Sunday, November 30, 2014

Nov. 30th: Last Day of NaNoWriMo

Racing to finish my last 5,000-ish words. I didn’t write two or three days this month, but this has still been a good discipline exercise for writing. I definitely took advantage of DigiWriMo (writing related to one's digital online presence), and aimed for 50k between TWO projects, my blog/tweeting and my creative fiction piece, so I was able to switch back and forth, which helped me keep some energy going. I definitely did have a couple days where I only wrote a couple hundred words, though. Hence the obligatory final weekend sprint…Yeek!   I’m so close, it would be sooo disappointing not to reach the goal. Been trying to figure out what scenes I’m missing, etc. The story’s definitely not done, so hopefully I can think of several more scenes?!   At the end of each evening, I find myself darting back to the NaNoWriMo progress page to add 20 or 50 words to the counter, just to see that it's still going up, and last night was no exception.
Final Row80 Update For November below! I am very curious to see how all of this will morph once NaNoWriMo’s over…
My goals for writing and life for “A Round of Words in 80 Days” are as follow:
1, 3. Blog Sketches, Vlog Idea: Not much (1 sketch). Energy has been totally focused elsewhere.
2. Blog Posts (10+ blog posts for November & December Two ROW80/NaNoWriMo update posts & one crafts-based post per week):  Sort of. This week’s been very distracted by the holiday, by trying to do more social stuff than normal, and by trying to write more of the fiction piece.
4. Creative Writing: I’ve had several good writing days. Several ideas for scenes that I’d previously had were actually written down in some form. I’m still behind, but the 50k (between projects 2 and 4) is still looking possible!
5. Tweet more Original Content & Reply to at least one ROW80 post or comment per update interval.  Continues. I’ve been dealing with NaNoWriMo & life. Twitter is an escape! Row80-ers are supportive! Run to the internet for peaceful oblivion! Chat with exclamation points and emojis (well…I still prefer variants of punctuation-based smiley faces over emojis).
6. Keep Up with Minimum Exercise Goals: Totally been distracted this week.  Gardened (and built "mushroom chandelier" parcels that will hang from the ceiling, and will hopefully produce mushrooms next month!) at a local organic farm & hiked last weekend, and acquired some very sore muscles, but nothing much exercise-wise has occurred in any of the days since. Although that mushroom chandelier just got incorporated into the creative writing project! Yay, life into art !  Yay, source material!
Wish me luck…I still really need it! Good luck to all you fellow straggling NaNoWriMo-ers, and congratulations if you’ve already completed your projects or rough drafts! And Goodbye, November, I really, really can’t believe you’re already over!! How did that happen?? Where did you gooo?

Update: Made it, with several hours to spare!  First year succeeding, Yay!

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving!

I hope you all have a great and happy Thanksgiving Day, Everyone!  Wherever you are (U.S. or no), I hope you can eat something tasty, watch a favorite show, or play a board game!  —Jackie

Sunday, November 23, 2014

How is it Thanksgiving Week??

