Monthly Archives: November 2012

A NaNoWriMo Ending

So, that’s it. 29 days. 50,127 words. I finished both NaNoWriMo and my novel on the subway last night, surrounded by people who could care less and who had no idea why I was taking a picture of my computer screen with my cell phone the moment I hit 50,000.

It was all very anticlimactic.

This is just the beginning, really. Now, I have some options:

  1. Start editing. I hit the end of the story, but most publishers will tell you that 50,000 words does not a novel make, so I have anywhere from 20,000 to 40,000 words to add before its something that could, potentially, in some weird, dream-like future, sell. 
  2. Shelve it. I’m not so confident in the plot anyway. Never was. I didn’t really like the story I was writing right from about, oh, the 5th page. It seemed cliched and slow moving. So, maybe writing it was merely an exercise in submerging myself in written creativity again. And maybe it’s time to move on to December’s 50,000 words.
  3. Start over. With this book. Go back to the beginning. Jot down ideas, create character profiles, brainstorm for a couple weeks, pull out the important plot points and rearrange them, change them. Get a proper outline going, a proper idea. And then, rewrite it from scratch. 
  4. Take a break. It’s good to step away from ones writing every so often, right? Perhaps I should just enjoy Christmas without putting pressure on myself to write. There are obvious problems with this option, but it’s a tempting one.
  5. Quit. Declare myself not a writer. Declare the magic gone. Declare whatever talent I thought I had as a child mistaken. Bury the words I’ve written. Never look at them again.
Before I decide my next course of action, I’m going to go to the TGIO (Thank Goodness It’s Over) party. And then, I’m going to read it. I may even give it to a few closely trusted people who will give me honest opinions in a gentle way. 
Then I’ll decide. 

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A DIY Christmas

I am a Scrooge until December 1st. My mother instilled this value in my at an early age using, believe it or not, Scrooge! We had a cassette tape recording of A Christmas Carol and I loved it. I would listen to it incessantly the whole season long. There may also have been times I asked to listen to it in, oh, July. But my mother was firm. No Scrooge until December 1st. Come mid-November, when the rest of the world was swinging headlong into Christmas, decorating, shoving Christmas crap down our throats every which way we turned, I would start waiting with heightened anticipation for Scrooge. Come December 1st, it was all the sweeter, listening to the smooth voice of the storyteller, because of that anticipation.

So, I stand by this: Christmas belongs in December. Looking forward to Christmas? That’s definitely a November thing. But Christmas itself, the way it feels, the way it looks, that belongs fully in December. You will not see a Christmas decoration, a set of lights, a Christmas tree, even a recording of A Christmas Carol in my home until December 1st.

However, I have come to realize that this whole Christmas decorating thing may require some planning. As with other years, I hope to DIY most of our decorations. As with other years, I can’t guarantee this will actually happen. But, this is the first year the Husband, the puppies, the kitty and I are all sticking around close to home for most of Christmas. I actually want my house decked out this year. So, I need a plan. What do I need to make? When should I have it done?

Ornaments

Martha Stewart, every single one. 
1 / 2 / 3 / 4
The Husband wants to pick up a real tree as soon as I allow Christmas in the house. That means December 1st. Which means if I want to decorate the tree with handmade ornaments, I better get cracking. Thank goodness for Martha Stewart and her tutorials. 
A Christmas Wreath

I’ve never hung a wreath before. I think Christmas time is a good time to break my no-wreath-hanging streak. 
1 / 2 / 3 / 4

I’ll likely aim for the second week of December for this. We’ll see.

Garland

Specifically, for the shelf above our dining room table. We don’t have a mantle, but this is close enough.

1 / 2 / 3 / 4*
* Presumably. Her images appear to be broken, but I’m relatively certain this is the original source.
Originally, I had lofty thoughts about five stockings, one for the Husband, each of the puppies, the kitty and, of course, me. I even had lofty ideas about stuffing them! With bits and bobs, squeakers, treats, human things for the Husband and myself. I have a feeling it’s not going to happen for this year unless I actually buy the stockings, which would not be in keeping with the DIY Christmas thing. We’ll see.
Of course, all of this is probably just dreaming. I don’t have the best track record when it comes to actually completing the DIYs I muse about doing. So, I guess we’ll see? I have 3,000 more words to write for NaNoWriMo before I can even start thinking about Christmas!
Where do you focus your decorating energies at Christmas time? Do you DIY or buy your Christmasy bits and bobs? Please tell me that not a single garland has already found its way around your banister .. Please tell me I’m not alone in my November Scrooge-ness!

