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It's Wednesday.  It's a ROW80 check-in day.  It's Halloween.  And it's the day before NaNoWriMo starts.

All of that is going on, and all I can think is "I need a nap!"  I don't have nearly as much prep work done for NaNo as I'd hoped for.  I'm hiding in my room to avoid trick-or-treaters because all the knocking and door opening freaks out my cat, and I'm feeling horribly guilty about it.

All of that is swirling in my head at once.  And then a realization hit me.  A few, actually.  First, when I was at my most prolific with my writing I did not do much planning at all.  I got my idea for a character and an event.  And then most of my planning revolved around learning things about my character and maybe one or two secondary characters.  And then I would start to write and just keep going.

Then there's the part where I am actively involved in learning to let go of things and let myself not be in control of every little detail.  Going into NaNo with sketchy preparations is a really good exercise for this.

I also struggle with consistency in my writing.  NaNo helps me restart a regular writing practice, and it seems like every year my consistency improves.  So what if I don't know everything I'm going to write?  The important part is writing!

And finally, about those trick-or-treaters.  I've hear about three groups go by.  And they are laughing and having a good time, and they don't seem to be missing my candy.  And my cat's well-being is what is really important to me.  So why the heck am I feeling guilty?  It's fine to not give out candy, so there!

Guess what?  I started this post feeling wobbly and angsty, and now I feel fine.  I'm ready to write.  I have ideas for what monsters are going to show up in my story.  I know a lot about my MC, and I like her.  Sometimes, just talking it out gets me to the state of mind I want to be in.  Hurray for words!

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1

Stopping in for a brief ROW80 check-in.  We're three days out from NaNoWriMo (I am a co-Municipal Liaison for my region, so this is a busy time), and that is currently taking up most of the space in my head.

This week has been all about writing around my writing.  I've been writing a lot.  Many posts and information tidbits for NaNo mostly.  Lots of prompts and encouragement and sharing of ideas as thousands of us prepare for November.  I've also been working on a Halloween guest post for a friend's blog (that will be out tomorrow) and making some notes when I can for my November work

But I haven't been actually writing.  No actual story work, not even any freewriting about characters.  None of the stuff I like to do before jumping in to actually writing a story.  There hasn't been much time, and I knew there wouldn't be, but I am still feeling a lack.  Oh well, a few more days.

Between now and Wednesday I need to do my October newsletter.  I'm going to make a push to get that out tomorrow or Tuesday afternoon at the latest so I have time Tuesday evening and all day Wednesday to work up some story plans.

That's all I'm going to go for this week.  I know I'll have lots of NaNo related things to deal with, so I'm not going to make myself crazy or disappointed by stacking up goals I know I can't really get to. And in the end, that's part of a creative life, isn't it?  Knowing when we have to pare down and stick to a few things that must be done?  Maybe I'm finally learning that lesson.

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Note:  This post appeared previously on Where the Spirited Women Gather which is sadly now defunct.

 

Halloween, also known as Samhain, is a time when the veil between our world and the spirit world thins. It is a time when the spirits can visit us or we can speak to them more easily than at any other time during the year. In modern times we associate the holiday with all things creepy and spooky, but in the past it was more about the spirit world, remembering our ancestors, and the quieting of the seasons as winter approached.

This Halloween, why not hearken back to the olden days and use the energy of the season to get in touch with your inner, creative spirit? Here are a few ideas to help get you started:

  • Tarot meditation: Tarot cards have long been considered a way to contact the other side, getting messages about your life and maybe even your future. For this exercise, pull out a deck of tarot cards or another oracle deck and pick a card. Spend some time gazing at the image . Note any people or creatures, any items that stand out for you, the colors and tones used in the image. Let yourself imagine sinking or stepping into the card, noting any feelings and sensations you may have. You can also look up card meanings—there are several online places you can find to get meanings for tarot cards. Use what you gather from your gazing and any research to inspire a piece of creative work. (An alternate version of this would be to pull out one of the cards associated with Halloween—the Death card, King of Cups, or 5 of Cups, and follow the same guidelines.)

