ends at 10:30 on Sunday) and my departure for the airport at 11:00 on Sunday.

Then I sit on my bed to comb out my hair, comb in one hand, computer on my lap, writing-related emails open before me. I respond to emails in-between doing my hair, then lug the computer downstairs to blog while waiting for the coffee to finish brewing.

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And that’s when I realize it’s happened. After far, far too long of a break, I’m back in my writerly mode. I’m set. Focused. Determined. Excited.

At night I have to push a dozen different writerly things out of my mind before I can relax enough to fall asleep. I wake up ready to work on writing again. Throughout the day I find time here and there to work on a few projects, or even set aside hours to sit down with my computer and power out some quality work.

A week and a half ago when I decided the time was right to focus on my writing again I didn’t feel like it. Every time I sat down to work I felt apathetic about it. I wanted to do something – anything – else. Time seemed to drag on and I felt like I wasn’t getting anything worthwhile accomplished. I was out of my groove and it showed. A lot.

But I stuck to it. I kept going. I told myself that it wasn’t about the feelings, it was about the dedication and putting the time in. And do you know what? It paid off.

This morning I could have snuck in ten or fifteen more minutes of sleep instead of working on blogging. But I didn’t. And do you know what? I’m thankful for that. And now folks, I’m off to the coffee shop. Have a great day!

Currently
Setting: The Dining Room Table 
Listening To: The gurgling of the coffee pot
To Do Today: Work, Pack, Retreat
Thankful For: Not having to get up this early every day 😉 

You’ve Got Questions, I’ve Got Answers ;)

Last night I received this comment from Esther from Purposeful Learning:

So…I’m curious. What do you write for your 100 words every day? Is it just anything, or something story-specific? And, if it’s story-specific, do you have one story that you continuously work on until it’s finished, before you start writing another one? Does it just count if you’re writing a story (the main book content), or do random brainstorming thoughts and research notes and character ideas and…well, all the random stuff that goes along with a writing project count, too? How does taking a break from writing figure into all of this?

If you want to do a blog post on this, rather than try to answer it all in one comment, feel free. I’m just curious, because I’ve been challenging myself to write 100 words per day in two different categories over the last year, and I’ve been wondering what a “writing break” looks like for different people. Thanks!

Esther has some pretty good questions, and the idea of making it into a blog post seemed perfect to me, so here we are. 😉 But first off, WAY TO GO ESTHER! Writing a 100 words a day might not sound like a lot to everyone, but when you do it day in and day out it takes a lot of dedication.

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And now to answer your questions.

When I’m writing my 100 words a day, I always stick to the book I’m currently supposed to be writing. Sometimes I have two books going at once, and if that’s the case then I can write the words to go with either book. (Mostly this happens when I’m writing one book and editing another – I try to only write-write one book at a time.)

A ton of my 100 words end up just being brainstorming, character development, research, random ideas, and mini-scenes that I’ll never use anywhere so I promptly throw away, but they give me a better idea of who a character is, or what a setting looks like, etc… My idea behind the 100 words a day isn’t to have quality work that I can keep (although that certainly happens some days!) but more to keep myself in the habit of writing and spend at least a few moments on my craft each and every day.

As for breaks? Well if you feel like you need/want a break, then, by all means, go for one! Personally, though I’ve chosen not to take any breaks. During some dry/busy/crazy seasons of life, my 100 words have been less than stellar, but I still choose to spend those moments taking the time out of the rest of life to sit down and scribble out some words. It helps me keep in mind that even though writing isn’t my main focus at the moment, it will be highly important to me again one day and I never want to lose the spark.

Recently I’ve been getting back into the writing mode after a whole summer of writing disposable words. I’m having fun writing words that actually count toward something (aka, going through the 24th draft of my novel changing all the telling segments into showing), but at the same time, I’m thankful for the last months where I threw away the words I wrote. Cause do you know what? I found out things about my characters (for another book) that I would have never guessed. Plot points emerged that I hadn’t dreamed of. And characters that I didn’t know existed somehow found their way into my brain.

Now it’s your turn, folks! I’d be delighted to hear from any of y’all who have ever done something like write 100 words a day for a long period of time. What did that look like for you? What did you learn from the process?

By the way, if any of y’all have questions, I’d be delighted to answer them! It’s always fun to have these little talks. 🙂

Currently
Setting: In my bedroom/office 
Listening to: Lindsey Stirling on Youtube 
To Do Today: Answer emails then go to work
Thankful for: Being back in the blogging mode!

