writing

5 NaNoWriMo Essentials to Survive November

5 NaNoWriMo Essentials to Survive November | Writing Between Pauses

I love a good list, as you all probably are aware by now. On Wednesday, I hit publish on my NaNoWriMo guide which I’m so excited about. (If you haven’t already, you can download a copy here. It has a few basic worksheets to help you get ready for NaNoWriMo!)

Today, I want to switch gears, but keep it on NaNoWriMo: let’s talk what you need when November comes around. I’m talking the tools I use, the programs that help me function, my favorite coffee cups… you name it, it’s probably an essential. (Ok, I won’t include “my favorite coffee cup”, but you get the drift!)

One thing I want to talk about first though is why NaNoWriMo is so important to me—and why I think you’ll love it too. Whether you’re a young professional or a new mom (or a mom who has been momming for a while now), it’s easy to take on too much and get burnt out. So isn’t NaNoWriMo in that same universe?

I suppose for some, it might. But I know so many women my age, or just a bit younger or a bit older, are looking for something to pour their energy into. They are frustrated at work for whatever reason (even if they love it!) and/or they feel like everything revolves around their kids. It’s nice to do something that is just for you. As well, so many women who read this blog (yes, you!) are creative, inspiring, and have stories to tell. I’ve spoken with so many of you; I’ve seen your Instagram posts and your jokes on Twitter; you are as good a writer as any published author, I promise you. So if you’ve always wanted to write, but are intimidated by the big writing community (I have a lot to say there), NaNoWriMo is a great way to get some words on the paper and find a community where you are nurtured without anyone making you feel less than.

Now, without further ado: let’s talk essentials.

1. Google Docs

I know some people don’t like putting intellectual property on Google, but… there really is no better way to write online than Google Docs. With Google Drive, you can write on your laptop, your work computer (shhhh!), your phone, your tablet, whatever. You don’t have to always be in the same spot with one singular device. I also personally love the Google Doc tools: simple word counts, good grammar and spelling checks as you type (still in Beta, but honestly, very good), and a basic interface.

The only downside is that you require an internet connection to use Google Docs (unless you turn on offline editing, which is kind of a pain to use)—and an internet connection, as we all know, has a high potential to be abused.

Some people love Scrivener or Novlr to write online. However, I’m not in the habit of buy subscriptions to products that literally already exist for free. (No shade.)

2. A Good Playlist

Writing requires background noise. Just enough background noise so you don’t get bored, but not too much background noise that you get distracted by it.

I have a few playlists on Spotify that I swear by. Everyone’s preferences for background music vary, but my one big piece of advice is that if you’re at home writing, don’t use headphones. Play music on your computer, your phone, or via a Bluetooth speaker. If I use headphones while I’m writing, I’m categorically not going to pay attention, plain and simple.

Another good option is to pick a few movies that are just boring enough to listen to in the background. My go to movies at the Lord of the Rings trilogy and the Hobbit trilogy. I’ve seen them enough that I’m not distracted, but they are pleasant enough to hear in the background. Plus, if I need a moment, I can step away and basically go into the movie without feeling like I’ve lost anything.

3. A Supportive Team

If you’re planning to do NaNoWriMo, one of the best things you can do is find a few friends who are also doing NaNoWriMo so you can support each other. There is nothing like being up early or up late writing and having someone to text, to bounce ideas off of, or to simply commiserate with.

4. A Few Good Distractions

“But Michelle, November is only about writing!”

Oof, yes. But if you spend all your time writing and thinking about your story, you’re going to get so burnt out.

So:

  • Download that show you want to watch

  • Buy the movie you have been looking forward to

  • Make plans with friends

  • Take out a few books from the library

  • Write down a few good recipes to try

Whatever floats your boat, make sure to indulge in other fun activities during November so you don’t suck all the joy out of writing. This is really essential.

5. A Place for Notes

Aren’t you glad I didn’t put something hokey like “lots of coffee hyuck”? The writers and coffee trope exhausts me to a certain extent (and I do love coffee).

But also, so does the “get a notebook!” trope too.

When I say a place for notes, it can be whatever you want: treat yourself to a new notebook. Or start a word document just for NaNoWriMo notes. Or use the notebook your carry around either way. Often when I’m writing I will think of something I want to include in a future scene. During NaNoWriMo, I try to stick to my outline and not write scenes out of order; it’s just easier for me. So, I will often take notes on anything I think of as I’m writing—such as a line of dialogue I want to come up again in the future. Sometimes I use in-app notes for this (like comments in Google Docs), but usually I just jot it down in my planner or notebook.

How to Prep for NaNoWriMo When You Work (+ Free Printable)

How to Prep for NaNoWriMo When You Work Full-Time | Writing Between Pauses

For those who are new to NaNoWriMo, it can feel huge. Almost impossible.

50,000 words!? In a month?!

Even if you love writing, even if you’ve dreamed of writing a book (you know, you have 400 notebooks full of ideas, or the notes app on your phone with random mishmashed ideas written down), 50,000 words can feel like a lot if you’ve never actually finished a plot.

But I promise you: it’s actually not that huge.

In fact… it’s not even the length of the average novel.

