November 2014

I Won NaNoWriMo & All I Got was a Certificate

At least send me a free cake or something, jeez. 

At least send me a free cake or something, jeez. 

I hit 50,000 words (ok, technically 50,400 according to my official NaNoWriMo validation) at just before 9pm the day before Thanksgiving.

(I actually wrote this blog post barely 20 minutes after finishing. What can I say? I gotta blog it.) This marks the earliest I have ever finished NaNoWriMo and the first time I can actually say I've written a novel that might be something I would read (if it was completely rewritten, edited, and changed... maybe by someone more competent than myself). 

When you finish a monumental task like writing 50,000 words, you want there to be fanfare -- but there is usually not. In fact, you might find yourself staring at a computer screen with a web banner on it (pictured above) and a download for a digital certificate thinking, I wrote 50,000 for this!? My reaction was visceral and ridiculous, but I found myself wanting to demand balloons. Flowers! Confetti! Where was my party? Someone throw me a party! I wanted to scream on Twitter. 

Nope, all I got was a certificate, just like always, and an apparent inability to distinguish their and there (what can I say? I've written 6,000+ words as I type this and I've switched "there" with "their" twice). (I can only imagine the errors that are in my novel.) 

Here is the brief synopsis I gave my friend about my novel: 

Buffalo is about a farming community in Oregon that experienced a murder and how the community responded. The title refers to the murderer’s obsession with buffalo as the spirit of the west and his thought of himself as a “buffalo” (basically: that which remains despite adversity).

It sounds good when you put it like that, but mostly, it just looks like word vomit right now. When I got halfway through the novel, I realized I had no explanation whatsoever for the title I'd chosen -- I just really like one-word powerful titles and I like the sound of the word buffalo. I added in a bit about how the murderer identified with buffalo in this weird, obsessive way and basically left it at that. 

You gotta do what you gotta do. 

As much as I joke though, I'm so proud to have completed NaNoWriMo for the fourth (really!?) time. I've written 50,000 words four times. That's 200,000 words! If I actually got my s*** together, I could probably write a decent 50,000 words in a few months (but, given my track record, that would take a lot of chutzpah on my part). 

More than anything, I've proved something to myself and that is this: I'm good enough. I'm good at this. I can do this. On a day-to-day basis I often don't feel very good about what I do -- I generally think I'm a pretty terrible writer that has somehow gotten people to think I'm a somewhat decent writer. More than anything, NaNoWriMo has allowed me to show myself, just one more time, that, as Mary Oliver said in "Wild Geese," "I do not have to be good.

5 Things I'm Thankful For & Not Just on Thanksgiving

My husband finds it difficult to make what I consider normal faces in photos and I'm learning to accept this fact.

My husband finds it difficult to make what I consider normal faces in photos and I'm learning to accept this fact.

I'm not a preachy person. I genuinely believe that most people know they've got it good (if they do have it good) and that occasional complaining does not mean someone doesn't appreciate what they have. 

That being said, I think everyone could do with being just a teensy bit more thankful -- and not just on Thanksgiving. Every year, people trot out their I'm so thankful! feelings and then blissfully forget about them on Black Friday, that sacred holiday marked mostly by stampedes and hysterical fights of televisions. We should be thankful all the time, not just on Thanksgiving. 

And because I'm a massive hypocrite, here are 5 things I'm thankful for all the time (not just today). 

1. My Husband.

I'm having kind of a rough patch right now. I have a lot of unexplained stress (ok, some of it is explained) and other issues. My husband and I had planned to travel for Thanksgiving, but as the day approached, I just couldn't do it. With everything else, the thought of driving 8 hours and spending a hectic (but fun!) three days with his family made me want to curl into the fetal position and cry. If Thanksgiving had fallen last week, I would have been there in a minute. But this week? I just couldn't. My husband was sad, but he also understood. He made me promise him that I would spend the next few days relaxing, taking care of myself, and spending time with him and Remus. It was a promise that was way too easy to make. 

2. Remus.

Here's why I love Remus: when he puts his ears back in his "I'm Happy!" face, he looks like Dobby; a fly was annoying me while I was writing on my NaNoWriMo novel so he caught it and ate it; he accidentally gut-punched me so hard in the stomach Wednesday morning and then immediately punished himself by going to the patio door and sitting outside for 10 minutes, clearly contemplating what he was doing with his life. (That last bit might be a conjecture on my part.) Danny and I often make fun of Remus for his smelly farts, his general goofiness, and his lack of awareness -- but he's my furbaby, always and forever, and his face will never fail to make me happy. 

