Monthly Archives: October 2015

Traveling Again

Back out to California, kicking off NaNoWriMo this year near the Napa Valley. I leave today, I have about three hours before I head out to the airport and if it isn’t obvious I cannot sleep anymore. After waking up twice to say goodbye to my dad and sister, I’m just done going back to bed. Right now I’m just counting down the minutes before I need to go.

As per usual, I am really excited about the prospect of people watching, which I have a hard time shutting up about. There’s something about finding random people and being able to do something with how they are, how they look, or what they say around you that just gets me.

Which is ridiculous because I remember years ago in that fiction writing class when I couldn’t care less. I didn’t think it was crucial, and now I can’t get enough of it.

Among other things, being in a new place for this event allows me to explore and meet new people. Of course, Friend is going to be there with me, like he was for Utah. He’s been up in that area of California before, hell, it was his suggestion, but there’s just something about going somewhere you don’t frequent and checking in to their write-ins and experiencing stuff there in the mean time.

I wouldn’t mind keeping this up, either. We’ve talked about it before, collecting spots we’ve done NaNo in all over the country would be an awesome tradition, albeit a little bit of an expensive one. In the end, 100% worth it.

Though, I will admit that my experience in Utah with NaNo was my first social gathering, and I don’t think I did a write-in locally until the year after. Like I mentioned recently, these gatherings are an awesome way to connect, not only to the community but to meet other writers who are in the same boat or can act as inspiration.

But if you live in a city as big as St. Louis or bigger, you’re going to have to pick and choose what you go to because some things just are not easy to get to.

… Well, really, that’s the point, isn’t it? Find something close that’ll motivate you to go and write and talk and enjoy the company of other writers while you scribble your way recklessly through your novel. Because everything is better when you add friends.

I am waiting to get to the airport and die completely because I forgot something. Either packing is becoming second nature to me and I’m too good at it and I’ve actually got my shit together for once, or I’m definitely missing something crucial.

As per usual, I will probably wait until the last second to shut the laptop down. A day of traveling awaits me, but my fun new smart phone will help me with that. Hopefully it doesn’t die before I touch down…

This was definitely, mostly, a way for me to get my thoughts out. Nothing too important to learn from this one. I will try and make a post tomorrow for NaNo Prep Pep. This time last year I was a lot more active, so it feels odd doing so little for this month, but I imagine you all understand. And there’s only so much I can say before I’m just repeating myself.

I’m still too excited for my own good, and I remain cautious but optimistic about this year’s work. Let’s see how much better I do than last year.

(I’m hoping the answer is: holy shit so much better)

And best of luck to everyone, whether I post something tomorrow or not!

-The Novice Wordsmith

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NaNoWriMo Prep: Intimidation Factor and How I’ve Never Finished a Novel

This past Saturday was a “kick off” party for NaNoWriMo in my area. It wasn’t kicking off into writing, but it served as a party for a lot of us to get to know the others who will be writing in November. It’s where you learn about everyone’s goals, how long they’ve been participating, what they hope to accomplish, how many novels they’ve finished, and where you eat cookie cake and mingle and talk about what a book might be about based on its cover.

It was also where I got incredibly intimidated by a lot of the people I came in contact with.

“I feel so unoriginal,” I told Friend as I was on my way out. “They have so many ideas. All of them are so creative.”

A few had even been published. One had brought in two of her own books to be raffled off, and she acted like it was nothing. Nonchalant. (“Don’t pick that book, I wrote that one eight years ago, the other one is much better.”)

My mind boggled. I felt so small within the group. In comparison to those who had books published, those who had even finished things, I have been staring at three NaNoWriMo projects that haven’t reached the finish line yet, though one is dangerously close. The other two I want to start all the way at the beginning again and re-write.

“Have you gotten published yet?” Was a big question around the room, and one a lot of people could answer quickly, whether it was out of hopefulness or because they’d actually done it.

But to me, the answer was the same. They had something ready to publish. The one woman had said she’d done a bunch of research for it. The one who had two books, she had gotten a contract by putting one book out for an open call (I think that’s what they called it).

I felt– I feel– like a kid in a sea of adults, like this is just something I’m playing at still.

I started to think about it, though. That’s me in a room full of writers, maybe about 20 or so, give or take about five or ten. There’s an entire world out there filled with writers. How many people are even participating in NaNoWriMo? There’s got to be at least ten times more than that all over the world, every one of them having ideas and creativity and imagination that they want to let loose for the rest of the world to see.

What the fuck am I worried about? I’m one of those thousands, if not millions, of people. Whether I know what I’m doing or not shouldn’t matter right now, and on the other side, it is perfectly okay for someone else to be published, to know what they’re writing, and to do it well. Because it can happen, and it does, every day.

It’s back to my competitiveness. Back to my Type A personality, which tells me that I need to be the best forever.

But on the other hand… Isn’t it awesome to be in the middle of something like that? To be around people who are so creatively charged that you aren’t the only person in the room who has wild, crazy ideas that are all over the place, it’s another way of fitting in. It’s belonging. It’s finding your group.

It’s a common bond that brings us all together, no matter what our color, size, gender, etc.