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There is no end to the playing

Instead of a photo for Photo Friday, I have a video!

Actually, first a story. At the beginning of the month, when I first started NaNoWriMo, I thought I might try dabbling in some video blogging (vlogging!). I thought for sure I would be SO SICK of writing and completely uninspired for sharing my life with you here. But, surely it wouldn’t be that hard to sit down in front of my computer and babble away about some random topic, right?

Obviously, that didn’t happen! Turns out – if I want to do a video, I want to script it. Which means I might as well just take said script and post it here because, oh, hey, look! A script for a vlog is almost just like a blog post! Besides that, I’m relatively certain any vlog I create would be as boring as boots. Especially if it’s scripted.

I shouldn’t inflict the world with my face and my nattering voice, should I?

However, I don’t think my puppies are boring! So, this morning, I made this video of Kingsley and Mocha being good and uploaded it to youtube, thinking it was my first ever youtube video. I was wrong. Apparently, when I tried to upload another, far cuter video a month or two back, it actually worked!

And, it’s adorable. See?

In this video, you also get to see our messy backyard, which has a whole bunch of crap from our mudroom reno piled against the the garage and a wheelbarrow full of weeds from the garden that I think, at one point, we had good intentions of putting on the curb in one of those gigantic paper bags.

Now that you’ve seen a cute video of my dogs and read a bunch of babble, I want to bring up an actually serious topic.

Get Off My Internets.

Specifically, the forums!

I’ve been aware of this blog/community for a long time. And, I’ll admit it! I find it amusing! Important, even. I mean, in the process of following our favourite bloggers, we can forget our critical thinking caps at home. We buy into the images that bloggers create for themselves all the time. We get hoodwinked. But. At the same time, GOMI seems to walk a frighteningly thin line between providing a little snarky entertainment and, well… full-on cyberbullying. Or, have we all just become a little too sensitive? Bloggers put themselves out there and not everyone is always going to love the things they have to say.

I know many of you who read my blog are bloggers yourselves. And, many of you who read my blog are readers with strong opinions about the blogs you read. What do you think of GOMI? Is it fair? Does it cross the line?

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Filed under GOMI, Kingsley, Mocha

Three Things for Thursday: Friends

Over the past month, I have been making new friends thanks to NaNoWriMo. It’s always lovely making new friends. Of course, I’ve been making friends in person at write-ins and parties, meeting the whole NaNoWriMo crew here in Toronto. But, I’ve also met a few new bloggers thank to Twitter and NaNoWriMo. Go check them out! Leave them a word of encouragement or two – this writing 50 000 words in 30 days things? It’s not easy!

One: Calmly Chaotic

I know I had stumbled across her blog before; Ashley is another Ontario-based blogger, and floats around design bloggers, perhaps, like me, a little on the periphery. She blogs a lot about her adorable kidlets and whatever is going on in her life. Like NaNoWriMo!

And she does it all so beautifully, writing gracefully and sharing beautiful photos from her unique perspective.

Two: Adventures as Mrs. Janney

I found Natalie through Ashley @ Calmly Chaotic, (whom I found, officially, through Heather @ Interior Groupie!) took one peek at her blog and knew we would get along just fine. How so? This!

This is Cotton. Cotton is six months, almost exactly 1 month older than Kingsley. I have a feeling they would get along just fine. 
Three: NaNoToons
Admittedly, I haven’t actually met these guys in person, though Errol was at the halfway party! But their little comics have been helping me get through, write away, and enjoy all the NaNoWriMo activities.
I’m going to be sad when December comes around and there’s no more NaNoToons.
Happy writing! Happy blogging! Happy whatever you’re into these days!
Speaking of: what are your ‘three things’ right now?

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NaNoWriMo: Questions

One of the suggestions put forth by the folks at NaNoWriMo to help you actually finish the novel started on November first is to tell everyone you know and the random guy walking down the street that you’re writing a novel. The theory is that the more people who know, the more people you will also have to admit failure to when November 30th comes around and you’ve only written 10 000 words. It’s a good theory. And, for some people, it probably works quite well!