Sorry! I know!

The truth is, 50,000 is usually a starting point for a novel. And it’s a good starting point! If you just want to get words onto paper, 50,000 is nothing to sneeze at.

And NaNoWriMo is honestly the most motivating way to do it.

I do NaNoWriMo every year and have since 2010. Is this my 9th NaNoWriMo? Yes! Am I as excited as I was in 2010? Also yes! I have won some years and not others, but I’m so proud of the years I completed.

As I wrote last year, I don’t write creatively with the focus on publishing. I usually write stories that I can’t stop thinking about, that I want to read. These novels are for me and me only. Maybe in the future, I’ll sit down and cobble them all into something big and maybe with the intention of publishing. But for now, I just love putting words onto paper and getting 50,000 of them out in the semblance of a story.

If this is your first year doing NaNoWriMo, I have some advice to help you. If you work full time, planning and writing can seem like a big, huge task. I’ve broken it down here for you.

Before we jump into my tips though, I wanted to make sure to share my previous NaNoWriMo blog posts!

Now, without further ado, let’s talking: working, planning, & winning NaNoWriMo.

1. Schedule your time.

I’m a big fan of scheduling my time. Since I’ve gone freelance, I usually dedicate my mornings to freelance & client work. Then, in the afternoon, I work on my blog or any creative writing I’ve been planning. I usually mark this out in my Google Calendar, then in my daily planner, along with my to do list.

During NaNoWriMo, I will often add NaNoWriMo specific time periods. For example, if I plan to drop my son off at school in the morning, I’ll plan to go to the library and write for an hour before heading home to work. This gets me out of the house; encourages me to dedicate at least an hour to NaNoWriMo; and allows me to look forward to it, especially if I’ve been thinking of the story.

Think of the time you have during the day. Could you take your lunch break at a coffee shop and write while you eat? Could you spare an hour right after work to write? Do you write best in the morning or the evenings? Think of your typical day and schedule your time accordingly.

2. Write an outline, of course.

I’m a big fan of outlining. I know some people prefer a “pants” (that is “flying by the seat of your pants”) approach to NaNoWriMo, but I think most pantsers are the ones nervous about finishing or failing. (Although I would argue not finishing NaNoWriMo isn’t “failure.”)

If you have time to get ready for NaNoWriMo, then surely you have time to write an outline, even a rudimentary one.

I’ve written outlines for 8 out of 9 NaNos. Only the first year was I pantser, and while I finished, it’s one of the most disjointed things I’ve ever written. I haven’t won every NaNo; there have been 2 years when I outlined, when I didn’t finish. 2013: I cannot remember why. And 2015: when I had just had my son.

Outlining is a huge help. So, write an outline. At the end of this blog post, I have a handy-dandy guide which includes an outline exactly how I outline my NaNo novels.

3. Be realistic.

Plain and simple: if you work a high stress job, or you work and have kids, it’s important to be realistic. Every year, I approach NaNoWriMo with the idea that if I finish, I’ll be excited; but if I don’t, it’s ok. There is no reason to beat myself up for it. I’m busy and I have a lot going on! NaNoWriMo makes me happy, but if it starts to feel like a burden, I know I need to take a break or stop completely.

All I’m saying here is this: be realistic about your expectations of NaNoWriMo. If you already get up at 6am, you aren’t going to feel good waking up an hour early to write. If your job demands your full attention from the moment you get there to the moment you leave, you aren’t going to be able to break away for a few sneaky NaNo words.

4. Download my free planning guide.

It goes without saying that having a plan in place is so important to finishing NaNoWriMo, especially if you already have huge demands on your time, like work, kids, grad school… you name it. I put together a planning guide to help you get a few pieces in place.

My planning guide includes:

  • A schedule to help you plan your days, as well as write down some spots you like to write & your favorite writing tools, so you know what to grab everyday when you’re leaving your house.

  • An outline guide to help you plan your outline. This follows my guide that I write about in this blog post here.

  • A self-care worksheet to help you write down some ideas for taking a break and keeping your stress level down.

Do you have questions about NaNoWriMo? Let me know in the comments below or on Instagram!

6 Things I've Learned in 6 Years of Marriage

6 Things I've Learned in 6 Years of Marriage | Writing Between Pauses

Danny and I got married June 23, 2013. If you’ve followed my blog for that long (and honestly, some of you have!), you know that I blogged about my wedding heavily at that time. Over the years, just like most things, I’ve questioned how much to share about everything in my life. I try not to share too much about Forrest: this is a mommy blog without being the day-to-day, share too much mommy blog I’m used to seeing. I don’t write about my job at all. I even post less photos of myself these days.

But sometimes, it’s good to reflect and sometimes that means sharing more than perhaps I would normally.

Danny and I met in 2007. Can you believe that? We met in McCall, Idaho at our college’s freshman retreat that happened before classes started. We all moved into our dorms on a hot, sticky Idaho August day, then loaded into busses the next day and drove several hours to McCall. I can’t remember exactly when I met Danny, but I know I met him on that trip and he popped up throughout my freshman year. Sophomore year, we saw more of each other, both being in the campus writing club, writing for the school paper, and having a similar, overlapping group of friends.

