Nov 052019
 

 

What is NaNoWriMo? Is it a new erectile dysfunction drug? A political party? A space alien? And what is a NaNoWriMo rebel? Is it dangerous? Actually, it’s a shorter way to say National Novel Writing Month — a crazy, fun event that runs through the month of November. And, most of us rebels are pretty darned harmless.

The free, internet-based writing challenge began in 1999, with fewer than two dozen participants. The idea is to write 50,000 works (aka a lousy first draft) between midnight November 1st and 11:59 on the 30th. For some of us, 50,000 words is a pretty good stretch. I understand that for fiction-writers it’s novelette length.

Is NaNoWriMo a new erectile dysfunction drug? Click To Tweet

I’m not a novelist. I’ve been writing non-fiction for most of my life, only fairly recently transitioning from corporate and copywriting assignments to books. Shortly after moving to a mountaintop in northern New Hampshire to be with the love of my life, he handed me a newspaper article about the thing. I’m not sure I’d have found it on my own. Always one to “try stuff,” taking advantage of our relative isolation made sense to me. I had no idea what I was getting into but, after winning the first year I was hooked. With the exception of the year Favorite Husband and I moved twice between October 1st and December 1st, and maybe the year of the multiple surgeries I’ve done it every year since.

And I WON!!! Almost every time. (If you’re not familiar with NaNo,NaNo, please don’t get too excited about the “winning” thing. It simply means that along with about a kazillion other people, I completed my 50,000 words!)

So why would your average, nondescript author of only two non-fiction books (and a whole bunch of blog posts) spend her time rolling around in novel-writing stuff? Is NaNoWriMo a good idea for a non-fiction author? And how does it work on the years I don’t even bother to try to write fiction. (That, by the way, in the parlance of the site, makes me a NaNoWriMo REBEL!  A non-novel writing writer committed to cranking out 50,00 words in another genre? Yep. That’s a NaNoWriMo rebel. Yee-ha! I love being a rebel without a clue. I’ve done it a time or two before — in different disciplines. Usually it works for me.)

How can novel writing be good for non-fiction authors? Ask a #NaNoWriMo participant. Click To Tweet

This crazy-fast, smash words approach might not be for everyone but for me, it works like this:

  • The event helps me ignore the end of Daylight Savings time
  • It loosens me up. It’s hard to “write tight” when you’re going for quantity
  • My family re-connects with the fact that I sometimes disappear into writing and editing — especially when I’ve been editing for a lot of other people
  •  I feel more creative. Trust me, I’ve got to make up some stuff in a hurry if I’m going to hit my daily word count. All before my second cup of coffee.
  • The process gives me permission to fail… not on a quantity level but it is one time that I can try to care a little bit less about the quality of what’s coming off the tips of my fingers.
  • It makes a huge dent in the paralysis of analysis. It’s a lot easier to edit a crappy first draft than a blank screen
  • And, oddly enough, by letting go of the end result I am able to create a draft that may — someday — develop. The Inner Critic Advantage: Making Peace With the Noise in Your Head has some roots in NaNoWriMo and the endless community discussions about that wicked Inner Editor!

 

 

One year, (on November 28th) I took a friend to her outpatient surgery visit. She was appreciative and apologetic and worried about me getting any work done. Given that this was the third time that month I had been her designated driver, I was able to reassure her: medical waiting areas are wonderful places to jack up the ole word count — especially as a NaNoWriMo rebel trying to get a few blog posts drafted. When I took her back for a follow-up visit she asked how I was coming along with my goal. I was delighted to report that I had finished — more than twenty-four hours ahead of the deadline. I am a winner! (Phew!)

Medical waiting areas are a wonderful place to jack up the ole word count. #NaNoWriMo Click To Tweet

I think it was the year that we hosted more than twenty members of our precious extended family for Thanksgiving, that seemed to raise more questions than ever. There were family members who wanted to know why I participate. There were others who were more excited about the layers of paper covering the kids table and Grandrea’s great collection of colored pencils at every place. Still another kept asking why I don’t do 1,667 new words every day, all year long. (Note to self: is a careful look at the guest list in order? That one is definitely not my favorite relative.)

