I hit a milestone yesterday. According to my Bullet Journal, I’ve written for 365 days in a row.

Think about that. Three hundred and sixty-five days. One year.

A big part of doing anything is sticking with it. Last year, I watched the Rita and Golden Heart Finalists be announced, looked at my own writing output…and got very depressed. I love writing. I love putting those words down on the page, giving life to the people and places in my head. But it isn’t my full time job or what pays the rent and puts food on the table. For that, I’m a cog in the corporate wheel, like many of you who read this. I’ve also got family responsibilities that take time and energy, like many of you. And, like many of you, there are days that I just felt too stretched, too tired to do something I loved because I was busy taking care of everything else.

So I looked at those announcements rolling across Twitter and I decided that needed to change. I’d told myself I would get a book out in 2016 — or I’d have to sit down and face the fact that maybe I was never going to be doing this for more than my own amusement. So I grabbed my journal and made a note: Writing Day 1. Yes, words got written that day, just like we stick to the first day of the diet. Same of Day 2 and Day 3. Day 4? That’s when I stumbled. Work was crazy and there was family stuff and I wanted to watch something on TV and I was tired — you know the excuses. I figured one day wouldn’t hurt. Nor would two. It was several days later that I realized I’d fallen back in the rut of letting everything else push the writing aside.

So I started again. Writing Day 1. That’s the streak I’m celebrating now. It hasn’t been easy because, well, life and we all have too many things on our plate and too many things that demand our time and attention before we can get to that which we do for ourselves. But if you keep going, things happen. I’ve gotten not one, but two books out, with two more to come this year. I’ve written on days when I was assured I wouldn’t have time because I needed to be at the polls by 6 AM and it was going to be a long, hard day. I’ve written during the last month of the year when my job required much more than forty hours in a week because we were prepping for the year to come and the materials I needed arrived later than they should. I’ve written in a cubicle in the Emergency Room, sitting at a bedside. Some days it’s been several thousand words. Sometimes, it’s been notes for an idea or something to solve a plot problem. And, yes, there have been a few days I would have rather been anywhere else except at the keyboard.

I did it, though, because if you want to do something that you love, no matter what it is, you have to work at it. Maybe it’s just five or ten minutes a day most days, carving out little niches of time, but you keep working at it. If you do that, it becomes natural to carve out that time for ourselves, to do the thing we want to do. Will you be guaranteed fame and fortune? No — but it’s better to spend time doing what you love, even if it is only for ourselves. Much better than looking back and saying “I wish I had at least tried.”

As I mentioned in my last post, I’m working on balance for Lent, trying to find that sweet spot where I can get the work done, be who I need to be for my family, do all the things I need to promote myself as an author, and write. It’s not easy, but getting the writing done every single day for a year wasn’t either. So I keep trying. And I’m asking you to do the same. Write down a goal — not a big one, but a little one, something you can chip away at for ten or fifteen minutes a day. Something you’ve been saying “someday” about. Write “Day 1” behind it. Carve out that tiny sliver of time because that’s often all we have. Do it tomorrow, and the day after. If you stumble one day, the next day, write “Day 1” and start the streak over again. Given time, it’s amazing what can come from that sliver.

40 Days

40 Days

This is not a religious post.

The reason I say that is because I would like to note that today is Ash Wednesday in the Christian calendar, the start of the Lenten season. Forty days of fasting and prayer as the faithful mark the period when Jesus wandered in the desert before turning his feet toward Jerusalem.

It is tradition that during this time you give up something indulgent as a sign of the sacrifices made. Many folks give up chocolate or sweets — and then whine about it, trying to find loopholes in the rules so they can have some.

About ten years ago, I decided that was fairly counter-productive. Yes, I eat chocolate during Lent. Cookies as well. Do I try to cut down? Well, yes, because I should. But what I started doing instead was making these forty days not a time to deprive myself of something, but to add to my life. Make this season a positive instead of “How long before I can have a Snickers again without feeling guilty?”

These are not necessarily large things, though the result is often larger than the action, but something that I’ve wanted to try or learn or do. I’ve done intensive readings of authors or subjects that were on my “someday” list and worked to speed up how fast I knit. (That one was a moderate success, but there was progress.) Some of it is spiritual, some intellectual, much of it, these last few years, devoted to my writing.

This year, I’m focusing on making the balance of getting the writing done and filling my creative well work. I love writing and greatly enjoy much of the time I spend in front of a keyboard drafting a book. But I know I need to also spend time resting and doing other things I enjoy doing. Too often in these last few months, I’ve found myself drained as I’ve promoted one book, drafted and revised another, then promoted that. In fact, I didn’t do anywhere near as much promotion on my latest book because I was simply exhausted. Remember, there were family commitments and the day job during that time as well.

So here’s challenge this year: struggle toward the balance I need between being a producing writer, the other commitments in my life, and finding time to just relax.

Even if you don’t “do” Lent, what can you do in the next forty days that will help you toward who you want to be? I’d love here your thoughts and brilliant ideas are always welcome. Let’s check back in a few days to see how it’s going.