It wasn’t until junior year that we really became friends. Over that summer between junior and senior year, he watched my apartment for me (thanks!) and visited me a few times when I had mild emotional breakdowns over my roommate (who eventually moved out). It was a rough, weird time for me. Then, senior year, we were in several classes together: a few literature classes and then in capstone.

And then, of course, we started dating.

Without being too sappy, I knew pretty early on (as in, maybe a month in) that we were pretty serious. We started dating April 20, 2011, exactly a month before we graduated. That’s right: we’d had 4 years together, 4 years rotating around each other, and we waited until a freaking month before I moved away from Idaho and he stayed behind.

It was great!

(It really wasn’t great.)

We graduated. I moved back to Oregon. My grandpa was extremely ill. We talked over Skype every day. I cried every day. It was an awful, difficult year, 2011-2012. My grandpa died in November after I graduated. I worked at a local grocery store and cut part of my thumb off in February 2012, then started working at a car dealership, which was soul sucking and made me feel like garbage.

But we made it. We got engaged after 3 months of dating and slogged through a year of long distance together. We planned a wedding and got Danny certified to teach in Oregon and built a home together. We changed jobs and went through the hardest days of our lives together. The months after I got fired. The months where Danny worked never ending substitute teacher jobs. Sometimes I think back to those days, when I made $11 an hour as a full time receptionist and Danny made about $100 a day as a sub, and how we somehow paid all our bills that way. It was so hard and I felt so embarrassed to let on about how hard it was.

This is all to say: in some ways, our relationship started out as totally idyllic. We liked each other—Danny continues to insist I’m out of his league to this day and I insist we are in the same “weird kid” league, both of us loving astrology, the occult, bats, and other weird shit—and we loved each other and that was enough. And even though the hardest parts of our relationship, I’ve felt like I always wanted to keep that part of us: we’re too weirdos who like and love each other, who learn from each other.

I know for other married couples, it isn’t quite that way. Everyone has their own story. But I think there are a few things that are universal, especially when it comes to marriage and relationships. So, without further ado, here are 6 things I’ve learned in 6 years of marriage.

Wedding Photography
Sweet Cheeks Winery Eugene Oregon Wedding

1. Having kids brings out the best (& worst) in you.

I feel like this is one I wish I had been told before I had Forrest. It goes without saying: kids are stressful. And as I’ve written before, I absolutely, positively hated the newborn months. I’d never been more miserable in my life and I was attached to a pump 12 times a day (for a grand total of 6 hours every day!). That’s something that Danny couldn’t help with. He also couldn’t quite understand what I was going through. It’s one thing for men to watch their wives or girlfriends give birth; it’s another thing for them to completely emphasize with how exhausted and wrecked you feel afterwards.

I felt like a foreigner in my own body. I didn’t recognize it; everything hurt; everything leaked; I had to wear diapers; I could barely walk for a week; my skin freaked out. And all at the same time, I was taking care of a new human being and Danny felt totally clueless (and was occasionally unwilling to guess at how to do things, which is generally his M.O.).

Sometimes, I think we are such good parents. But other times, the stress definitely gets to us and we get snappy or we take naps when we should be doing other things. It happens. But I think it’s important to keep perspective when you start to feel like you don’t recognize yourself or your partner after having a child: things won’t always be this hard.

2. It’s ok to be angry.

The most common relationship advice is always “don’t go to bed angry”… to which I call bullshit.

Go to bed angry. Sleep angry. Stay angry.

Anger is natural human emotion. We tend to view anger as a negative emotion (which it is), but also as one we shouldn’t feel, especially as women. And when women get angry at their husbands, they are often brushed off as “crazy,” “nagging,” or “shrill.”

Again, I call bullshit.

My advice is to be angry. Make your anger heard to your husband. Your feelings matter in a relationship and if your anger is justified (your husband seriously won’t stop leaving crumbs all over the counters or drops his socks at the bottom of the stairs or exactly 2 inches from the hamper), then let him feel it & let yourself feel it.

Anger in relationships isn’t bad, but remember you also need to talk it out, express your anger in a productive way, and make sure that your husband understands how you need him to behave. (Put his damn socks in the hamper! It’s right there!)

3. All relationships have highs & lows.

There will be bad days. It’s easy to think that you’ll always be happy, happy, happy. But there will be bad days, hard days, rough days.

When I lost my job in 2014, there were many bad days. I was stressed about money and feeling like a failure. Danny was working hard, but feeling adrift as well. We were dirt poor and had just bought a house, using food stamps, and just trying to get by. Sometimes, it felt like we barely knew each other.

Then, things got better.

Again, I think in the end, this is something that just needs perspective: sometimes your needs in your relationship won’t always be what they were in the beginning. You won’t always be super clingy, super talkative, or super interested in being together 100% of the time. You’ll want distance. Or you’ll want to go grocery shopping alone. Or you’ll just want to sit on the couch and watch Teen Mom without being interrupted or having to watch someone play video games. It’s ok. There will also be times where you’ll want the opposite of all those things. That’s just how relationships are.

Cutting Cake Wedding Photo

4. You should take breaks from each other.

Going along with number 3, it’s important to spend time away from each other.

