Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Challenge yourself!

I was just reading a friend's blog about how she talked herself out of taking the easy way out of something and pushed herself, feeling great after what she accomplished. I know that I often do something, whether it's eating unhealthy, skipping exercise, sitting in front of the TV, or something else because it's "easy" or "simple" or "comfortable." However, when I push myself past those normal routines and comfort levels to achieve a goal, I feel a great sense of accomplishment and pride when all is said and done.

This month, I wrote a 50,000+ word novel in 30 days. I did it for the first time back in 2008 and felt great. That was the first novel I'd ever written, even though I've considered myself a writer at heart (if not in practice) for a long time and have found passion in writing. What I wrote in 2008 didn't really matter to me. It was just about the process. I started and finished something, ignoring my inner editor that often thwarts my progression. But the story itself was crap. I didn't have any real idea of what I wanted to happen in the story, and I just wrote by the seat of my pants until it was done. The process was still rewarding, but for my next challenge I wanted to push myself again past my known limits.

Last year, I tried to participate but didn't get anywhere near that 50,000 word mark. I was participating as a "rebel", writing non-fiction stories about my life. While I'd still like to complete this task, since it wasn't actually writing a novel, I didn't get into the whole spirit of the month of writing as much as I had the previous year. So when I started running low on stories and realized that I would have to embellish or rack my brain for more stories to tell on my theme to get to the 50,000 word mark, I basically quit.

Determined to give myself another growth opportunity this year, I finally sat down and thought through some basics of a story idea that had been floating around in my head since about the time I finished that first novel. This was a story I wanted to write while maintaining the integrity of my idea, as it is a story I wanted to TELL to be READ and ENJOYED. So I started out with some basics and a lot of questions. The writing process was extremely difficult at times (and as I've only written a very rough first draft so far, I know there's a lot more difficulty ahead). In fact, as I neared the end of the story late last night, I was sitting at my computer and thinking, "How do I want this to end?" It's a question I'm still asking myself, as I'm not anywhere near satisfied with how it has ended for now. But I know that I will be working more on this novel down the road.

I am so grateful that despite challenges I faced this month, I set a goal for myself and accomplished it! I feel that this has been a real learning experience for me about myself, and while writing was at times painful because of the difficulties, I feel stronger and more confident (and even a little bit of pride) as a result of my accomplishment.

I encourage you to take one of your passions and set a goal relating to it that requires some sacrifice, pain, challenge, etc. Don't talk yourself out of reaching for that goal. Don't worry if you don't quite reach it the first time either. Just keep trying! It will be worth it in the end!

My favorite quote on the subject is: "Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss it, you will land among the stars." -Les Brown

Attempted murder she wrote

And now I'm done with my second novel (well, the first draft, anyway)!!! I must say it is heads and shoulders above the quality of my first NaNoWriMo novel. I'm excited to do lots of polishing on this one instead of leaving it to be a big pile of horse dung like the one I wrote in 2008. I actually like the story line and think it has potential. Now, off to bed!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Winter Weather

One of the reasons I moved to Washington from Arizona was because I wanted cooler temperatures and more rain. I don't do well in extreme heat or cold weather and was told to avoid extremes as much as possible because of my skin. Something else that appealed to me about Washington (at least the area I live in) is that it's not really snowy in the winter. Sure, there might be a couple days of snow each year on average, but it's not the whole you-need-snow-chains-to-drive or even the snow-stays-around-for-days situation. So I don't mind it when it happens.

And yet, that hasn't exactly been my personal experience in Washington yet. I got my first taste of Washington winter weather about 2 months before moving here. I arrived the day after the ice storm of 2006. Electricity was out for most of my trip, which was quite an experience. But I heard that was abnormal and then moved here.

I got a job at the end of 2007 working about an hour or so away from where I lived. I gave myself 2 hours to get to work because I didn't want to be late due to traffic, and so I was usually around 30 minutes early. And I had to drive up and down some scary hills in snow a couple times that had me scared to death. My husband was out of town at an army training while I was trying not to die or crash my car on my ride home. Again, I heard that wasn't exactly normal around here.