3. My Mom & Dad

On Monday, I had a truly terrible day. I spent two hours with my mom, talking and letting her make me feel better. The next day, I stopped by again (who said living near your parents wasn't a good thing?) and my dad loaded my car with firewood. My parents are the best parents in the world and yes, I will fight you on that one. 

4. My House.

This is kind of a duh one, but sometimes, I just really need to appreciate that I own a house. I live in a house that is warm and extremely airtight, has a wood stove, has a pretty baller kitchen, and has enough space to hold all my slightly pack-rat worldly possessions. I also have a garage, and an extra freezer full of beef, and a backyard, and a front yard, and a really great view. I live in Rivendell and you cannot tell me that isn't awesome. 

5. My Body. 

I spend a lot of time ragging on this body of mine. I want to squish it into pants that don't fit, skirts I used to love. I make it run; I make it do 100 lunges; I make it lift weights and go grocery shopping and eat chicken and cauliflower rice. And yet, I never sit and appreciate the things my body does for me: it keeps my brain alive, it stays healthy (even when it malfunctions occasionally), and it keeps moving despite all the stupid crap I put it through. My body is imperfect, but it's mine and it's gotten me this far, so it can't be that bad, right? Now, I'm going to stuff it full of rolls, turkey, and cookies and you cannot stop me. 

I'm An Adult & I Love Disneyland

C'mon, admit it, you  love  Disneyland too!

C'mon, admit it, you love Disneyland too!

I'm not weird. You're weird. Who doesn't love Disneyland? 

Ok. Whatever. I guess some people don't like Disneyland and I'm not saying you're abnormal or joyless... but... yeah. 

Just kidding. To each their own. Which is why I take extreme joy in Disneyland. I mean, it's kind of everything I love: chocolate covered pineapple skewers? Check! Giant rice crispies? Yup. Pretzels? Aw yeah, fast food Bavarian style. Semi-spooky, cutesy stuff? In droves. 

I'm an adult and I refuse to stop enjoying Disneyland. 

It's picturesque! I mean, look, that's a place you want to visit, right? Just kidding, it will never be this empty. 

It's picturesque! I mean, look, that's a place you want to visit, right? Just kidding, it will never be this empty. 

Actual words I have said to my husband: "It's ok to like stuff just for the sake of it, Danny." I said this half in jest, but half serious too. Sometimes, I feel like we're all trying so hard to be cool and hip and fun that we let that get in the way of genuinely enjoying stuff. Sometimes, it's ok to like stuff just because you do. You don't need an explanation for it. 

There is a reason we all kinda love pop songs (or at least why they get stuck in our heads so easily). There is a reason that fast food tastes amazing to 85%+ of the population. There is a reason why a majority of people enjoy Disneyland vacations (even if they might not want to repeat them over and over again). It's because some things are just designed for mass enjoyment. And if you enjoy those things, it doesn't mean you're a stupid sell out. It means you're a human with ears that can hear reasonably well, taste buds that enjoy fat and salt in high amounts, and a person that was once a child who watched an Aladdin sing-a-long tape at least twice a day. (Maybe only me on that last one.) 

Even Walt looks happy to be there! 

Even Walt looks happy to be there! 

Disneyland is the fast food of travel. It's easy. Everyone thinks it's cheaper than it is, but it's actually kind of stupid expensive. (Fast food adds up, y'all!) There is a pre-determined menu and not a lot of leeway. You go to Disneyland. You stay in a hotel. You stand in lines. You maybe get frustrated. You eat a churro. You feel like you ate a brick for the rest of the day. 

What's not to love about that? 

Here's the thing: in the wrong environment, Disneyland can totally be a nightmare. If you go into Disneyland saying that you hate lines, that you hope it's not crowded, that crowds make you miserable, etc., etc., you're basically setting the stage to be miserable. I hate to break this to you, but here's the big secret: it's freaking Disneyland. There are always going to be lines. There are always going to be other people. It's freaking Disneyland. You're not walking to the park. 