In 2017, I took a weekend trip to Sunriver alone. Solo. Without Forrest or Danny or anyone else. I drank wine, watched Netflix, took walks, treated myself to dinner, and did all the things I felt I couldn’t do while watching Forrest or cleaning or cooking or whatever. It was amazing. It made me feel rejuvenated.

Every time Danny and I spend a weekend apart, I feel like we’re always 100x happier to see each other than usual. When you spend all your time with one person, you can get sick of them, even if you really love them. I really love Danny, but sometimes I do need a solo shopping trip or a long drive by myself. It’s just better that way.

5. Find routines that work for you & your family.

In my ideal world, I would wake up every day around 7am, make coffee, make breakfast, clean up the house, write a little bit, get dressed, and go do something fun.

That’s not really how it works with a kid and a husband.

Danny likes to sleep late. Generally, he stays up later than me. However, we both get up whenever Forrest gets up, which is usually between 5am and 6am (although he’s been pushing 6:30am lately). This is an early morning for nearly everyone. We’ve gotten used to it over the years, but it is still really hard to wake up at 5:30am every single morning without fail.

As well, Forrest being awake isn’t super conducive to me making my coffee and drinking it alone. I have always preferred to be alone in the morning; I don’t feel like talking right when I get up and I tend to be pretty cranky. I’ve had to adjust my routine; Danny has had to adjust his routine. Forrest gets to run his routine!

This is my way to say: you might have things you really like to do each day, that are part of your routine. As you get older, as your relationship shifts, you might not be able to hold onto those things anymore. I really miss watching Food Network and cooking breakfast every morning, like I used to before I had Forrest; sometimes I miss it so much, I just wish I could scream! But I know life won’t always be this way (life won’t always be this hard) and so I just adjust my expectations & my routine… and move on.

6. Delegate responsibilities.

I know we’ve all seen those articles about emotional labor and about how today, even with progressive husbands, women still perform the vast majority of household tasks.

It goes without saying but that’s true in my life as well.

It’s not really Danny’s fault; he has less stringent requirements for home cleanliness and while I’ve relaxed about mine in some ways (at a detriment to my mental health), I still wish he did more around the house.

I’ve learned over the years that I have to delegate. I can’t run everything on my own. I can pretty much handle one floor of our house and that’s it. It’s either upstairs or downstairs! So in our house, I’m in charge of inside. Danny is in charge of outside. And I stay on top of him in regards to keeping our outdoor areas nice, especially in our new house! As Forrest gets older and can take on chores (he’s still a little young), we will definitely start giving him responsibilities as well.

I don’t want to put the onus on women to delegate chores to their husbands; they aren’t children, after all. But sometimes, we just have to say: you’re in charge of this. Figure it out! It’s not hard!


Thanks for reading! Tell me: if you’re married or have been in a relationship for a significant amount of time, what’s the number one thing you’ve learned?

Everything I Know About Being Prepared for an Emergency

Everything I Know About Being Prepared for an Emergency | Writing Between Pauses

On February 24, around 12pm, it started snowing.

It snowed for the rest of the day without stopping. By the time it got dark outside, we had 2-3 inches. My husband and I excitedly talked about a potential snow day (he is a teacher after all and sometimes, they do get excited to have a snow day!) as we got ready for bed. However, our lights started flickering on and off around 8pm. They kept going off, then coming back. Twenty minutes later, it would repeat. We went around unplugging things, sure that if they went off, they’d be on within a few hours like always. We started a fire in the wood stove and left it for the night.

We climbed into bed and fell asleep. At midnight, the lights went out for real. At 2am, Forrest woke up, terrified in the dark. I brought him to our bed and as he went to sleep, I realized I could hear strange sounds outside. Crashing sounds. I shrugged. i hadn’t looked out a window. I didn’t know then that it was still snowing.

It snowed into the next morning. We got up at 6am and got the wood stove going again. As I let Remus out, I realized that branches were falling off the trees. Those were the crashing sounds. When we stood outside, we could hear not just branches falling, but entire trees. The cedar tree right next to our house was swaying. As it got light outside, we saw how bad it was: multiple large branches had fallen off the cedar tree.

I got dressed in a snow jacket and gloves, pulling on my boots. My mom and I had been texting all morning; their driveway was blocked and my dad had gotten his truck stuck trying to find a way out. I started down our driveway, slightly terrified by how many trees were falling around me, to find that we were also blocked in. 4-5 trees had fallen across our driveway. The snow was almost up to my knees then and still coming down.

Throughout the day, I packed up our emergency supplies: a suitcase of clothes, our box of important documents, things for Remus. If we needed to leave, I told myself, we would be able to. I kept repeating that to myself, even though I knew our car couldn’t get down our driveway. The cedar tree outside our house lose 5-6 large branches, but none hit our house. By the time it stopped snowing, everything was a mess: our internet satellite dish was snapped basically in half, our backyard was a mess, we had no power and very little food, and we couldn’t leave.

That was Monday, February 25. The next day, my parents were able to help us clear the driveway and we were able to go to their house. The day after that, we were able to get to town and buy canned soup and extra water. And the day after that, my parents’ power was restored. Our power wouldn’t come back until Sunday, March 3. It was such a relief when it did.