Change is Beautiful {And Very Time Consuming} Aka, A Writing Break

Once you’ve gotten out of the habit of doing something, there’s a mountain you have to climb over before you’re back in the easy-down-hill-this-is-no-big-deal phase of things. Some call it a hump but believe me, that’s not what it feels like.

It was near the beginning of this year when I felt like my world was turned topsy-turvy. That’s not a bad thing, in fact, for the most part, it’s a good thing. It’s a reminder once again that Change is Beautiful. Yet, at the same time, it’s also a reminder that change takes time and energy and sometimes what I envisioned happening doesn’t exactly play out in reality.

This year babies were born, one of my best friends moved in with our family, two of my sisters got married, and the list grows. In the midst of all that I also figured out a lot of things about myself, including but not limited to the fact that I’m far too apt to take on more than I can handle, and that sometimes things have to go.

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Sadly, one of the things that “went” during the last seven or so months was my writing work. At first I kept up with little splashes here or there, trying to convince myself that I was still making headway, but at last, I had to concede that I was mostly just going through the motions. It took me a while of pondering, but I finally decided that was okay. I could take a break from writing. It wouldn’t be the end of the world, nor would it be me giving up on my dream.

And so for the last few months, I haven’t even tried. Yes, I’ve written my 100 words each day. A blog post here or there. Kept up with my vlogs. But for the most part, my writing was shelved. I knew once the weddings were over, once life had lost the we-are-in-a-race-and-we-can’t-stop feel, once I was able to actually breathe for a few moments without feeling like everything was crashing down on me. Well, then I would be able to pick my writing back up.

That day came last week. I sat down with my computer and started editing. And do you know what? I didn’t get very far, but I made progress. And I felt like I was beginning to get somewhere. And the world felt just a little bit more light.

It’s still a struggle. I’ve fallen out of the habit of making myself sit at my computer and work. I don’t feel the rhythm like I once used to. I’m so far behind with everything that when do sit down, I’m overwhelmed with all the tasks I have that should have been tackled long ago.

And yet, at the same time it feels rather glorious. I’m once again curled up on a cold autumn day with a blanket, hot (decaf) coffee, and a soundtrack playing. My office is clean, my hands are dancing over my keyboard, and my imagination is flowing.

This. This is what I’ve been missing. And now instead of allowing myself to think of all I still have to do, all that I’m behind in, I’m going to focus on the task at hand: Editing.

My writing break is over, and it’s going to be a good day.

 

When Your Desk Doesn’t Tell The True Story

If you were to look at my desk, you’d probably be able to tell I’m a writer. All the signs are there (not literally, folks). I have a corkboard, white board, sticky-notes, tacks, paperclips, papers pens, markers, planning notebooks, and lined three-by-five cards all within easy reach.

I know what it takes to be a writer, and I like to be prepared. My writing life is organized, beautiful, and ready for action. Whenever a thought strikes me I have easy access to getting it recorded and in the proper file. (Did I mention I also have a huge file folder right under my desk? Oh, and two file cabinets a skip, hop, and jump away.)

My ergonomics keyboard and computer stand make writing easy on the wrists and perfect for long, intense writing sessions. I have a window to gaze out of if I need inspiration and a comfy chair with a sheepskin on the back. (Because apparently, that’s good for your health or some such thing?) The salt lamp to my right sheds just enough light to give a warm glow, and the defuser to the left takes its job seriously as it pumps out essential-oil infused mist that not only helps my hands stay moist, but helps me stay healthy.

On paper (or Instagram) my writing life can look pretty perfect. The set up is optimal and life is grand.

 

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How my desk looked this morning with no staging, straightening, or editing

 

But, sometimes a picture doesn’t tell the whole story. The whole story which includes things like the fact that I’ve yet to ever put a single paper in the file under my desk. Or that my pens get chewed on more than written with. Or that my file cabinets have mayhem going on inside of them, and with a huge variety of things other than paper.

Sometimes my writing gets left behind in a flood of non-writing work. Or I get sick and my brain can barely figure out how to string words together, much less spell with any reasonable accuracy. Or I lose momentum and forget how important writing really is.

See, just because I have the perfect writing set up, or project the best writing aura online, or even trick myself into thinking I’m being productive… Well, that doesn’t always make it true. There’s a difference between truly writing, and well… Ya know, just walking the walk, and talking the talk kind of thing?