However, there is a consequence to telling everyone you know that you’re writing a novel. There are Questions. And lots of them! But, mostly they’re the same questions. Some of them I like. Some of them I don’t like. At all.

Questions I like answering about my novel:

q: How is the writing going?

a: Great! I love that I’m writing again, ‘stretching the muscles’, so to speak, muscles that haven’t been worked in far too long. I am so glad that I decide to do NaNoWriMo again.

q: What’s your wordcount?

a: 34836. As of this morning, after my commute in to work. I am on par! Which means I’m on track to finish on time and with all the words I need.

q: Is your novel good?

a: No. I am not a genius. But maybe it will be someday! Mostly, it’s just a pile of boring drivel. Editing is for December.

q: Why NaNoWriMo?

a: Because it is a great way to get back into shape. I haven’t written any fiction in a long time, so it feels amazing to actually be intentional about spending some time in being creative, and being creative within my set of God-given gifts and skills. Also, NaNoWriMo is a challenge that just… appeals to me. Gets me excited.

Questions I don’t like answering about my novel:

q: What is it about?

a: I cringe when this question comes up. I avoid it, which is pretty easy with most other writers. “Oh, I don’t really have a plot,” is actually an acceptable response to this question when you’re doing NaNoWriMo. And it could be true. But mostly it’s an avoidance tactic because even people who start without plots end up with one by day 21.

The problem is, I think my novel sounds really stupid. Cliched, maybe. The basic premise is actually kind of cool, but the basic premise is the twist, so I can’t say what the basic premise is without giving away the only reason to read it. Not that I want people reading it. But maybe someday I will! So, mostly, when this question comes up, I avoid it. Redirect. Sometimes, depending on who it is, I’ll answer honestly, explain the whole thing and end up being reassured that, really, I’m not an idiot! Somehow, those experiences don’t actually help to build up my confidence for the next time the question comes up.

Despite writing here, on this blog, five days a week, despite being able to hold your attention, I have zero confidence about my writing.

q: Why?

a: This is different than the ‘Why NaNoWriMo’ question above. It comes from a less supportive place. I’ve experienced it far less often this time around than I did in 2003, when I was the weird kid who read books and wrote stories in high school. It’s a question that sneers. It’s a question that’s confused, not by the challenge, but by the activity itself. Why would you do this? What is the point? What are you going to get out of it?

It’s also a question that no one might actually be asking, but that I may sometimes ask myself. This is the question to ignore. Because I am going to get potentially nothing out of this. There may be no point. There is no answer to this question.

But I don’t care. And that’s enough.

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Dreaming of Pretty: Writing Desks

When I was in my last year of university, my early Canadian literature professor invited the whole class to his home for a potluck of traditional Canadian food. I made an apple crisp that, by the time I arrived, didn’t look so crispy after sliding around in my back seat for way too long. Towards the end of the evening, he lead us down to his basement. It wasn’t a particularly high basement and not brightly lit. It wasn’t particularly beautiful in any way. Except for this: it was full of books. Snaking aisles of books stacked on makeshift, overflowing bookshelves, one after another, after another. And, tucked into the corner, a desk. It was all he needed: a room full of books and a little desk.

When I first embarked on my NaNoWriMo journey (NaNoWhat? Catch up! I’m writing a novel!), I had big plans to turn our dining room into a writing room. After all, I need a good place to write, right? For the first few days, I did write in the dining room. I dragged my pretty upholstered chair up to the table, piled it high with pillows and encouraged the kitty to sit on my lap while I typed away. It was a good place to write: separated from the house, but not so far away that I felt alone, away from the distraction of the TV, but no so far from the steady spousal presence watching said TV. 
I got a lot of words written in those first few days, on that first weekend.
And then, I started taking my laptop along with me to work, bundling it into my bag, pulling it out on the subway and writing like mad for my 20 minute jaunt north. I get a lot of words written this way, so many, in fact, that in the evenings, I only need to write about 300 words. Somewhere along the way, I stopped sequestering myself and started pecking away at my word count in the evenings while watching old episodes of the X-Files on Netflix with the Husband. 
Then, on Sunday, I attended a write-in I was invited to at the Random House offices in downtown Toronto. I sat in a proper chair for four hours and didn’t get a sore bum. I sat at a board room table of an appropriate height. I plugged in my headphones and listened to some random Songza channel. Four hours. 3600 words. I left with a new appreciation for an appropriate writing environment.