If you approach Disneyland with the idea that you're there to have fun -- and dammit, you're gonna have fun no matter what happens -- then undoubtedly you will have fun. If you, like me, walk into the parks just overjoyed to be there, then you're going to enjoy yourself. Half the fun is just being at Disneyland. Everything is themed and organized and clean and perfect (this is my dream world, clearly); how can you not at least enjoy it? 

lol @ all of these pictures featuring empty walkways. 

lol @ all of these pictures featuring empty walkways. 

Lots of people don't like Disneyland. Ok, that's fine, you do you, yo! I'm sure you enjoy lots of other stuff that people might find embarrassing, like scream-cry-singing to Taylor Swift in your car or putting sriracha sauce on everything even though it tastes like nothing (I went there, bring it). Do I judge you for that? Yes, a little, but I'll stop if you'll stop judging me for being an adult who loves Disneyland.

It's ok to be an adult who loves Disneyland. It is. It's ok. It's ok to cry to Taylor Swift songs in your car, eat too much hot sauce, make stale jokes about bacon, eat fast food, buy a mass-produced sweater, and go to Disneyland. It's okay to enjoy things just because you enjoy them. 

5 Tips to Succeed at NaNoWriMo

We're halfway through NaNoWriMo and hopefully no one has carpal tunnel. 

We're halfway through NaNoWriMo and hopefully no one has carpal tunnel. 

NaNoWriMo is kind of a huge deal for a lot of people. Even though there are now events in April and August (Camp NaNoWriMo), November is the really big event. Some people spend the year planning for NaNoWrimo; and some people just look forward to it - that's more my style. Either way, NaNoWriMo is the month of dreams for a lot of people -- and with good reason. What better month to buckle down and write a novel than November? It's starting to get cold and rainy (or snowy, if you're in that kind of a climate). The summer is officially done and we can pile ourselves in sweaters and drink coffee and tea until we can't sleep. 

Ideal novel-writing time, really. 

Undoubtedly, every year, some people start NaNoWriMo and never finish -- or they plan to start, but, um, don't really get to the starting point. I don't know the official NaNoWriMo stats, but I'd say about half the people who commit to NaNoWriMo don't really finish by the 30th. And the other half? We're left exhausted and low on coffee grounds, but with 50,000 words in some kind of form. That's success, right? 

How can the NaNoWriMo "winners" (we call it winning, but mostly, it's crossing the finish line) inspire the "quitters" (no hard feelings) keep going? How can we all end November with novels, and dignity, intact? Since we're now officially halfway through, I thought I'd share what keeps me going. 

1. Schedule time. 

I have an alarm set on my phone everyday for 7:30pm that says, "Have you NaNoWriMo'd?" No matter what I'm doing -- watching TV, out and about, working out -- it's a reminder that I have this thing that I'm doing that if I fall behind on it, I'll be super upset with myself. If I'm home, I'll drop whatever I'm doing (sorry, Danny) and go upstairs and write. Even if I just get 800 words down, it's 800 better than zero. You just have to do it -- even if you hate it, even if you were doing something else. 

2. Don't overwhelm yourself.

You know what's the worst idea ever? Trying to write 2-3 blog posts every week while also writing 1,600+ words everyday plus working full time everyday. If you have other writing goals or responsibilities, chill it out. This month is probably not the month to expect stellar blog content alongside a 50,000-word novel. 

3. Tweet it out. 

Need some help? Need some encouragement? Just including #NaNoWriMo in a tweet will bring on an onslaught of encouragement, kind words, and general cheering. Go for it. You have NaNo-friends.

4. If you start to hate your novel, that's normal. 

On Friday, I opened up the Word Doc where I've been writing my NaNoNovel. As I stared at the words I'd previously written, I found myself battling internally. I hate this book, I said. I hate these characters. I hate this setting. I hate everything!! I'm tired!! I should start over!! Pro-tip: do not let the "I've been binge writing for 15+ days and I'm tired" blues get you down, make you quit, or make you start editing. I find at this point in the month, I start adding character histories, subplots, and other random bits to distract myself from the elements that I desperately want to edit and/or delete. 

5. Just keep going. 

Write out recipes if you need to. Meaningless details that you know you probably shouldn't include. That scene you think doesn't matter. The intensely detailed description of a house. Just keep writing. Don't stop because you're bored, or you're tired. Get your word count in. And if you find yourself on a roll, do not stop writing! Bank words for the days where you just cannot anymore. 

Do you have any great tips for NaNoWriMo? Send them to me @ellipsis_life