NaNoWriMo Week 1

Hello Blogging World!

It is the one week anniversary of the beginning of National Novel Writing Month 2013. Three weeks to go. I am on track, and my novel word count is 12,613. I have succeeded in writing 1,667 words or more each and every day this week.

And the surprise is, it wasn’t even that hard. Turns out there IS time, in every day, for a few hours of writing. I haven’t even given up any of things I consider important. I’ve gone to work, kept my room on the functioning side of clean, and maintained a social life. That’s right, a social life. Plans for a drink with a friend on Friday? Finish the word count, then go out. Social running event with friends on Saturday? Finish the word count, then go. Coffee with the boyfriend on Sunday? Bring the computer to the café, and get a start on that word count. What I haven’t been doing, or doing a lot less of, is schmutzing about on the internet and watching television.

I’m actually a little disgusted with myself for not realizing earlier how simple it is to make time in my day if I set a solid goal. Why didn’t I think of this earlier, you know? Why did it take NaNo to make me realize how fungible my time is, how much of my not-really-doing-much-of-anything time could be replaced by working time. I hope… well, I am wary of making sweeping statements because I have a great deal of difficulty sticking with any new routine or way of living beyond the first week or two, but I hope that when NaNo is over, I will remember how simple it is to find time in the day to work, and I hope I will apply that to all my other long term projects and goals.

Also, it’s not all smooth-sailing. We’re at week one, and my NaNo Novel is on the rocks. I really like what’s going on with the characters, and I like how it’s all developing, but at 12,000 words it’s hard to keep writing without knowing a few things about, you know, the plot. What is  the super-secret evil mastermind goal of my villain? What’s he doing it all for? How is Cor going to stop him, and what is Cor saving him from?

I’m hoping I’ll have a revelation while I’m driving the bus today. And then I’m going to have to try to make my wordcount in the car or something, because Mr. Huntington (the BF, and a very handsome fellow) and I are traveling to my folk’s house this evening to stay for a few days. Which, by the way, I only have about an hour to pack for before I have to go to work, and Friday is one of those days at work where they ought to just give me a time-traveling bus already, and perhaps an extra dimension in which to eat lunch.

So anyway, there’s your update. Can I power through the plot void and stay on track with my NaNo Novel, or will this be the weekend my word count falters? Stay tuned.

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Finding a Rhythm

Happy Fourth!

As you’ve noticed, I’ve been pretty remiss in my blog duties lately. I think I’ve reached a turning point, though, and I’m working my way back to a place where I can fit all the old things I know I enjoy into my new routine.

Speaking of routine, and my new job, I was on the news! I don’t say anything in the video, but there’s a bunch of shots of me driving my bus. I happened to be pulling into the garage at just the moment Channel 8 was looking for a bus in which to ride around the block and shoot video.

http://www.wmtw.com/news/maine/shuttle-between-lakes-region-portland-coming-this-summer/-/8792012/20804372/-/p8i4pf/-/index.html

I drew this sketch of Vanya yesterday (featured at end of post). A few days ago, I began playing the harp again after a truly intolerable break (I think it was a whole month). Soon, I’ll start re-working Wanderlust again. Lady Higg gave me a lot of things to think about in her Wanderlust review, and right now I’m not quite sure in which direction to take things, and how far to go. These are problems I’m going to have to attack pretty soon. Maybe this weekend. I’ll tell you more when I can. I hope you’re all enjoying yourselves this independence day; I’m certainly looking forward to the fireworks tonight.

Screen Shot 2013-07-04 at 3.00.40 PM

Sketches, and Writer with a Day Job by Áine Greaney

Quick and dirty sketches of my two principle characters.

Quick and dirty sketches of my two principle characters.

Hello! It’s been over a week since the Unicorn Writers’ Conference now. Life’s been pretty good. I’ve even been exercising. I’m trying to leave my book draft alone for a little while, even though Eileen Albrizio‘s workshop  at the Conference made me want to FIND and DESTROY all the adverbs. I have been getting positive feedback from the good folks reading the current draft, though, which is awesome to hear. To keep my oar in and try to cultivate the habit of writing every day, I’ve been futzing around with book two. It’s still in the very early stages of development, but I’m playing with some ideas and I like what’s shaping up so far. Mostly, I’ve been sketching and working on thumbnails for the rest of book one. I need to really tackle those illustrations soon. For now, I’ve been sketching with a cheap ballpoint pen and hoping that the permanence and nonchalance of the medium will take some of the pressure out of making pictures. It’s a ballpoint pen. I have to ACCEPT that the things I make with it will NOT be perfect—and this frees me up to just DRAW.