Unfortunately, as pretty as they are, it’s not likely that any one of these offices or writing desks would cut it. Ergonomically comfortable chairs are not what I call attractive. My little club chair doesn’t cut it, being both too short and too squishy to sit properly at a desk. One day, when I have a dedicated office space, I’ll invest in one of those ugly, uber-comfy office chairs. I’ll fill the room with books and all the other little things that make me happy but don’t necessarily fit into the scheme of the rest of the house. 
Do you have a dedicated office? What do you need in order to be the most productive, the most creative you can be?

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NaNoWriMo, Day 19

Word Count: 31,934
18,066 words to go
1680 words per day, average

I always used to assume that I’m an introvert. I have even blogged about it! I get tired easily, especially around people; classic flag of an introvert. On top of that, in new situations, among new people, I can be a little shy until the moment I feel like I have found my footing and understand my place in a new group. I’m not always quick on my feet either; I like to listen, but until I’m comfortable in a situation, I don’t pipe up myself. This is something that only developed in my adult years, probably a self-defense mechanism from years as a bit of a precocious child who felt a little – hmm – out of place among her peers.

So, the past few days, I’ve been confused by myself. The past few months, really. Maybe even since last winter, when I attended the Canadian Design Bloggers Meetup, my first meet-strangers-from-the-Internet experience. Each event I attend*, each time I meet new people, each time I put myself out there among strangers with whom I may or may not click, I leave on an adrenaline high, already checking my calendar for the next time I get to do it all over again.

But wait. An introvert is supposed to be left exhausted by interaction, particularly large groups. And I have experienced that exhaustion. In fact, I regularly experience that exhaustion. But, here’s the thing: over the last few years, most of my social interaction has been with very close friends and with our church community. I love spending time with our friends – there’s no expectation, no assumption of behaviour and knowledge. On the other hand, I am the youth leader for our church. Weekly, I hang out with the high school age kids, talking about world issues and faith and the church. Of course that’s exhausting: preparing, leading discussions, teaching, encouraging thought. Is it possible that the task overshadows my interactions with other groups and people within the community? Is it possible that, within that context, I can’t turn it off, can’t sit back and enjoy the company of others without placing certain expectations on myself? And, therefore, without coming away from it exhausted?

 After the NaNoWriMo halfway party, followed by a write-in at the Random House offices, I think I’m finally ready to set aside the cloak of introversion. In a way, I think that is how a lot of people use the personality classifications, certainly how I used it, anyway, as a way to explain away behaviour and personality ticks. But can we actually be explained so easily? Are we not more complicated than a stereotype?

I thought a first that I would, instead, embrace being an ambivert – one who lands firmly in the middle of the spectrum, one who enjoys both time alone and time in groups. While I think it would likely be correct, I realize it’s not the point. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter what we are – extrovert, introvert, ambivert. One way or another, we don’t need to let these words define us. We don’t need to stay in need little lines, in neat little boxes. So, I guess I’m an introvert who sometimes looks and feels like an extrovert, but some weeks will decide to remain perfectly balanced as an ambivert.

* Since I began this blog, I have been to three blogging events, one photography photo walk, and, as of this past weekend, three NaNoWriMo events.

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A Little Box

I found this little box years ago, while I was in university, at a thrift store, Value Village probably. It’s a money box, complete with a subtle coin slot at the top of the box and and a section at the bottom that secretly slides out to allow you to get at your coins. It’s a little old fashioned, 70s or 80s maybe. Some might call it tacky, I guess. But I like it as simple and understated as it is.

On the weekend, I pulled it down off the shelf I had tucked it away on and lined it up with a couple candles on our glass coffee table, two afghans folded neatly beneath. It was day full of being house-happy, full of cleaning and shining and loving on our little bungalow. This little line of pretty things reminds me of our house, a house full of things that don’t really go together, but, when lined up, somehow bring home a complete sense of contentment. I’m sure it helps that the middle candle absolutely fills each corner with the delightful smell of cinnamon, of fall.

What has made you happy this week? I hope lots of things.