 

 

Look what they sent me: “You, wonderful author, spent this past November unleashing your creative powers, fighting back inner editors, and teaming up with thousands of writers around the world. We’re incredibly proud to welcome you to the NaNoWriMo winners’ hall. Congratulations on your superheroic achievement!” Is it strange that I find motivation in this sort of thing? Or in the comments that sometimes appear at the end of my blog posts?

It’s almost 6:00 a.m. and I’ve got a word count waiting, so, here in no particular order, are some of my past (and present) NaNoWriMo revelations.

  • I am fascinated by creativity and brilliance. The idea behind #NaNoWriMo certainly encompasses both. The project’s geometric growth is proof that there are LOTS of people who appreciate creativity and brilliance.

 

  • #NaNoWriMo exists to promote literacy. In addition to this crazy 50,000 sh*tty first draft in 30 days there are a number of ways the group seeks to encourage writing (and reading) in classrooms around the world. Actually, this seems like it would be a very good collaboration for the Amelia Island Book Festival or any other group that purchases books for classrooms. After all, isn’t writing sometimes the result of a love of good books?

 

  • Permission. Once upon a time, I have a brief but powerful conversation with one of the well-known authors headlining our local book festival. He asked a few questions and said, “You have permission: go ahead and write the one you can’t stop thinking about.” That memory, combined with the November  mantra “quantity over quality,” helps me uncover many of the” things I think I think.” I don’t know which ones will ever see the light of publication but it doesn’t matter. This is something I do because it makes me better at my craft.

 

  • I love the generosity and creativity of the #NaNoWriMo team. There are pep talks by well-known authors  and virtual rewards all month long and, seriously: who doesn’t like being referred to as a winner and superhero? (That’s the sort of language they use — even for the NaNoWriMo rebels!)

 

  • It’s a stretch goal that is — for whatever reason — important to me. I enjoy the gratitude and appreciation I feel each time the website’s massive “official word count validator” says “Congratulations — you did it!” It may be weird but it is what it is.

 

I now look forward to returning to our regularly scheduled programming: which includes some slow and focused editing, possibly sleeping in past 5:00, and maybe a slightly smaller daily word count.

 

My award-winning title The Inner Critic Advantage: Making Peace With the Noise in Your Head was conceived during a #NaNoWriMo Click To Tweet

 

 

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Andrea Patten’s award-winning title The Inner Critic Advantage: Making Peace With the Noise in Your Head was conceived during a #NaNoWriMo… and while she was working on a crappy first draft this month? Stay tuned!

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Oct 292019
 

boxer dog faceUntil Alex came along, I’d never once had the urge to put a dog in a dress. It’s neither dignified nor necessary. Too anthropomorphic for me. And besides, for more than two decades I have lived in places that don’t have trick-or-treaters.

Last year was different but, then again, so is Alex. A mellow, white, deaf dog sandwiched between two intense German Shepherd ladies, he provides relief. He’s funny. And calm. We need him around here. And sometimes we underestimate his depth. Last Halloween was a case in point.

It’s still hard to give context to a week of bomb threats through the mail, a shooting at a supermarket, and a massacre in a temple while people worshipped. I can’t. It’s still beyond my ability to comprehend. Grief. Sadness. Rage. Helplessness. I didn’t know how to feel, never mind what to do.

It’s still hard to give context to a week of such overwhelming violence. I can’t. Click To Tweet

Frenzy in the News, Red Sox & a Dog in a Dress

The week wore on and the news had folks in a frenzy. Despite doing much of my work online, I minimized time on social media. The world was far too crazy and I was making my best effort to close it out. To read. To meditate. To think things through. As a lifelong New Englander the world series of baseball provided a welcome distraction.

Of course watching the news wasn’t a great idea, either. Sometimes I’m still naive enough to think that information aides in understanding. It often does. But this time the news — regardless of the leanings of the outlet — bordered on hysterical. More guns. Less guns. Armed guards. Arm the teachers. Don’t leave the house. Politicians can’t fix it. Politicians all lie. Love is the answer. Fight back. F*ck it. Numb. Confused. Heart-broken for strangers. Worried about area first responders. Who’s got the answers?

For me, on this day, it turned out to be a dog in a dress.