Then we bought our house. We experienced more than average snow (or so I heard) in the winter of 2008. But I didn't have any real reasons that I "had" to leave the house (I was working from home at the time), so I didn't mind so much. My husband even got a couple extra days off work because of the weather, so we had some nice time together right around Christmas. We went out for walks in the snow a couple times too. But I realized I didn't have adequate shoes for snow.

So one day we walked to the Fred Meyer just over a mile from our house (up a hill) to buy me shoes. They didn't have any in stock at the time (possibly because they'd all been sold due to the weather). I slipped and slid and fell a couple times, twisting my ankle while walking home from the store where I'd gone to buy shoes that would prevent me from doing just that. Figures!

I was grateful to have a "milder than normal" winter last year, even though after my experience in 2008, I bought more cold weather clothing and supplies (I still don't have a whole lot, but it's tough when you need to basically change your entire wardrobe due to a move). I don't recall any snow sticking at all, even though I believe some did fall.

But now they say this winter could be worse than usual, and we have snow in our forecast for the weekend. In fact, it may be a fun snow/rain slush mix on Monday. But at least it's supposed to be sunny on Tuesday and then not rain for a few days after that so I don't have to worry about the Thanksgiving drive a few miles away to my cousin's house for dinner. I may have to drive a bit during the snow on Sunday, but that's probably all (and I'll probably have my husband do it instead if it makes me nervous). And now I've got some shoes that should be more appropriate for the weather. And I can still zip my baby belly into my winter coats (for now, anyway). So I'm hoping I'm good to go!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

On writing

I'll be the first to admit that my imagination isn't near what it used to be as a child. However, I haven't given up on some of my dreams and even catch myself daydreaming at times. I enjoy writing, not just about myself to feel self-important, but to have a creative outlet. I'm not a crafty person. I'm not a fabulous baker or cook. I know where my interests and skills are, and I try to push myself from within those confines, hoping to have some sort of growth breakthrough.

But writing itself is often a painful process for me. I'm not talking about physical pain but an indescribable pain. When thoughts form in my head, they are pure, unfiltered, perfect representations of my weaning imagination. And the process of trying to find words to describe those thoughts adequately, to give them justice and life, is quite a challenge.

I know this story I'm writing right now is just a rough draft. It will need extensive revision and further contemplation before the polished work comes close to resembling the blooming story as it is forming in my mind. But even the process of searching for words that maintain the integrity of my thoughts is strenuous. It is exhausting. I figure out an acceptable short-term way to write a particular passage, and then I mentally collapse, begging myself for a reprieve. Yet I continue to push myself, and I actually enjoy the challenge.

Since my last blog entry, I have not written every day. I missed one day unintentionally (I simply ran out of time and energy before I'd been able to write a word). On the days I have written, I haven't always met even the minimum word count requirement, as is illustrated by the calendar widget I have posted on the side bar of the blog (green are days I get in the "minimum," while my "minimum" should now be higher because I'm behind; red means I didn't write on those days at all; orange means I wrote something but not near enough; yellow means I wrote close to the minimum without reaching it). However, I know the writing process isn't just about writing for me. I am giving myself opportunity to learn and grow, and that is the great fruit that the finished story will represent. So I will continue plugging on.

And, as motivation to stick with it without procrastinating until the end of the month, when running out of time could become a serious issue, I have vowed that I will not see Harry Potter until I'm at least caught up with the suggested daily word count totals for that particular day.

Saturday, November 6, 2010


Today is six days into November, and my plans aren't working out so well. I have been sick all week. Joe has been sick for the past few days, but whatever he has is worse than what I have, so I'm not sure that he got it from me. Anyway, as a result of feeling sick, I haven't been doing much writing or studying. I have been doing a lot of reading.

The first day of the month, I wrote about 1800 words. I hadn't written any more until today. I've doubled my word count, but I know there's no way I will catch up by the end of the day today. I don't want to just write 1667 more words each day (or even 2000), as it will take a long time before I'm caught up if I do that, and it doesn't allow me to have any more "off" days without falling further behind. Therefore, I'm giving myself until the end of the day on Monday to get caught up. And if Joe returns to work on Monday (which he's currently planning on doing even though we're both not feeling well yet), it may be a little easier for me to get writing in.