  • Pumpkin gazing: Carving pumpkins into Jack-o-lanterns goes back hundreds of years to the ancient Celts. They believed that the spirits wandered the earth on Halloween night because the veil was so thin. They carved pumpkins and placed them outside with candles lit inside them toe help guide lost spirits home, making the carved faces scary in the belief that the frightening faces would help scare away any evil spirits. Carve a pumpkin and place a lighted candle inside. Put the pumpkin on a table, turn off the lights, and sit down in front of the jack-o-lantern. Breathe deeply a few times, letting yourself relax. Spend as long as you like gazing at the flames, letting your mind find images in the dancing fire and shadows. When you are finished, write down your impressions, any thoughts and images and ideas that came to you. Use these ideas to create something. (An alternate to this would be to gaze into a candle—pumpkin or jack-o-lantern shaped adds to the holiday spirit but isn't strictly necessary.)

  • Celebrate Dia de los Muertos: The Day of the Dead (typically celebrated on November 1-2) is a Mexican holiday remembering and celebrating our loved ones who have gone before us during this time of the thinning veil. Sit quietly and remember those important to you, people and pets, who have left us now. Make a list of names, and next to each one write a few words or phrases about that person. Use that list to make a piece of art—a painting, collage, art journal page, poem, song, whatever comes to you—celebrating your loved ones.

  • Leaf printing: One of the strongest symbols of Autumn is vibrant, colorful foliage changing from green to a parti-colored display of pre-winter glory. Take advantage of the crisp Autumn days and bright leaves and go outside to gather the most beautiful leaves you can find. Take them home and use them in place of rubber stamps—dip them in ink or paint and print onto paper or fabric with them. You could also include the leaves themselves in collages or art journal pages or make an Autumn leaf bouquet to put in a little bud vase.

  • Connect with the classics: Autumn and Halloween are associated with ghost stories and other scary tales, too, and it's a perfect time to get cozy and read yourself to sleep. Pull out a classic Halloween story (The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and “The Raven” are my two favorites) and re-read it—maybe in a mostly darkened room with a few candles lit and a cup of hot cider at your side. Let yourself absorb the imagery and feelings of the piece. When you reach the end, make some notes on the images and emotions that stood out for you and use those to create something.

Samhain also marks the ending of the year in the Celtic calendar, so after your Halloween celebrations, take a few more minutes to ring in the new year. Light a candle and make a new year wish before you head to bed. Happy Halloween!

About me:

I'm a writer, professional muse, certified Kaizen-Muse ™ Creativity Coach, and all-around practitioner and lover of whimsy. I dabble in every sort of creative pursuit that looks interesting, spend too many nights staying up too late reading, and have dreams of building up an incredible stash of yarn for all the knitting patterns I keep saving.  In November, almost all of these things go on the back burner while I participate in the particular madness that is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo).

You can find me on my website, MuseCraft ™, on Facebook, and on Twitter.

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This time of year, everything is all about the spooky, Halloween stuff, and I love it!  But I loved it even more as a child.  This week, let your mind drift back to childhood.  Did you love Halloween?  Hate it?  What are your memories--the sights, smells, the feel of that store-bought costume against your skin?  Write down a few key words about your memories and use those ideas to generate a quick piece about Halloween.

 

You can get the details on 10 Minute Muse here.  There really are no rules.  Just let the prompt settle into your mind, see what pops up, create something from what the prompt stirs in you.  It doesn’t have to “make sense” to anyone, not even to you.  If the prompt is about daffodils and it makes you think of polar bears, go with it!  Have fun, relax, play.

Enjoy your creating, and when you’re done share it with us below or in the comments.  (Note: the link tool will remain open until Monday 12 p.m. PST.)

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2

I'm tired. I've been extremely tired for over a week, and I can't seem to shake it off. That happens sometimes when the weather shifts, but knowing that this happens regularly doesn't stop me from being frustrated. I have things I want to do, and this exhausted feeling is holding me back. It doesn't help that I haven't been sleeping well these past few nights. I wish I was one of my cats! They never seem to have this problem.

Being too tired is a real drain on creativity and life in general, though, so this week I need to make a point to take some naps, rest a little extra, and get some energy back.  What do you do when you're too tired to do anything?  How do you get your energy back so you can get back to your creative work?  I am open to suggestions even if my eyes are not.