Some sketches for a secondary character in Wanderlust. If you can ignore the one on the bottom right with the panda eyes, I like how he's turning out

Some sketches for a secondary character in Wanderlust. If you can ignore the one on the bottom right with the panda eyes, I like how he’s turning out

 

urlOne of my favorite (ha ha. They were all my favorite) workshops at the Unicorn Writers’ Conference was Writer With a Day Job with Áine Greaney. Writer With a Day Job is also the name of one of her books, which I bought and she signed for me. If you ever get a chance to meet Ms. Greaney or attend one of her workshops, I highly recommend it. She is a delight to listen to, and not just because of the Irish accent. She is a very clear and demanding speaker who holds your attention, makes you laugh, and says a lot of very true things that make you think, and keep thinking. She has a soft a soft voice and wields this power gently; the overall impression is of kindness, hilarity, and respect.

You might wonder why I chose this workshop, since I have no day job to speak of. Well, not having a day job isn’t really a sustainable life choice. I’m even starting to suspect that having regularly scheduled, gainful employment, would help my writing—and this was one of the points of Greaney’s workshop. In fact, when I flipped through my Áine Greaney book looking for likely quotes, I came upon this: “Your day job can give you the structure you need to get things done” (19). I also found, in my notes from the conference, this bit of wisdom: “[Having a day job] takes [the] ego and financial burden away [from the writing].” That really resonates with me right now, because, as much as I’m living a cushy little existence as a writer/creative with parent-provided room and board, I am trying very hard to enter into the adult world and take responsibility for myself and for my obligations. In short, making those student loan payments at the end of every month stresses the crap out of me. If having a job meant I didn’t have to worry about paying the bills, it might actually free up more energy for my writing and creative pursuits. I attended this workshop in anticipation of getting a day job in the near future, and I attended the workshop to learn how to do it when I’m in the position of having a job and needing to write. It was the best choice I could have made; Greaney’s workshop gave me a lot of hope for my future and for the future of my writing and creative endeavors.

The most important thing, Greaney said, is to ask ourselves this: Why do I write? What is my deeply personal reason for writing? What do I want from my life as a writer?

When I asked myself these questions, I felt a weight lift off my shoulders. I remembered that it isn’t about getting published or making money and getting recognition for my work. I want all that, yes. I want it bad. But what it’s about is telling these stories. What it’s about is the love I have for my characters and the deep compulsion I feel to make something physical and tangible and shareable out of the stories and people I’ve created in my head. That, at the heart of it, is why I’m doing this—not for money or fame or a job. This realisation means—well, it means it’s okay if I have a day job for YEARS before the writer/illustrator lark can be my full-time occupation. It means that, as long as I’m creating and sharing these characters, I won’t have failed. The only way I will be a failure as a writer and an artist is if I stop working and creating every day.

I can’t share the whole workshop with you here, so I highly recommend you check out the book if you’re interested. You’ll find a lot of good strategies about how to fit writing time into your busy schedule. I especially liked how Greaney talked about transitions between your work (or your life) and your writing. Sometimes you can’t go straight from one to the other, and it helps to set up transition rituals (like finishing that cup of coffee, or spending twenty minutes journaling, or putting on a specific sweater) that you always perform to get from one place to the other.

I came away from the workshop with two overall messages. The first was: If being a writer is truly, deeply important to you (refer back to that deeply personal reason mentioned above), then do it, any way you can. Write every day. Make it happen. Use whatever available time you have, and make it work for you. And the second message? Be nice to yourself. Accept that you won’t be brilliant every day, and move forward on your writing anyway. At least visit it, even on the crap days when you have nothing left to give. It will all add up, and you will move closer to your writing goals.

“Work When Others Are Resting”

This is one of 9 pieces of advice from artist David Jon Kassan, posted by a former professor on a Facebook Group for Illustration Students along with a link to Kassan’s website. The list also includes, “Do more than what you are told to do,” “Take lots of breaks,” and “Love what you do or just don’t do it.”

Work when others are resting.

I love this maxim, because it’s not saying, “Do not rest.” It’s also not saying, “Do not go out when the air is bright and your friends are calling and the time has come to raise a glass and shout because you’re alive and the world is beautiful.” Rather, it is a gentle invitation from your work, from your vocation. It is a soft whisper from that which you love, saying, Find me in the liminal spaces. Come to me when the house is quiet, and we can be alone.

Figure drawing January 30th, 2011. Adobe Photshop. Copyright © Grace Makley (me).