It's a fun time full of writerly companionship, and if you're on the fence I hope I can convince you to jump on in. I thought I'd share part of a post (with a link to the rest) I wrote for Willamette Writers this summer to help persuade you.
Have you tried NaNoWriMo? You should—it’s a great way to get your words flowing and get your stories out on the page.
Admittedly I’m biased in favor of NaNo. I’ve been signing up for it since 2003 and actively participating since 2006 (turns out you actually have to write something to get to 50K). I’ve taken part as a writer (and a winner seven times). I’ve been the Portland, OR municipal liaison. I’ve attended and hosted local write-ins and events and participated in the online forums. But most importantly, I have written. I have written in November even in years when writing was a struggle. NaNo did that for me.
I really do love NaNo. I'm hoping to participate this year even in the middle of a house renovation and move (which may be completely crazy, but I'm still thinking about it). I hope you'll give it a try and give your writing a jolt of NaNo energy.
Drop me a line, let me know if you're jumping in, let me know how it's going. I'll cheer you on and see you at the finish!
Happy New Year! Yes, I know we're almost two weeks into it. That's okay--it's still pretty new. And I've been getting things in order in my house (seriously, where's that robot maid?) and in my planning. And now I'm finally feeling together enough to write something up and really get this year rolling.
What do you do for the new year? Do you make resolutions? Pick a word for the year? Skip all of that?
I skip over the resolutions for the most part. For one thing, I'm always making plans, tweaking them, setting new goals. Resolutions just feel redundant. The past couple of years, though, I have been setting experience goals. In 2013 it was to try a new restaurant every month. That one was great fun, and we found a couple of favorite spots that way. Last year the goal was to try at least one new recipe a month, and that was a pretty big success, too, even though I wasn't as on top of keeping a list of what I tried so some of the recipes are off in the ether somewhere. This year, I'm going to go on a photo walk every month. I love doing them, yet I hardly ever make the time. I'm going to go someplace new each month and take photos (I may allow myself to include a couple of favorite spots I haven't been to in years because it's been so long that they're practically new).
Now about that word. I tried it out several years ago when doing it became really popular. I loved the idea of it! I picked a word, wrote it in my journal, forgot about it by January 3. A couple of years later I decided that the problem was that I didn't have any reminders of my word, so I decided to create these fun prayer flags. I picked three words for that year and made flags for each one. I hung them in my study, and occasionally I remembered to pay attention to them, but the exercise still seemed pretty pointless to me. I quit doing the word-of-the-year for a couple of years. But so many people I really like and respect were doing this word-of-the-year thing that I wanted to give it another go. I knew, though, that I needed to do something to keep my word fresh in my mind so it could actually be a guiding light, so I held off until I could figure out something that felt like it would work.
This was four (I think?) years ago. At the same time as deciding to give the yearly word another go, I got an UnCalendar. And a great idea was born. Every week before I fill out plans and dates for the week, I write my word at the top of the left-hand page. It makes me focus on my word each week if even for a moment, plus it keeps the word right there in front of me every time I open my calendar. I won't say that I live by my words constantly, but writing it and seeing it every week does help me keep it in mind and make some decisions with that feeling in mind.
This year my word is "expansive." I have "devotion" and "bigness" alongside it to keep it company, just to see if having multiple words changes anything for me. This word, this idea of expansiveness, feels huge to me. It feels like a stretch. It feels a little scary and like living an expansive life might be something I don't know how to do. It's a good word.
Mostly the things I do to set up the new year are designed to give me a feeling of possibilities, fun, and a clean slate. I think those are great things to start a year with and much lighter than resolutions and plans to give things up and all that.
And you? What are you doing? How are you starting this new year? I'd love to hear all about it.
Do you ever catch yourself wishing that things were easy or saying things like, "Why can't this be easy?" or "I want this to be easy!"? What do we mean by that? Do we actually mean that we want a life that is effortless, where we never have to exert ourselves or stretch ourselves in any way? I don't think that's actually what we mean when we're wishing and hoping and longing for easy. I think if we didn't have things to work toward and strive for, we'd get bored. I don't think we really mean "easy" at all.
So what do we mean when we wish for easy? I think we might really be longing for a clear path--knowing where we're going and the steps to take to get there. I think it's the uncertainty of what comes next, of what our next move should be that makes us wish for that chair on the beach and effortless days.
I think when I find myself complaining that something is too hard, that I wish it (whatever the current "it" might be) was easier, I'll remind myself that easy isn't what I'm looking for. Instead of asking how things can be easy, I will ask myself "how can I clear the way to move forward?" Semantics, yes, but I think it's important.
