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.

NaNoWriMo 2016 Day 24: Thanksgiving

NaNoWriMo 2016 Day 24: Thanksgiving

“We do not remember days, we remember moments.” — Cesare Pavese

I’m a film buff, something that’s been with me since childhood. In addition to the usual Disney fare growing up (I saw Mary Poppins on original release), my parents also indulged in some choices that some might mark down as questionable parenting. As an adult, I wonder at it from time to time, but it means that I have vivid memories of a monolith on the moon and T.E. Lawrence watching Sherif Ali coming across the empty sands. I saw Paul Newman and Robert Redford pull a con, and, as revivals houses and classic film festival become fashionable, Joan Crawford as Sadie Thompson and Gloria Swanson both as Norma Desmond and the Queen of Silent Cinema she once was. Our local PBS station ran a mix of silent and foreign films on Fridays and Saturdays, so you could often find me in front of the television feasting in Lillian and Dorothy Gish in Orphans of the Storm — or watching Toshiro Mifune taking on a group of bandits threatening a town in Seven Samurai. Now, with channels such as TCM, services like Netflix and a host of films available for instant download from iTunes or Amazon or on DVD or BluRay, it’s much easier to find old and obscure films rather than feeling at times like Indiana Jones as I sought them out.

But while I love films, it really is the moments I remember. The Monolith, Lawrence’s burning sands, the looks between Captain Renault proclaiming he is “shocked” to discover there is gambling going on — just before the croupier hands him his winnings. I can even tell you what my favorite 10 seconds of film of all times is: Gene Kelly with an umbrella, spinning around a rain-swept street. For me, it is pure joy captured on film and makes my heart swell when I see it. Back in 1994, AFI created a short piece entitled “100 Years at the Movies.” It runs from time to time on TCM, but it’s also on YouTube and I’ve embedded it here. Watch it and notice where just a brief clip can give you an immediate emotional response.

As writers, what we capture on the page are moments, both good and bad. Our stories are scenes designed to provoke emotion in our readers. You can tell when you’ve connected because a reader will tell you what moments stood out for them. We strive for that, which is one reason NaNoWriMo is an excellent cauldron for a first draft. We are writing fast and furiously, not stopping to let our inner censors tell us to pull back, not be quite so aggressive on the page. Those are battles to fight when you revise, but once you get that emotion on the page, you’ll find it easier to keep it there. Never fear going too far in a first draft.

Here in the US, today is Thanksgiving, one of those days that often makes moments we remember for the rest of our lives. For those of you with families, enjoy the warmth, mine any drama for inspiration, and, if necessary, you can try using the excuse, “I have to write my words!” if it all becomes too much. (You have no idea how many times I’ve done that.)

For those of you on your own, I wish you well. I’ve been there, too, and I know today and the weeks to come can be some of the darkest of the year in more ways than one.

Best to you and yours today and all the days through the year. If you’re ahead on your word count, you might want to consider that second piece of pie your reward.

Word Count Goal: 40,608


NaNoWriMo Inspiration: Day 26

NaNoWriMo Inspiration: Day 26

Thanksgiving Arrangement“Who does not thank for little will not thank for much.” — Author Unknown

Here in the US, it’s Thanksgiving, a day to overeat, watch too much football, make bets on what family grievances will be aired and try not to strangle your relatives and in-laws.

It’s also a day to pause and reflect on our blessings. No matter how desperate times may seem — and I have known some truly desperate moments in my life — if you dig down deep, there will always be something to be thankful for. It may be a small thing; a warm, fluffy cat, a book that brings you joy, a movie running on television that makes you smile, the taste of a familiar dish that brings back memories of happier times. It might be big things; a roof over your head, making it through one more month with food on your table, a hand to hold for better or for worse. Whatever it is, be thankful and nurture that small flame of warmth in your heart.

For those of you with families, enjoy the warmth, mine any drama for inspiration if necessary, and you can try using the excuse, “I have to write my words!” if it all becomes too much. (You have no idea how many times I’ve done just that.)

For those of you on your own, I wish you well. I’ve been there, too, and I know today and the weeks to come can be some of the darkest of the year in more ways than one.

Best to you and yours today and all the days through the year. If you’re ahead on your word count, reward yourself with another piece of pie.

Happy 101st Birthday, Hedy Lamar!

If you need any other inspiration today, take a gander at the tale of Hedy Lamarr, once dubbed “The Most Beautiful Woman in Films.” She was gorgeous in Ziegfeld Girl with Judy Garland Lana Turner, though most people would probably immediately recognize her for Cecil B. DeMille’s Samson and Delilah, wherein she wears a gown festooned with peacock feathers before Samson brings the temple tumbling down.

But Hedy was more than just beauty. With composer George Antheil, she developed spread spectrum and frequency hopping technology to defeat Axis jamming of Allied signals during World War II. The Navy didn’t actually adopt the technology until the ’60s (after Lamarr and Antheil’s patent had expired), but the principles of their work form an important part of our modern WiFi, Bluetooth and CDMA technology. So if you’re out and about, tweeting or surfing on your phone, today of all days, say “Thank you,” to Hedy Lamarr.

Hedy is also the subject of today’s Google Doodle, a reminder that we may know the image, but the real story is what lurks beneath.

NaNoWriMo Inspiration: Day 8

Captain Marvel“Have you ever seen a little girl run so fast she falls down? There’s an instant, a fraction of a second before the world catches hold of her again… A moment when she’s outrun every doubt and fear she’s ever had about herself and she flies. In that one moment, every little girl flies. I need to find that again. Like taking a car out into the desert to see how fast it can go, I need to find the edge of me… And maybe, if I fly far enough, I’ll be able to turn around and look at the world… And see where I belong.”
― Kelly Sue DeConnick

A lot of people don’t like the fact NaNoWriMo happens in November because of the complication of Thanksgiving and the start of the annual Holiday Insanity. I always welcome it for one very important reason. My birthday marks the beginning of the second week and every year I do NaNo means that I spend at least part of that day doing one of the things I love most in the world: writing.

I generally take some time off to do something fun — this year, we’re planning on seeing Crimson Peak, which has eluded us the past two weeks — but there will be a portion of the day spent in front of my computer, fingers on the keyboard. It’s my gift to me, putting myself first in the midst of any other calls on my attention. It’s a reminder and affirmation that, yes, this is who I am and what I do, no matter what other roles I play.

Today’s quote is from the first issue of Captain Marvel (2014), written by Kelly Sue DeConnick, with art by David Lopez and colors by Lee Loughridge. Titled, “Higher, Further, Faster, More” those words, which appear on the issue’s final pages, have become something of a mantra among many women in comics fandom. It’s a call to find the wonder in ourselves that time and the world have often ground out of us, to be more. That’s what we’re doing with NaNoWriMo. We’re running so fast and we’re going to fall down at some point; if nothing else, the month will end and this experience will be done, pulling us back to earth. But if we keep running this month, there will be those moments when we fly.

I wouldn’t miss those moments for anything in the world. Happy Birthday to me.

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