Featured photo by SoloTravelGoals/Unsplash

NaNoWriMo 2016 Day 30: Victory

NaNoWriMo 2016 Day 30: Victory

“It is in the compelling zest of high adventure and of victory, and in creative action, that man finds his supreme joys.” — Antoine de Saint-Exupeny

You now have less than twenty-four hours to get your final word count in, and, yes, going through your manuscript and expand all contractions to their complete parts is a time-honored practice during this final day. Word of warning: I can tell you from experience that it won’t net you as many words as you hope it will.

Today’s the day. Let your mind go and try to write as fast as you can today. A lot of it may be crap, but when you go back and look later, don’t be surprised to find something completely unexpected that might not have otherwise emerged from your writing process.

There’s the true joy and victory of NaNoWriMo and why so many folks come back year after year. For thirty days, we exercise our creativity in community, sharing ups and downs, successes and failure. I see calls go out for character names, pieces of information that might be needed, technical advice when the computers start to get a little wonky, commiseration and support. It is creative action, and it is a joyous thing to behold.

As we reach the end of this year’s NaNoWriMo, let’s treasure not just victory, but the connections we have made with our fellow writers. This is all too often a solitary calling and we need people who understand what it is to have a storyline fall apart or the moment when you are absolutely convinced that every word you are writing is certified, 100% crap. To be a part of this community, even for a little while, is to have the joy of knowing we are not alone.

As we go forth for this last day of literary madness, let’s remember the good times and try to carry it forward with us as we continue to write. The journey isn’t over, friends. We’ve just come to end of this particular portion of the path.

Here’s to a good writing day and hoping that no matter what your word count is, what you’ve created this month has brought you joy.

Word Count Goal: 50,000


NaNoWriMo 2016 Day 29: Don’t Give Up

NaNoWriMo 2016 Day 29: Don’t Give Up

“Don’t give up. Don’t lose hope. Don’t sell out.” — Christopher Reeves

We’re going to be done in 48 hours. Come Thursday morning, you’ll wake up and the ticking clock will no longer be hanging over your head. You’ll have no word count to enter on the NaNoWriMo site, and Twitter will be awash with folks breathing a sigh of relief that it’s over and they can relax.

Some of us are, unfortunately, going to wake up that morning with less than 50,000 words. I may be one of them. I’m catching up, but all I need is one bad turn, one thing to keep me from the keyboard (and there’s been plenty of those this month), and I’ll be clocking in just shy of 50,000.

To you who are looking at that very real possibility, I have to say, “Don’t give up.”

You’ve written something this month. It’s more than you had written the morning of November 1. 50,000 words is an arbitrary number, not necessarily the length of a first draft. If you’ve managed to sketch out the major bones of your story, that is absolutely a victory, no matter how many words you’re at. Don’t give up; the bones still need to be fleshed out.

I’ve seen someone on Facebook who had a baby and managed 10,000 words. That’s no small feat, and while she’s not making the word count goal. I’d be loathe to say that she failed under the circumstance. Life is hope, and a new life is a reminder that there are always new dreams to dream.

Some people have spent the month trying to write in trying circumstances, with family who are less than supportive, wondering why attention is taken away from their wants or how they think the world should be run. If you are one of those, don’t give up your dreams. Hold them close, pursue them as hard as you can and build a better world for yourself.

To all of you who have been here to read these words, thank you for coming along on this journey with me. Tomorrow is not the end, but the beginning of the next phase, and no matter where we are with our stories, there is always a new dawn waiting for us if we have faith in ourselves.

Word Count Goal: 48,343


NaNoWriMo 2016 Day 28: Bounce

NaNoWriMo 2016 Day 28: Bounce

“Success is how high you bounce when you hit bottom.” — George S. Patton

The number of folks who are excitedly announcing hitting 50,000 words is increasing. I see it on Facebook, on Twitter, notations under icons on the NaNoWriMo site. To everyone who has crossed the line, congratulations. Take a deep breath, pat yourself on the back — and consider your next step.

For the rest of us, come gather around. Today and tomorrow are for you. We’re getting down to the last hours of NaNoWriMo 2016 and words are frantically being written as we race to that 50,000 word finish. It’s been a long and bumpy road, and as you gather yourself for the final push, take a moment to consider where you were when you started and where you are now. It may not be exactly what you thought you’d have or what you expected, but it is something that didn’t exist when we started.

And if it isn’t what you wanted or what you hoped for, what are you going to do next? November is only one month out of the year. If you don’t win NaNo, or already know it’s a serious possibility that you’ll fall short, what are you going to do next?

We are writers. We write. We write through good times and we try to write through bad times, though there are moments when we have to say, “No, not today.” I saw that from a number of people earlier this month. They stepped away from the keyboard for a day or even a week, but they came back because writing is what they do. I would say bad times call for writing even more desperately than good times because readers need the comfort and inspiration fiction can bring.

So, if you’re looking at the “failure” of not reaching 50,000 words, are you going to just wallow in your own misery or are you going to come back to the keyboard and keep going? I urge you to keep going and look at the words you managed to write in November a beginning, not a finale. Maybe you won’t be able to carve out time in December as you might have been able to in November because of commitments as 2016 draws (thankfully) to a close. But if you keep adding a thousand or five hundred words every day, you will finally type “The End.”

We’re coming to the end of the road for this year. So, how high are you going to try to bounce?

Word Count Goal: 46,676


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