Does this relate to my ROW80 check-in and NaNoWriMo? Oh yeah. I've been whining to myself for the past two days that this next section is too hard, I want it to be easy, why won't it be easy? Today, just a little while ago, I realized it was the wrong question. I don't actually mind spending hours writing, staying up a little too late, skipping other things to get in some words. So it's not easy I'm looking for. What I'm really needing is a focus, a plan, a clue. So the question I need to ask myself is "how can I figure out what I need to write next?" "How can I make the next section make sense as a lead-in to what's going to happen after?" "How can I plan things so I don't have so many stops and starts and stuck places?"
Maybe just writing along getting all the thoughts down, knowing the basics of what I'm going to put in that spot before I get started is a form of ease. I don't know. But I do think I need to be focusing more on how to know what I'm going to write when I sit down rather than focusing on how I want things to be easy. Because the truth is, I don't care that much about easy. I just want to get my words flowing again.
What would you like to have going more smoothly in your life? What would you like to get unstuck? How can you clear the way for yourself to do the things you want to do?
I've been hesitant to talk too much about my flaws and failures. What kind of coach falls prey to the same things she helps other people deal with? Oh yeah. A human one. A human one who needs to remember what she tells people all the time--we all need to connect with mentors and teachers and people who support and cheer us on our paths. We all need help. So, here's a little bit about me getting caught up in a downward spiral and my journey back out.
This whole year, plagued by illness, injury, car troubles, and the accompanying money woes that go with all of that, I have been trying to make plans, jump into things, busy my anxiety and depression away. Coupled with a leaning toward self-sabotage and procrastination, I've just been setting myself up for failure and a reinforcement of my "I never do what I should, never do anything right" feelings.
This week, though, a few things happened to push me into acknowledging that I've just been plunging into plans to try to shake myself out of my doldrums.
First, Lisa's class started up again, and I realized that it's an invitation. It's an invitation to slowly build up to something lasting, something that can keep me afloat during dark and stressful times.
Then Thursday Jill did a call about self-sabotage and not showing up for yourself. It was like someone shined a spotlight on my behavior. It became so clear that I was making sure that I don't move ahead with my dreams.
At first I found myself starting to make all sorts of new plans to "get myself going" and things like that. Then I stopped myself. I asked one question: "What do I need?" Not what do I want to be doing (writing, coaching, teaching), or what do I think I should be doing (cleaning and organizing, making better plans for my life). What do I need?
I need breathing space, calm, peace-of-mind
I need a support structure, regular practices that help me sort my thoughts and get that calm space I need
I need to care for myself
A huge problem of mine is impatience. I want all of this right now. My plan (oh, I just can't help myself--I love to make plans!) is to take things day-by-day. I'm going to finish out this round and begin the next one with the goal of making one daily step, connecting with people here, on Twitter, on Facebook to have some accountability.
So what does this mean for ROW80 and JuNoWriMo? Writing is in my soul, I can't stop thinking about writing and stories, so I'm not going to stop doing either of these. I'm just going to really dial back my goals. For the rest of this round, and for the rest of June, I am going to set the goal of writing at least two sentences every weekday. Small steps, one of my favorite tools from my Kaizen-Muse™ training. And they work when I remember to do them (have you ever noticed how hard it can be to follow your own advice?)
I've been rambling. I hope you're still with me. I hope you'll remember that even when you're not practicing your creativity, even when things are dark, this is normal, and you are not alone. And if you want to talk about it, I would love to connect so we can help each other along.
It was 1992. I was back in school getting a post-grad teaching certification and taking my first steps from being a storyteller and occasional poet to being a writer. I started taking some workshops. And I bought some books. And one of those books is still with me. It's right here next to me as I type because I think it's time for a re-read.
Re-reading this (and probably Wild Mind after) seems like the perfect accompaniment to this round of ROW80. Taking my goals back to the basics, simplifying, just focusing on the process of writing practice is what these books are all about. These books are where I first learned this stuff! It feels really good to be returning to this starting point.
I've been doing some very short journaling, mostly on the back of my collage cards, and it feels good to be connecting to my world with my words again. I know I'm on the right track for me, and I think that's a pretty good check-in for right now.
I wish to believe in magic. In fairies and miracles and bright, shining amazement floating in glittery bubbles of fairy dust. I wish to believe that there are secrets to the Universe, things I can catch glimpses of if I open myself up and look in the right directions. I wish to believe that I have magic inside me that I can bring out and share with the world if I keep trying. I wish to believe that there are ghosts and aliens and Bigfoot and wild, unknown things out there and that maybe I can see some of it while I'm here. I'm like Fox Mulder on the X-Files--I want to believe.