That’s the way it is with the rest of life, too. Just because you claim you do something or are something doesn’t make it true. Just because you can make your life appear to be one way on social media or to your parents or around your friends…. Well, that doesn’t make it true, either. Life isn’t what we portray it to be. It’s deeper than that, it’s who we really are. A conglomeration of the thoughts we think, the actions we take even when others aren’t around, where we spend our time and money, and what we really are on the inside.

What I Listened To While Blogging:
Story of My Life by the Piano Guys
Where I Blogged:
At my desk
Fun Fact:
I’m going to PA this weekend! 
Question Of The Day: 
What was the best part of your Sunday? 

P.S. Yes, I really am a writer. A woefully behind-in-goals and haven’t-written-much-in-ages and straighten-and-stage-her-desk-before-photos type of writer, but at the end of the day, I’m still a writer. And for that, I’m thankful.

Sneaking Writing In

One of the special things about being a writer is that you can work from practically anywhere. For instance, this is one of the first times that I’ve sat down at my desk in the last few weeks.

Goal-wise for this month I knew that writing times would be hard to come by, so I planned accordingly on paper. But, for some reason, that “knowing” didn’t quite reach my brain. As the month nears the end though, I can look back at my goals and go “Ah-ha! This month did go as planned.”

In February I lugged my computer all over the place with me. I took it to work (and brought it inside to keep it warm) just in case I was snowed-in away from home. I took it to my best friend’s house while babysitting. I took it to my “adopted” parent’s house while visiting. I squirreled it around my office.

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I worked on writing with friends hanging out in my office. I worked on writing while cloistered away because I needed a bit of quiet time. I worked on writing while keeping one eye on the clock so I could jump up at the last minute and race to work. I worked on writing while my best friend was in labor.

I worked on writing while holding her new baby and reading and singing with her other daughter. I worked on writing while listening to my adopted dad play the mandolin. I worked on writing when my brain was tired and I just wanted to sleep. I worked on writing while feeling all bright and chipper in the morning.

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This month I didn’t accomplish a lot when it came to writing. I had to sneak in moments to blog and edit. To answer comments and emails. To even sit down at my computer with a brain that felt halfway compatible for working.

And do you know what? It was a good month. It was a very life-filled month. It was a month where I didn’t hit any milestones with writing, but I kept at it. Being a writer isn’t only what I do, it’s also part of who I am. But it’s not all of who I am, and therefore I need to be flexible when the occasion for flexibility arises.

February was a good month. It wasn’t stellar, but when I had time and could muster the energy to write, I redeemed that time and made it count. And sometimes that’s what writing is about. Not about hitting personal records, but instead about being aware of what and when and how I can pull out my computer and type away.

Writing isn’t always easy. Nor is it always fun. But I am a writer, and therefore I will write.

31 Things An Author Thinks

This I find myself thinking as an author:

  1. How long can I sit here editing before I need to get up to be on time for ___________?
  2. This would make a good story.
  3. Oh, I should take a picture of this beautiful scenery for my blog.
  4. I miss Raquel. Or Nicolette. (Or any character I haven’t gotten to spend enough time with.)
  5. Will editing and re-writing ever end?
  6. When can I responsibly start writing again instead of editing?
  7. Is it worth it?
  8. Is it normal to be on draft 23?
  9. Is it normal to feel like I’ll never be finished?
  10. Is it normal to blog for this long without huge results?
  11. What constitutes “huge results” in the first place?
  12. What is the point of blogging and social media?
  13. How do I divide my time as a writer?
  14. This plot twist is the best.
  15. This plot twist is making. me. freak. out.
  16. Can we just get to this plot twist already?
  17. Oh my lands. How am I going to wait YEARS for people to get to this plot twist?
  18. Why is this plot twist in the second book instead of the first?
  19. Lydia Joy Howe, what are you even thinking?
  20. Okay. I need a beta reader now.
  21. Okay. No more beta reading for now.
  22. Why did I choose to be a writer?
  23. How could anyone not want to be a writer?
  24. Being able to listen to music while working is the best part of being a writer.
  25. I think I’ll edit right now just so I can listen to some great music.
  26. Alright. I need some encouragement.
  27. Who’s around who I can tell about my writing?
  28. I don’t want to ever talk about my writing again.
  29. Alright, if I don’t tell someone about this idea I’m going to burst.
  30. Being a writer rocks.
  31. The end.