During the week of the snowstorm, Oregon’s Governor, Kate Brown, declared a state of emergency. All the power companies were completely overwhelmed; the road I live on, for example, had almost every single section of power line damaged by a falling trees. On the road just beside my house, all the trees had fallen into the road, blocking on lane on a tight corner. The roads were covered in snow and ice, almost no one could get down their driveway unless they had a larger truck, and as I live in a rural area without city water, none of us had access to running water.

Before the snowstorm, Danny and I had often talked about being prepared for emergencies. We talked about things we needed to get, how we should have some batteries saved up, but we never did it. I did have about 6 gallons of water saved in our pantry, but that was it. When our power went out, we weren’t ready—and we definitely weren’t ready to be without power for 7 full days.

When we finally got our power restored, I got so many questions about being prepared for an emergency on Instagram that I knew I had to write about it. But I do want to start with a disclaimer: I’m definitely not a doomsday person at all. I think being prepared for an emergency is something we all have to account for; we never know when a big storm will hit, leaving us all without power for a long amount of time. It never hurts to be ready, even if it never happens.

With that out of the way, here’s what I learned during the big snowstorm.

1. You’ll Need Way More Water Than You Think

When our power went out, I had maybe 6-7 gallons of water saved up. For reference, most people say to be prepared, you need 1 gallon of water per person in the house (as well as any pets) for each day. That means if we were to be prepared for 2 weeks without water, we would need 4 gallons of water per day for 14 days. That’s 56 gallons of water! For the average person, it’s just not possible to store that much water, so my advice is: keep as much water as you are able to store. For us, the floor of our pantry is now dedicated to water storage: every time we use up a thing of juice or a gallon of milk, I clean the container out well, sterilize it, and fill it with fresh water. I have about 20 gallons right now, which is much better than 6!

One more note on this: some people think if they have city water, they won’t need to worry about this as their water will still run even if their power goes out. However, many people further into town during the storm did not have access to water as the sewers became backed up. Whether you have city water or a well, you should stockpile clean water no matter what, just in case something detrimental happens to the water supply.

2. Have Lots of Food On Hand

Because we were without power for so long, we had to throw away everything in our fridge and freezer. It was all unusable and went bad fast. (More on this later.) That meant, we only had a little bit of food available. I tend to prefer to eat fresh foods: fruits and vegetables, meats and cheese. You know, the basics. We survived on oatmeal and peanut butter sandwiches for the first few days, until I got some cans of soup at the grocery store.

My stash of canned food was shockingly low. Because we have a wood stove, I was able to cook food like oatmeal or make soup, but I didn’t have much. My advice is to always have a supply of good canned food available, as this will stay good the longest, as well as things like canned milk and canned broth. We also were able to make coffee with a French press, which sounds like a luxury, but it was often the one thing I looked forward to!

3. Make Sure to Empty Perishable Items

If your power goes out and there is no estimate for it to return (by the second day of the storm, our utility company was saying to be prepared to be without power for up to two weeks), you’re going to want to throw away your perishable items ASAP. This will save you a huge headache, as it means you won’t have anything rot or drip all over your fridge or freezer. It will also make clean up once power is restored a lot faster. It feels awful to throw away so much food—as an example, I had to throw away a bunch of Costco freezer items I had literally just bought, including a $20 box of chicken nuggets. I nearly cried. But trust me, it can’t be saved. It can’t be saved.

4. Keep a Large Cooler Available

Well, ok: remember when I just said, it can’t be saved? Well, that’s kind of not true. Some stuff can be saved.

If you’re in the middle of a winter storm, my advice is to get a large cooler and fill it with snow; put it outside; and put as much perishable food inside as you can. This is how Danny and I saved our milk and coffee creamer. We could at least keep that routine for Forrest (having milk ASAP in the morning), which was good. In the summer, this wouldn’t work obviously, but it made me feel better to at least save even 5% of our fridge.

5. Everything You Need a Stockpile Of

I don’t need to explain this at all, but here’s a list of everything you need to have a stockpile of:

  • Flashlights (probably one big, sturdy one; one lattern; and several small, easily portable flashlights)

  • Batteries (of all kinds)

  • Candles

  • Matches

  • Medical supplies (any medications you take, as well as you’re preferred pain reliever, bandages of all kinds, gauze, tape, scissors, antiseptic ointment and wipes, soap to wash wounds, and more)

  • Pots and pans that can be used over direct fire or on a wood stove (that means, no Teflon coating or plastic handles/lids)

  • Blankets and towels

  • Antibacterial wipes to wash hands

  • Gasoline or diesel fuel for your car and/or generator

  • Wood (if you have a wood stove or fireplace)

  • A power pack to charge phones and any communication devices

  • A hand power or solar powered radio

6. You Need an Alternative Heat Source

We were incredibly lucky to have a wood stove, as it kept us from being too cold and we were able to cook on it. Even during the summer, we would be able to use our wood stove to cook and boil water to clean with. It goes without saying: an alternative heat source is incredibly important for any emergency preparedness.