They aren’t there to intimidate, they’re proud of what they’ve accomplished, because it’s still a ridiculously rough path for anyone who decides to take it. Those who publish, those who finish, are there to inspire, because for as many who have, there are just as many who have trouble finishing anything large (slowly raises hand).

So I’m going to try and embrace it, instead of letting it make me feel smaller. Because god dammit, just because I haven’t finished something yet doesn’t mean I won’t.

-The Novice Wordsmith

Live vs. Private

When it comes to writing, I know two versions. Writing with an audience while the words flow, live, in the moment, and private, when I do it on my own and go over the lines and dialogue carefully, constructing it to as near perfection as I can.

I’ve been musing over it idly for the past week or so, the differences between the two and how they feel. Some stories are just better when they’re live, when someone sees their development and how they change and taper and what you create on the fly, and you can see their feedback as you feed them written word. They are the stories of the moment. They have a lasting power as being right there.

Other stories, however, are best told, written in private and edited and preened and gone over a dozen times. They’re better when you can hold the full copy in an e-mail or a few pages in a journal somewhere. They read better as a cohesive piece, all at once.

Both have their merits. I like to write at Friend a lot because it helps me shape something while I’m thinking about, and also because I enjoy watching how he reacts. He also has an input, throwing ideas at me while I go. Sometimes it’s just because I’m too impatient to write it all in one piece, and I write faster when it’s at him instead of a full piece for him.

Usually, he’s my only audience. But that’s when private pieces come more in handy, if there’s more than just him that wants to see the piece or that I need to show it to. The traditional, cohesive piece in one place is easy, and reliable to find. It also lets me go back and scrap it if I decide it isn’t what I want.

I’ve had pieces I’ve worked on for days and ended up throwing in my scrap heap because re-reading it showed it just wasn’t working. I could try and try but there was no making it happen.

Then again, I’ve had live pieces I’ve started and had to stop early because it wasn’t coming out right, too. But jumping in on the moment and running with what you have spontaneously, improv-style, free-style, helps develop swiftness, I think. When you put yourself in a spot where you have to come up with something immediately, you get creative.

I don’t think I really prefer one or the other, though maybe there’s a bias toward Live, but they both have their ups and downs. It all depends on mood. But however the mood strikes, let it take you wherever it wants next time.

– The Novice Wordsmith

Stubbornness vs. Rightness

In the past couple of months, I’ve been working a full time job at a very busy veterinary hospital. And when I say hospital, I mean it: it’s 24 hours, there’s urgent care staff on ’round the clock, they have an operating room, they book several surgeries a day ranging from simple (spay, neuter) to complex (mass removals, etc), and they have as many as 20 doctors employed.

It had been a job I wanted for years, literally. When I was unemployed, I applied twice, interviewed twice, and was rejected twice. I loved the idea of being up front and helping people, and being able to reach out and be part of the help they were seeking for their pet.

The problem was, despite the fact that they were so intensely, crushingly busy, and I never reacted well to that, I still took it up eagerly. It was a very quick process that left my head spinning, and my first day there was disastrous, but I was determined to stick with it. And so the second day was better, and the third, and I kept learning and getting better at what I was doing until I was turned loose as an independent part of the system.

And it got worse from there.

It is really hard for me to admit that I am absolutely bad at being under pressure in a constant cycle. I can do it when it happens every so often, I’ve found ways to handle it before, but when it springs up unexpectedly and often, it gets to me. It’s hard to handle, and I make more mistakes because I’m just trying to get through things.

I was not going to let that get in the way. I felt like it was just circumstance, and I’d get better. Even though I would come home, feeling the lack of communication with certain close friends and the huge cut in free time I had, considering moving on to a different job, I stuck it through.

Shit, I even pined for the old job I had some days, but I figured I would be fine. No big deal. It was just me having a bad day.

And then I lost the job.

On top of feeling depressed about the outcome, I felt relieved. I kept finding reasons to be okay with it. I mean, I was still flabbergasted at how out of the blue it was, the final day of my probationary period, and I was getting axed because they could do that still, but part of me was glad for it.

And it came to me yesterday, that the job really wasn’t for me. I came home from the interview (which was a simple observation for two hours) feeling the emotional drain and knowing it might be a bit much for me. The first day was nightmarish. I had been considering not saying yes to it in the beginning, but I went with it anyway because it was an opportunity, it was what I wanted.

But you have to realize that sometimes, what you think you want isn’t always going to be what fits you.

I wanted to write this to impart this wisdom on everyone, as it applies to writing and challenging yourself to genres you aren’t used to or characters you don’t do so well with, or really anything, whether it’s someone else’s suggestion for you and your wish to see it out, or your own thinking that you should be able to do something.

It is 100% okay to not be cut out for something, no matter what it is. 

Just that the hard part is convincing yourself of that, if you’re as stubborn as I am.

If something becomes too much, or it isn’t enough, or it’s just overwhelming, you reserve the right to tell it no and move on to something that feels better. Do not worry.

This pertains as much to NaNo as possible, too, considering you may be trying something new out. If it doesn’t work, find something else and jump on. Shift gears. Get comfy somehow else. You’re allowed to. It’s all part of the learning process, isn’t it?

-The Novice Wordsmith