Still, no matter how tired I am, life goes on.  It's time for a ROW80 check-in.  I missed Sunday's because I was tired and groggy and just couldn't bring myself to pick up the computer.

Right now, almost everything in my world is about gearing up for NaNoWriMo.  I'm keeping a watch on our regional forums, keeping an eye on our Facebook group, getting things ready for our kickoff party this Saturday.  Oh, and working on plans for my own writing, too!

Part of getting ready to write is figuring out my technology.  I must say, sometimes I miss the olden days when I used to write all of my stories, including my NaNo stuff, in a notebook.  Portable, works wherever I'm writing, not too heavy to lug around.  But I don't miss having to enter all of that into the computer for edits, so I'm going with electronics again this year.

I use multiple computers plus a tablet, and occasionally an iPod touch.  I decided that this year I want to use something web/cloud based so I can write on all of my devices without having to carry a flash drive or anything extra around with me.  Here's what I looked at and what I decided on:

  • Yarny.  This is a really nice, web based writing program.  I really wanted to use this, but I ran into one problem.  On my 7" tablet, the web site is too tiny to see what I'm typing.  If you aren't using a tablet, though, I recommend checking this one out.
  • Evernote.  I love Evernote for keeping track of the ongoing minutiae I collect every day--quotes, links, pictures, story ideas, etc.  Then I found out that if you download Evernote to your desktop you get a word count on your documents.  Plus, there are apps for all of my devices and the website itself where you can write and enter anything you need to, and this all syncs together.  I knew I wanted to use Evernote for my story planning and outlining, and I am now considering using it for the actual story writing, too.
  • My Writing Spot.  This is another web based writing app, but it has an advantage over Yarny because there are apps for my tablet and iPod, too.  And they all sync together.  I just have to remember when writing on the tablet to manually sync when I start and again when I finish so that my app and my online writings match each other.
  • Write: Tablet Notepad/Journal.  This is an app for my tablet, but it says it works well with Evernote, Dropbox, e-mail, and a variety of things I use.  The downside to this one is that I would have to export to one of these other apps or sites.

Right now, I'm pretty sure I'm going to use Evernote and My Writing Spot or just Evernote.  I like being able to use it on any device I find myself in front of.  I'll also be able to keep going once I get my new laptop in the spring without having to do anything other than sign in on the websites, and I love that lack of fuss.

So what technology do you use for your writing?  Do you use something different for NaNoWriMo if you participate?

As for the story itself, I have a list of short story topics.  I have a main character and one of my important secondary characters starting to get fleshed out.  This weekend I want to spend some quality time with my planning notebook and get my characters on the page and get the first few story ideas fleshed out.  Other than that, I don't have a plan for this week except to try to get my energy back up so my next check-in will be a bit livelier!

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Remember that game we all played as children? The one where we would lie in the grass staring up at the sky and finding shapes in the clouds?  Those shapes are still there if we just take the time to look up and seek them out.

This week's 10 Minute Muse is a version of that game.  Below you'll find a photo of clouds I took on vacation over the summer.  I see a smiling crocodile, what do you see?

Of course, you can always go outside and look at the clouds outside your door to play with this prompt.  Just have a look around and see what presents itself to you.  Have fun!

You can get the details on 10 Minute Muse here.  There really are no rules.  Just let the prompt settle into your mind, see what pops up, create something from what the prompt stirs in you.  It doesn’t have to “make sense” to anyone, not even to you.  If the prompt is about daffodils and it makes you think of polar bears, go with it!  Have fun, relax, play.

Enjoy your creating, and when you’re done share it with us below or in the comments.  (Note: the link tool will remain open until Monday 12 p.m. PST.)

 

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4

For the first time in a while, I don't feel like the ROW80 check-in has snuck up on me.   I am feeling as if I've been much more present these past few days, and I've been getting things done.

What's changed?  Some of it is that I don't have a large event that I'm planning looming on the horizon.  But I think the biggest change is that I've been listing very specific goals on my daily "to do" list rather than just putting down something like "write for 20 minutes."