If you aren’t able to add an alternative heat source into your home, investing in a generator is another option; there are lots of generators available these days and they are relatively easy to set up (you just need a specific outlet on the outside of your home).


Whew! That’s it (at least for now). There is a lot more about emergency preparedness that I could write about—and I definitely haven’t covered everything you need to be prepared for an emergency. But these were all the notes I kept track of while we were without power.

Have something to add? Let me know in the comments!

Is It Time for NaNoWriMo Editing?

Is It Time for NaNoWriMo Editing? | Writing Between Pauses

I write about NaNoWriMo a lot. It’s no secret that I really love doing NaNoWriMo every November, even though it often leaves me a bit burnt out. And also that I never plan to publish anything professionally, at least right now. For me, NaNoWriMo is more about having fun and really writing for 30 days—and less about producing something I think people want to read. (This might be the imposter syndrome talking!)

However, I’ve never really touched on what comes after NaNoWriMo. You know, the part where you let your novel sit for a little while then you go back to it. And edit it. And keep writing on it.

I’ve done that. (I promise! I probably reread all my NaNoWriMo novels at least twice a year.) But I never really talk about doing it or write about doing it. (Oof, writing about writing, am I right?) It’s just something I do, piece by piece, for several months, until it’s time for the next NaNoWriMo novel.

And just like NaNoWriMo, I have my own specific process for editing my NaNoWriMo novels. Obviously, I come from the unique place of not intending to publish anything, but just wanting to write something really good that I personally enjoy reading. I thought I would share my process in case it is helpful for others.

1. Find a beta

Betas are, in the writing world, people who edit your work for you. The term popularly comes from fanfiction—and I have a group of people I’ve known for years who beta stories for people nearly every single weekend. It’s just something they enjoy doing and they are very good at it. So if you are a writing hobbyist, and you really want to improve, and you don’t just want someone to read your work and tell you its awesome, look for a beta. There are so many great ones out there and you can get great plot and grammar feedback. Many betas have their areas of expertise, so even having 2 or 3 people read over your NaNoWriMo novel and make notes can make a huge difference.

2. Write a list of scenes

One thing I usually do a few months after November is going through what I’ve written and making a list of each scene. I can then use that list to guide me as I do my big reread and note where I want to rewrite a scene, move it around, or take it out completely. I can take notes on that list about what I want to change, and how, and why.

3. Reread, reorder, & rewrite

Once I have a lot of notes about what I want to do (as well as feedback from my betas of what worked and what didn’t), I start the often rather difficult process of doing those things. For me, this part is really tedious—it’s what I hate most about editing. But having a list of the original order of scenes allows me to know what I moved and where and why, so I can keep better track of what I’m doing without getting confused. Usually during the process, I start doing way more than I originally intended, then make myself tired. I tend to cap editing at about 2 hours a week, because otherwise I will absolutely get burnt out.

4. Print it out

If you read that last sentence, you’re probably like, “hold on… you only edit for 2 hours a week?” Yeah. Alongside all the writing I do, for this blog, for my freelance work, and for my job, doing too much makes me go bonkers pretty fast. And there is nothing worse than being absolutely frozen on a deadline for a job that pays, you know? Steps 2 and 3 usually take me a good 3-4 months (I haven’t even started them yet for my most recent NaNoWriMo novel, I’m not ready!). But, once I get that first round done, I will print out my NaNoWriMo novel and read through it with a pen. At this point, I will start noting what I want to add to it, if anything. Sometimes, I want to add in scenes I had originally removed, but have them rewritten and in a totally new place. Or written a totally new way. This step is one of the most fun parts for me, but can also be quite tedious—like when I randomly decide to change the voice about halfway through.

Once I finish this step, I start writing again—compiling my notes from my printed copy. Then, I start the editing process over again: betas, the list, and more writing. I recently thought about restarting this process for my NaNoWriMo novel from 2014—it’s one of my favorites, but needs the most work, as well as a load of research to fix some major errors.

What’s your NaNoWriMo editing process like?

What I Learned from My December Slump

What I Learned from My December Slurp | Writing Between Pauses

I didn’t mean to just stop blogging for most of December. I just sort of… found myself forgetting. Part of this was intentional—I wanted to spend less of December rushing around, trying to get a million things done and more time with Forrest, with Danny, with the important people in my life. And part of this was unintentional—I helped plan a wedding, attended that wedding, made more Christmas cookies than I probably should have, and in the evenings, I was so tired that it never even occurred to me that I needed to be writing those Blogmas blog posts I had planned in approximately June.

Part of why I fell behind was that I didn’t do enough forward planning.

And another part of why I fell behind, and stopped blogging, and struggled to restart was that I was just plain burnt out.

The first week I missed, I told myself that I’d work on it and I’d get my blog posts written over the weekend. I was just busy, I thought. That’s it! Nothing big!

But by the 2nd week of one measly blog post, I knew it: I was burnt out. I needed to take a break or I was at risk of just breaking myself.

I decided to keep doing just the bare minimum. I know that sounds awful. We are trained to believe that the “bare minimum” is the worst thing you can do aside from just quit, but I knew I was at risk of not just not being able to blog for myself, but for my day-to-day work. You know, the stuff that pays my bills.