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My Schedule on NaNoWriMo

I failed at tracking my stats for you. You probably don’t care how many words I wrote yesterday. (It was my worst day in a long time.) But, I am still on track! This is where I’m at as of last night:

NaNoWriMo
Day 12
20,356 written
29,644 words to go

6:15 Alarm goes off. Ignore it for half an hour unless Kingsley whimpers in his crate and it’s my turn to wake up with him. 
6:45 Get ready. This involves showering, or at least splashing water on my face, getting dressed, putting on enough make-up to hide my pale, exhausted looking face, and either eating or packing breakfast and lunch. This may involve making coffee and pouring it into a traveller if I have time. This also involves packing my little red laptop, assuming I have, wisely, plugged it in the night before. The laptop is important.
7:30 Out the door. Down the street. Catch the bus. Flash my metropass. Squeeze into a seat between two people trying to spread out as much as they possibly can. Catch Subway Number 1. Probably stand.
8:00-ish Catch Subway Number 2. Get a seat. This always happens on this particular subway unless the TTC is having a very bad day. Pull out my little red laptop and turn it on. It loads up super fast because we installed Linux on it. Don’t ask it to run a web browser, but Open Office? It’s totally got this. Write like mad because there is absolutely nothing else to do for the 20 minutes that I’m on this particular subway. Finish with approximately 600 new words.
8:20-ish Save NaNoWriMo.doc. Close Open Office. Shut down the laptop. Stick it back in my bright yellow commuting bag. Go pick a bus to ride the rest of the way to work. 
8:30-ish-12:00 on the dot Don’t do anything related to NaNoWriMo. Except update my word count. And check the forums. Once. Well, maybe twice. Work. Write technical stuff. Maybe a little marketing piece or two. Maybe have a meeting. Think about how doomed my story is pretty much the whole time.
12:00 Lunch time! I’ve been doing my best to keep my blogging confined to the time in which I eat whatever I have brought with me for lunch. Occasionally, like yesterday, if I have a quick post planned, I’ll get it written up and posted in about 15 minutes at the start of the day. If I have nothing planned, I’ll wait until noon to figure it all out. This is different than pre-NaNo; I used to like to get things up as quickly as I could in the mornings. Now? I’m giving myself a little leeway.
1:00-4:30 Work, work, work. More writing. More editing. More various little bits of work related shtuff.
4:30 Climb on a bus. Then, Subway Number 2. Pull out the little red laptop. Power it on. Open NaNoWriMo.doc. Write, write, write. Finish with approximately 400 new words. Catch Subway Number 1, then the bus.
5:30 Get home. Greet the puppies. Snuggle the kitty. Hug the husband. Debate with my fridge about what supper should be tonight. End up with cheese and crackers. 
6:00-9:30 Write. Procrastinate. Visit the Toronto region NaNoWriMo forums. Maybe pop onto the chat room. Check Facebook, Blogger, Twitter. Read some inspiring blog posts and articles about World Issues. Write another sentence. Gripe to the husband about how I hate my story and how it’s so boring and how I don’t know how to save it and how I’m a terrible writer and should really just give up. Update my word count on the NaNoWriMo site every 50 words. Slog on. Get distracted by whatever the husband is watching on Netflix. Let Kingsley in and out about 5 times. Glare at my fridge every 20 minutes. Write another sentence. Hit my word count goal and quit immediately. 
9:30 Put my laptop down. Take the dogs for a walk, maybe. Watch something mindless on TV. Go to bed early. 
6:15 Start over.

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A Christmas Cactus

Last Christmas, I bought the Husband a little Christmas cactus. It was already blooming when I bought it, so we got to enjoy its pretty pink blossoms until they fell off mid-January or February. Since then, we’ve taken care of it as best as we can, watering it occasionally, but not too often, and giving it a bright and sunny space, but not right in direct sunlight.

Christmas cacti bloom at Christmas and, if cared for well, Easter. Ours did not bloom at Easter and I had little hope for Christmas. They can be tricky, picky things, easy to keep alive, difficult to encourage to thrive. So, I was excited, thrilled, when I saw little balls of light green form on the ends of the stem. Now, the buds are turning pink and my faith in our ability to keep houseplants is returning.

I suppose this is a sign that Christmas is on it’s way, but I can promise you, you won’t find a single Christmas bauble hanging in our house until December first.

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