F*ck it. Numb. Confused. Heart-broken. Who's got the answers? For me, on this day, it turned out to be a dog in a dress. Click To Tweet

Honey I Lost the Dog

The dogs love it when Favorite Husband and I settle in for a movie or a ballgame. They snooze and cuddle and cruise for snack remnants on the floor. Alex, my goofy little boxer boy, usually cuddles up with my feet — it helps him know when I leave the room. So looking around and not white dog on back smilingfinding him was a bit unsettling. Unfortunately, finding him did little to put my anxiety to rest.

To enjoy the newly cooler weather we had been leaving the front door open to the screen. There he was: nose to screen, wagging his entire little butt end like crazy. He was watching our usually quiet street like a movie. There were fire engines and multi-jurisdictional police departments represented by cars that lined the streets flashing bright strobes of various colors. There may even have been an ambulance or two. I don’t know. I didn’t go out. The police vehicles carefully blocking each neighborhood driveway were a clear enough message: stay put.

It felt as if the news had come way too close to home and I didn’t like it a bit.

Multi-jurisdictional police cars with their blinding strobes. It felt as if the news had come way too close to home and I didn't like it a bit. Click To Tweet

 

Welcome to the Neighborhood, It’s Not Always Like This

I know most of my neighbors but there were a few recent arrivals. We knew there were little kids in the house diagonally across and that nobody seemed speak English. At first I didn’t understand the feeling of urgency  attached to my need to meet them but chaos around the country made me want to do something special. Something welcoming.

Sometimes the internet is wonderful.

Have you heard of “booing”? Apparently it’s a cross between Secret Santa and reverse trick-or-treating. And while much of our neighborhood was not ready for the full “boo” experience, Favorite Husband and I decided to try some creative outreach to our newcomers. While he went out to buy a plastic a plastic pumpkin head and some goodies, I dressed Alex the boxer in his Halloween finest: a tutu left over from a year or two before.

Boo, a tutu, and a fine how do you do... Click To Tweet

Boo, a Tutu and How Do You Do

dog with pink tutu around his neck

When we headed off to deliver the goods, he somehow knew it was different from a regular walk. There was no sniffing or wandering. In a delightful contrast to his froufrou, Alex strutted, with head up and chest out, down the middle of our rarely-traveled street. He was a dog on a mission.

And his bravado was well received. Two preschoolers, a young teen, an infant and their surprised mother got quiet for a moment as we turned up their driveway. Then came the giggles. And the smiles. Some Spanish. Some English. A plastic pumpkin head full of candy.

And the most special part of all: love from a dog in a dress.

Oct 262019
 

jock-o-lanternI am a displaced New Englander with a Halloween confession to make: I don’t get it. That’s right, when it comes to Halloween I don’t understand how it has become such a big deal. Of course my confusion may be abetted by the fact that, despite two moves of house, lots of willingness, and full preparation, I’ve not hosted a trick or treater in more than twenty years.

I love fall and, despite the less dramatic change of season in northeast Florida, there is a definite change here, too. The humidity decreases (hallelujah!) and the temperature drops a bit. Moving into the 70 degree temperature range (even a little bit) means that some of my southern neighbors will break out their boots and sweaters.

I have a Halloween confession to make: I don’t get it. That’s right, when it comes to Halloween I don’t understand how it has become such a big deal. Click To Tweet

Did You Know… Pumpkin is a Fruit

How did I manage not to notice that Halloween preparations now seem to start right after the new school year and continue until the Christmas “stuff” shows up a week or two before Thanksgiving. As with so may things I don’t understand, I turn to the internet and the hoards of humanity who know more than I do. There I learned that it’s considered good luck to see a spider on Halloween. No offense Halloween-lovers, but I think I’ll dig out my horse shoes and other non-arachnid good luck charms.

I was surprised to discover that Halloween is the second biggest consumer holiday in the US, second only to Christmas. How on earth do people manage to spend So much on pumpkins?  I’m no longer a big consumer of sugar but I know candy isn’t cheap: I learned that more than 35 million pounds of candy corn is produced here each year. I didn’t look for total October candy sales. When the chocolate and caramel are added in, that’s got to be a staggering number.