A big part of me felt incredibly guilty and bad for the fact that I wasn’t blogging, wasn’t really doing much on social media, and definitely was just trying to get by. I had brands I was talking to, content I needed to create… but I was tired. It was the holidays. And sometimes, I know I do things when I don’t want to at a detriment to myself. So a very small part of me said: this is ok, you need this.

And I did. On January 1, I felt better than I had in months. I didn’t feel the pressure to be constantly writing, constantly working on something. But another part of me still held that guilt. I haven’t been posting on Instagram like I know I should. I haven’t been returning emails as promptly as I usually do and that’s what made me start to feel really guilty.

I had been burnt out and I was teetering on the edge of too much, absolutely too much. Giving myself a break was what I knew I needed to do—but there was still that niggling little voice that told me I was just being lazy. I think this is something that everyone my age struggles with; we’ve been told to work hard, constantly, our entire lives. And we also rely on our 24/7 gigs to get by (or at least I know I do). It makes us unable to do certain small things (like the fact that I’ve been meaning to mail a package for exactly 3 weeks) and it’s honestly just really bad for our mental health.

So, I had a slump. It happens. I took a break. I feel better. But what did I learn?

1. It’s Not That Urgent

I have about 5 emails in my inbox right now that the sender has marked urgent. That’s what it says in all caps in the subject line: URGENT, Brand Collab. Or URGENT, Want to do a giveaway?

And, bless you brands, and your brilliant PR teams, but those things aren’t urgent.

I often struggle with others perceptions of me. I don’t want to be appear lazy or like “one of those” influencers or bloggers. I want to appear capable, down-to-earth, responsible, and dedicated. I reply to emails within 2 days, always (that’s my rule). But sometimes even my two-days-and-I-swear-I’ll-get-back-to-you, I’ll get emails after 24 hours with, “is everything ok? I’m concerned.”

I understand that for many people their jobs are putting them under pressure to get a response. It happens at my day job, it happens in my gigs, and it definitely happens for this blog. But as a society, we really need to put our foot down. Sometimes, when I email a brand back, they won’t reply for a week. For 2 weeks. Then they expect a 3-day turnaround for content. I just don’t have the time! Everything I do revolves around a calendar and right now, that calendar is full. My 30 minutes of email time is all I’ve got.

I’ve realized a lot of this means I need to put up boundaries. In initial emails to brands, I need to tell them about my 2-day rule: If I haven’t replied in at least 3 days, send me a follow up. But don’t badger me. And please, it’s not urgent, we’re not performing surgery here or changing the world. All the reliance on the word urgent, when it’s not, just makes me anxious.

2. It’s Ok, You’ll Survive

About 18 months ago, my husband asked me why my blog was so important to me.

And my answer was: who am I without a blog?

I’ve always been the girl with the blog. I’ve always been that girl.

I don’t believe in being an artist without creating. And a lot of influencers, bless them, are artists without creating. Without naming names, there has been an influencer in the news, after being profiled on a Twitter thread, who is one just like that: she talks about giving creativity workshops, about creating art, but she doesn’t seem to actually create an art. She doesn’t publish, she doesn’t blog, she doesn’t even post on Instagram anymore. I feel bad for the callout, because who isn’t a bit of a poser at 22, but good gravy.

I’m a writer. It’s what I do. And a big part of me believes that if I were to stop blogging, I would lose my last tenuous connection to writing. I know this isn’t true. I know that I write more in my dayjob than most people do in their lifetimes, but it’s an unshakeable notion. I need to be writing, I tell myself, so I can at least convince myself that I’m creating.

But that ignores all the ways I do write. During my slump, during my break, I wrote a lot. I journaled, and wrote a few poems, and wrote a few short stories. I had ideas. And I’ve realized that sometimes blogging, as much as I love it, eats up the time I could spend reading, writing things that light my brain up, and being creative. It’s a hard balance to maintain: writing for work, writing for my blog that I love, and writing the stories I want to read. I don’t really know how to combine them quite yet, but I realize this now: It’s ok, I can survive without this if I have to.

3. I Don’t Know What To Do With Empty Time

This is perhaps my starkest lesson. After the holidays, when I cleaned up our house, took down the tree, and spent several frantic hours cleaning, I realized that, once I’m done, I don’t know what to do. What do people do with free time? Even in my downtime, when dinner is over and Forrest is playing and I don’t have any cleaning or work to do, I find myself getting antsy. I have to be doing something. I struggle to watch TV shows. Sometimes, I even struggle to sit still to read. I like being productive. I like moving. I like producing things. While many assure me there are worse ways to be, I realize I need to work on the fact that I always feel like time needs to be filled. That I have to go somewhere or do something. It’s ok to just sit and look out the window. It’s ok to play on my phone. It’s ok. It’s all ok.

Sweet, Spooky & Super Busy: My October Wrap Up

Sweet, Spooky & Super Busy: My October Wrap Up | Writing Between Pauses

How was your October?

More importantly, how was your Blogtober?

This year’s Blogtober felt like a little more of a challenge than last year. I had a lot going on this month—visitors, a lot of client work, Forrest in school, and a lot more. I’m also trying to get my house cleaned up and looking better for my own mental health and Christmas, of course.

