Thursday, October 31, 2013

This Is Who I Am

On Monday, I hosted a post on my upcoming dive into NaNoWriMo. In it, I talked about how I've learned what kind of writer I am by doing this challenge almost every year since 2011. But as I thought about that post, I realized that I've also learned what kind of person I am. And it only took forty years! My musing about my life began with something very simple: I bought a small whiteboard for my refrigerator to keep track of my work schedule.

That whiteboard reveals a couple of truths about me. First and foremost, I don't have the greatest memory. As a matter of fact, my husband started managing my work schedule after I repeatedly went to work at the wrong time, sometimes late and once, a full hour early. So I started texting my work schedule to him and he posted where we both could see it on a notepad on the fridge.

Second truth the board reveals is I am an out of sight, out of mind kinda girl. If I don't have a very visual reminder, I will forget. I actually have a bigger whiteboard in another part of the house to remind me of all my writing and graphic design projects. That way I can see everything I need to do with a glance. Third truth is that I am a visual person. I need to see things and they stick in my mind better when I do.

These are truths that I know about myself. I've known them for years. The difference between now and then is that I have finally accepted them.

I used to hate that I needed all these reminders. I used to hate feeling like I was disorganized (and honestly, I am. My husband calls my life organized chaos). I had an idea of the person I wanted to be in my head and I never quite measured up. I would often say in my head, If I could just be more whatever like whoever. Sadly, the things I wanted to change about myself weren't bad or sin, they just were. Of course, I didn't see it that way. I couldn't accept that I'm a slightly disorganized person unless I strictly manage my time.

 But now, I recognize that this is who I am and instead of fighting against it, I need to learn to work with the person I am. With that acceptance, I've found that I far more organized that I've ever been and I have a lot less self-loathing. This who God created me to be and if I could have changed it, I would have before now.

This is who I am. I've accepted that and now I can move on.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Ready, Set, NaNo!

This year will be the fifth year I’ve dived into the exciting waters of NaNoWriMo. I’ve won three of them, surpassing fifty thousand words. I quite excited about this year because I’m the most ready that I’ve ever been for NaNoWriMo. I have a good bit of my novel plotted, enough to get me started. I have great confidence that I’ll cross the finished line with an almost complete novel.

I never imagined that I would grow to love this challenge. The task seemed so daunting the first year I participating. Fifty thousand words seemed impossible, but I did it and I was hooked. Once I got past my initial fear of writing so many words in 30 days, I realized that NaNoWriMo has been a great way to develop as a writer.

I am not the same writer as I was in 2007. I shudder to think of how bad my writing must have been back then. NaNoWriMo has helped me improve my craft. When you write fifty thousand bad words, it’s easy to recognize when something is good. More valuable than improving my craft, I’ve figured out what kind of novelist I am. That alone is work all the effort.

As I NaNo’ed, I figured out my process. I figured out that I can’t work with a detailed outline of my novel ahead of time. I figured out that I must discover the plot as I write. That was a major revelation. I need to know my characters and their background, but during NaNoWriMo, I need to let them lose on the page and let them do what they do naturally.

Yes, I admit that this is not the ideal way for writers who want to move to a place of getting publishing contracts by synopsis only. I, however, cannot change my process. Heaven knows I tried. But each year, I find that I only need a general idea of the story before I get started. Having it all mapped out doesn’t work for me. I need to be engaged in the story just as my reader is, discovering the twists and turns as I go.

I think that’s the most valuable prize I will ever get from NaNoWriMo. Now that I know how I write, I can write all year round, discovering my stories as I go. 

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Indie Life: The Fifteen Minute Break

I have recently rejoined the workforce. The journey has been a major life adjustment. I actually have to plan my life (ugh) and learn to be more efficient in smaller blocks of time…namely, my fifteen minute break.

I get two 15 breaks at my job. When I first started working, I was convinced that I would just have to find time once I’ve gotten off work to write. I convinced myself that fifteen minutes wasn’t enough to work on my novel. Two months in, I wasn’t really making more time at home to write and had to make that fifteen minutes work.

For the next couple of Wednesdays, I will be sharing a series of posts on how to be more effective with just fifteen minutes. I’m calling them the Fifteen Minute Break.

The first thing is to get acquainted with fifteen minutes. You might think it’s short like I did, but it’s long enough to get short bursts of work done. To get a real time feel, set your oven timer (or whatever buzzing device you have) to fifteen minutes. Do this a couple of times. The key is to get a realistic feel for how much time you actually have.

Also, you can time tasks to see how long they take. Here is a list of tasks that take fifteen minutes:
  • Brushing your teeth 7.5 times.
  • Preparing 5 packages of Oodles of Noodles
  • Downloading upgrades on a PC (maybe longer depending on the age of your computer)
  • Pumping two tanks of gas (take a friend)
  • Playing 7 rounds of Tetris Frenzy
  • A long shower (you’ll need lots of moisturizer afterwards)
  • Going through the drive through a Chick-fil-a (but it’s worth it)
  • The time it takes the officer to get out of the car after he’s pulled you over for speeding (don’t ask me how I know)
  • Finding your phone when you’re late for work
  • Getting through the “express” line in the supermarket
  • Washing a load of laundry on quick wash
  • Saving money on your car insurance (Never actually done it so someone else will have to verify)

Come back next week and I’ll talk about the tools you need to be more effective on your fifteen minutes break.