It’s considered good luck to see a spider on Halloween. No offense Halloween-lovers, but I think I’ll dig out my horse shoes and other non-arachnid good luck charms. Click To Tweet

 

Trick or Trivia: Houdini Died on Halloween

Unless you’re in farm country, corn stalks, hay bales, and pumpkins carry a decent price tag   — and my guess is that “pumpkin spice everything” is not included in the total holiday cost calculation. However Halloween aficionados know the real money goes for costumes. With Halloween having grown from an evening to a season that makes some sense.

Neighborhood parties. School parties. Rec center events. Fairs. Trunk or treats. Do the littles now wear a different outfit for each event? Or, are they still like my son and his friends were: madly in love with a costume that was worn on every opportunity they could create. Sometimes they even tried to sleep in them.

Hollywood Has a 24-Hour Ban on Silly String

Something about those costumes make sense to me. Creating dress-up boxes for the little kids in my life and putting together homemade costumes can be a lot of fun. ( I say “put together” as my sewing skills are, at best, minimal.) The one I remember most fondly is the fully-wrapped mummy. Superman was kind of fun, too.

Pretending to be someone else has value. It’s an interesting paradox, don’t you think? On the surface, a mask helps a person hide yet it seems to reveal as much as it hides. Click To Tweet

Pretending to be someone else has value. It’s an interesting paradox, don’t you think? On the surface, a mask helps a person hide yet it seems to reveal as much as it hides. Pretending opens doors.  Introverts find social energy. Writers develop new points of view. Little kids learn empathy. The ability to see things through another’s eyes is a very real super-power, is it not?

Here are some other thoughts on the subject.

Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth. ~ Oscar Wilde

It’s the monsters that don’t wear costumes that scare me the most at Halloween. ~ Anthony T. Hincks

No one can long hide behind a mask; the pretense soon lapses into the true character. ~ Seneca The Younger

What are your thoughts on Halloween? Do you celebrate or not? Do kids come to your house for candy or are you in a trunk-or-treat zone? Please share your thoughts  in the comments below!

 

 

 

Oct 232019
 

Still back home after so many travel adventures and schedule disruptions — and it still feels wonderful. (And, no, I don’t care how positive my attitude is on any given day, I still cannot bring myself to call a hurricane evacuation an ‘adventure’ — at least not this last one. Sue me.)

Being back home gives me the security to dig in to new projects and make big strides on some of the longer term variety. Oddly, being back in the office is stretching me in several areas: creativity, productivity, and congruence. I feel challenged to do good work while maintaining healthy boundaries, particularly in my commitment to build on some recent health and fitness gains.

Back at Work at Home

Working from a home office has not always been a body-friendly activity: I can sit too long, exercise too little, and quickly revert to old, unhealthy eating habits. But my newly rekindled appreciation for being here finds me setting up new routines. This sort of scheduling extends beyond laundry and groceries — I’ve been making exercise appointments with myself— and actually keeping them. (I may be sharing this with you to help me stay accountable. We’ll see.)

Working from a home office has not always been a body-friendly activity: I can sit too long, exercise too little, and quickly revert to old, unhealthy eating habits. Click To Tweet

The temperature here in my still new-to-me home turf is starting to break. And while cries of “It’s fall y’all” still seem a bit premature, the occasional rainstorm, crisp morning, or an extended breeze let us know that cooler temperatures and more comfortable outdoor time are on the way. The dogs are happy — and paying closer attention every time I lace up my walking shoes.

Concept. Attitude. Place.

Last week’s post and some of your comments challenged me to think more about the concept of ‘back home.’ Yes, sometimes it’s a concept. Sometimes an attitude. Only occasionally is it a physical place.

Sometimes ‘back home’ is a concept. Sometimes an attitude. Only sometimes is it a physical place. Click To Tweet

The ache for home lives in all of us, the safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned. ~ Maya Angelou

You don’t teach morals and ethics and empathy and kindness in the schools. You teach that at home, and children learn by example. ~ Judy Sheindlin

Your body is your temple, it’s your home, and you must decorate it. ~ Gabourey Sidibe

Every day is a journey and the journey itself is home. ~ Matsuo Basho

I’m really quite simple. I plant flowers and watch them grow… I stay at home and watch the river flow. ~ George Harrison

Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in. ~ Robert Frost

All I was doing was trying to get home from work. ~ Rosa Parks

Middle age is when you’re sitting home on a Saturday night and the telephone rings and you hope it’s not for you. ~ Ogden Nash

 

 

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