I’m going to have a best of post going up tomorrow of my favorite Blogtober posts, plus my favorite posts from other bloggers. However, today, I wanted to go through some of my highlights from October. Let’s go!

1. Making These Cupcakes

Chai Spice Cupcakes
Cupcakes with Maple Frosting

So I just made these today, but oh my gosh, they turned out way better than I planned! I wanted to get some kind of skull or spider decoration for the top, but couldn’t find anything at the grocery store. They’d already cleaned out the Halloween stuff except the candy!! So I settled for a bag of candy corn and I’m glad I did; they turned out so, so cute! They are my usual spice cake recipe with chai steeped milk for regular milk, plus two tablespoons of molasses. They are for a potluck tomorrow at work and I’m so excited to take them!

2. Going to the Pumpkin Patch

It goes without saying that one of my highlight every single year is visiting the pumpkin patch. We love visiting our local farms every year. We went apple picking in September and to the pumpkin patch in October. It’s always a good year when we get both in! I wrote about visiting the pumpkin patch here.

3. Going to Sunriver

We took a short family trip to Sunriver right at the beginning of October that was somewhat anxiety-inducing for me (nothing like a 3-4 hour drive with a toddler alone to make you feel like a parent), but ended up being a really great time. It gave Danny and I a little bit of a break, plus we had lots and lots of fun.

Things I Love: October 20

Things I Love: October 20 | Writing Between Pauses

Well, it’s here. It’s arrived.

Today, I’m 30 years old.

When I was a teenager, 30 felt ancient. You always watch movies and it seems like by 30, most people have their shit together—and the people who don’t really, really, really do not have it together, but are actively working to get it together. Prime example? All the FRIENDS characters were in their mid-20s in the pilot episode (25-27, roughly).

Your 20s are supposed to be for finding yourself, getting it together, and setting yourself up for success in your 30s.

But what if you are staring down at being 30 and feel like you don’t have any of the pieces of your life just right?

I realize it sounds a little crazy for a parent to write that. Shouldn’t I, as the keeper of a small child, who depends on me, have it all figured out? Shouldn’t I have a plan?

The other day, I had a moment where I really, truly had a panic attack about turning 30. I can’t really put my finger on why I suddenly felt desperately, horribly afraid of turning 30. Most days, I spend my time on autopilot: I get my work done, I take care of Forrest, I make dinner, I clean the house top to bottom nearly every week. It feels like I’m stuck on a clock.

Writing this blog has been a huge way for me to keep “a bit of myself” as I descended into motherhood. Writing about beauty products and how I use them is freeing. And I want other mothers to feel free as well, to remember that it’s ok to take care of yourself alongside everyone else.

But on Sunday, I looked in the mirror and I thought, “I don’t know this person.”

I started reading blog posts and articles about turning 30, about being a mother, about self-care after 30 and realizing that my crisis isn’t specifically unique. But it is my own.

When I had Forrest, it felt like I was swallowed. Like “motherhood”—the big behemoth of motherhood—swallowed me up whole. For a long time, I didn’t really know who I was outside of being a mother. My days are dominated by Forrest and Forrest’s needs. I’m not resentful about it anymore; I’ve managed to regain a little bit of my foothold and feel like me.

But the woman I see in the mirror isn’t… me anymore. We all change as we age, but there is something about this change that feels particularly unwelcome. I don’t look older necessarily (I can thank my round face for that one), but i just don’t look like myself. I think this said it best, from an article called “What I Learned About Self-Care After 30”:

I was so consumed with being selfless that I never stopped to take care of myself, and it pretty much came to a head all at once.
I was nearing the end of my 20s when I looked in the mirror and barely recognized myself one day as I got out of the shower. I used to love doing face masks, getting my nails done, making sure my hair was cut, but most importantly, feeling good about myself and the way I presented myself to the world. That all had kinda stopped. Instead, I was staring back at a tired, overworked mom who hadn’t gotten a haircut in a whole year and couldn’t remember the last time she had a pedicure or even plucked her eyebrows. I felt horrible, and it pretty much got worse from there.

Remember how I mentioned that I hadn’t gotten a haircut in three whole years?

3 years! I went 3 years without a haircut! Without doing basic maintenance on myself.

I’m not quite as freaked out about turning 30 today as I was a few days ago. I’m still the same person I was then.

It is hard to compartmentalize my life: to be a blogger, a writer, a professional, and a mother. I am all of those things at once, but sometimes… well, most of the time, being a mother trumps them all. I will abandon blog posts, I will leave work early, all for my child. Because that’s my job. But is leaving myself last on the list—running myself ragged, not taking time to see my friends or do things I enjoy—part of that too?

It’s not. My goal for turning 30 is this: to start taking time to really focus on myself, to let myself become a person I recognize again, and to dedicate time to being the best mother, professional, and blogger I can be. Not just one.

Things I Want to Stop Doing

This is a bit of a different Things I Love isn’t it? I started out writing it fully intending to transition to my usual TiLT posts… but I’d rather leave it at this. I hope you all have a wonderful Saturday!