What has my new system netted me in the whole three days I've been doing it?  Quite a lot, actually.  I have a list of short stories for my NaNoWriMo project, and I've begun fleshing them out. And I have a plan for what I'll be doing for the next few steps on that.  I'm feeling pretty confident that this method helps me keep going because I can just jump into the work when it's time rather than having to try to figure out what I'm going to work on.

For now, I'm going to stick with this as my major focus while it becomes more ingrained in my day-to-day life.  I do want to start getting some exercise in again.  I exercised twice last week but haven't done anything since Saturday.  And I feel better and more energetic when I exercise, and my ideas flow faster and better when I've been exercising.  So it's good for all of me.

Do any of you get really specific about your writing tasks when you're planning your daily writing?  How do you know what you're going to be working on during any given day?

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4

I started thinking about my ROW80 check-in a lot earlier today, but I am exhausted after running a big fundraising event yesterday, and I couldn't quite figure out what I wanted to write about. Once again, I didn't think I had much to report because last week was all about getting ready for yesterday's event.

Then I realized that something besides event planning did happen. Out of the storm of last week, I got a nice moment of clarity and a first glimpse of my path for the new stories I'm planning.

I'm taking two lessons from this.  First, if you open yourself to just letting ideas come to you as they will when you're busy doing non-writing things, I think it gives your subconscious permission to go ahead and make progress on your stories even when you aren't actively writing.

And second, there's always something to put on the accomplishment list in a week, always some tiny bit of progress.  You just have to remember to take some time and look for it.

So I'm heading into the coming week with some good backstory on my main character and some time to actually work on plans.  That means I want a goals list for this week:

  • Monday-Thursday--schedule 20 minutes each day to work on story and character plans
  • Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday--exercise at least 10 minutes
  • Get the kitchen restocked and cleaned up after a couple of hectic weeks left it a disaster

Those are the things I want to do this week.  And some blog checks, of course.  Next week, when I've had a little downtime, I'll get the other goals eased in there.  But this covers the most important things, and focusing on those first is an ongoing lesson I am still learning.

So how was your week everyone?  Learn anything interesting in your travels?

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Today's 10 Minute Muse prompt comes from the Creative Whack Pack:

The card is "Appreciate Your Problem" and has this quote on it: "That which opposes produces a benefit." ~Heraclitus  This week, ask yourself what gets in the way of you doing your creative work, following your dreams, living the life you want.  Now, create a quick piece of art based on your answer.

You can get the details on 10 Minute Muse here.  There really are no rules.  Just let the prompt settle into your mind, see what pops up, create something from what the prompt stirs in you.  It doesn't have to "make sense" to anyone, not even to you.  If the prompt is about daffodils and it makes you think of polar bears, go with it!  Have fun, relax, play.

Enjoy your creating, and when you're done share it with us below or in the comments.  (Note: the link tool will remain open until Monday 12 p.m. PST.)
 

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2

It's Wednesday and ROW80 check-in day.  I don't have a lot to report, and I was going to skip a check-in today.  But then I realized that the check-ins are part of my process, and important part.  I need to do these even when I've had a week where nothing else got done.  So here's my check-in of one item: I did my mid-week check-in this week.

I did leave a couple of comments on blogs, too, but I missed the mark on doing one or two every day.  I have a big event that I am helping to run this Saturday, and right now it is taking all of my focus and time.  Plus, NaNoWriMo is getting up and running--the forums have rebooted, people are sending messages and asking questions, so I have a lot to keep up with there (I am a municipal liaison for my area).

But back to my reasons for forging ahead with this miniscule check-in.

We know that sometimes things come up in life--big events or other things that require a lot of attention and completely rearrange how our lives run.  It's inevitable that these things will happen to us sometimes.

I think it's important during these times to try to keep at least one small part of our normal, day-to-day life intact during these times.  It helps us remember that the current situation is temporary.  It helps us feel like something is normal and under control.  And, just as importantly, it gives us a launching point for getting back into our groove once the crazy times pass.

So I will hold onto this small thing that is part of my normal life and wait for the wave of busy-crazy-hectic to pass.  And when it does I'll be back with another check-in and more to report.

 

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