How in the world is it Thanksgiving week already?? How is the NaNoWriMo validation already live? It went up on Thursday, November 20th—no pressure to my fellow writers who haven’t finished yet, either!  I can’t believe so many people in the forums were already at 30k—or even 70k, or even higher—by the 15th! I know we’re not supposed to compare ourselves to others in this challenge, but it’s hard sometimes when you see that and you’ve been hovering around 25k for days (I finally passed that marker and earned that last word count badge on the 19th—whew!)...
1, 3. Blog Sketches, Vlog Idea: Nothing new. Still dancing around new ideas but not really devoting energy to them.
2. Blog Posts (10+ blog posts for November & December, revised to one or two ROW80/NaNoWriMo update posts & one crafts-based post per week):  I'm definitely slowing down, but I’ve keeping been up so far…barely. The ROW80 updates are much easier, since I have an outline and a deadline. The creative posts require more planning, research, photography, and editing.
4. Creative Writing: This has been going very slowly. I’m still chugging along. My monthly goal of 50k (which I’ve split between the blogging and the fiction) is still falling behind. But I am writing regularly every day, and pushing for a little more out of each session. Taking a break is so attractive, though. I want to nap, watch or read. But I also want to know where this story is going, which is a bit perplexing and exciting.
5. Tweet more Original Content & Reply to at least one ROW80 post or comment per update interval.  Continues. My tweeting output has definitely dropped, while I’ve been dealing with NaNoWriMo & life. But I still enjoy the community aspect.
6. Keep Up with Minimum Exercise Goals: My minimum personal goal is still 3/3/3 (3+ sets each of counter push-offs, planks, and jumping jacks, for 3+ days in a row). I continue to do some exercises and stretches each day, although not necessarily those three specifically.
I love Thanksgiving.  More than other holidays, Thanksgiving features homemade food and quiet social time.  I get roasted squash, mashed and sweet potatoes, stuffing (or dressing, as some call it), fruit pies, and spiced apple cider…with an extra helping of board games and holiday movies. This year’s festivities will be a little different, but that means there’s also less that I, personally, need to take care of. So hopefully that means more time to write and think about writing?
The holiday of Thanksgiving has a very questionable past, full of colonialism, conquest, and the sugar-coating of history, but it has come to represent the United States in a very big way, and is one of my favorite holidays because it represents what I cherish: rather than making a patriotic or commercial statement for others to see, Thanksgiving is about gathering together with your friends and family, and celebrating your community by spending time together and eating home-cooked food--and munching on all the delicious leftovers for days, which is one of my favorite parts of Thanksgiving.  This also stretches the holiday into a multi-day affair in my mind! 
If you’re crazy, Thanksgiving also represents manically shopping together. This is still technically bonding time, but why anyone would voluntarily subject themselves to the growing frenzy and mob-experience that is the hours of mid-night lines and stampeding crowds during Black Friday, I cannot say. I once assisted a manager during a Black Friday, and it consisted of me standing in a mountain of clothing in a secondary, blocked-off dressing room, hanging clothes on hangers and sorting them into nice little bunches by which floor section of the Juniors Department they belonged in. I would hand out an armful to a sales associate, so that she could quickly put them away before helping another customer. And then another sales associate would dart in, and so on. That mountain of clothing shrank and grew, hour after hour after hour, but I sure felt helpful!   I was glad that I knew the department well enough to make a difference in that way (plus, it was a completely helpful, valid excuse not to be out in that crazy throng).
Sometimes at Thanksgiving, we will supplement our homemade food with some pre-made sides, or a turkey. This is always very convenient, but it makes me think about a story a friend mentioned a couple years ago, about going into those rotisserie shops to pick up a big Thanksgiving package of food, and seeing people sitting around, quietly eating their little Thanksgiving meals all by themselves. On the one hand, they were honoring the holiday, and making it a little special, and on the other hand, they were hanging out solo during a communal holiday at a semi-fast food establishment… Which meant they either didn’t have someone to share the day with, or they had chosen not to. Who’s to say what their lives are? But those options feel kind of sad to think about…
Thanksgiving has become a great holiday in the U.S. in another way (similarly to Christmas), where you can donate your food or your time to others, to make their struggles a little bit lighter. In college, and at some of the places I’ve worked since, Thanksgiving has been a great time to volunteer at a food bank or a soup kitchen, or even just to pull those non-perishables that you’ll honestly never get around to eating out of your cupboard and pass them on. You can even just add an extra canned or boxed Thanksgiving ingredient to your Thanksgiving grocery run, and add it to one of the donation barrels that live at the front of most grocery stores during this season. And we can wish people working on Thanksgiving “Happy Holidays,” at bare minimum.
Whether you celebrate or not, I hope you are all able to be with friends or family sometime this week, and that you have a moment to eat something special. Or just go on a walk, and enjoy a moment of quiet, and smell the fresh air! Hopefully you have some refreshing air within reach, where ever you may be this week!

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Patchwork & Mending as Art in Japan: Wabi-Sabi, Kintsugi, & Sashiko

A lot of classic Western aesthetics seem to focus on perfection and the hiding of any natural imperfection behind a mask—ladies in magazines are airbrushed beyond recognition, and art restoration is as subtle and camouflaged as possible.  When restoring a painting, sculpture, or textile, the colors used are neutral or are matched as closely as possible to the artist’s original color palette.  In contrast, the Japanese techniques of “Kintsugi” and “Sashiko” place the damaged areas front and center, turning the repair from a “flaw” into a “feature.”

I always though that the Japanese aesthetic of “Wabi-Sabi” was an interesting contrast to the modern, sleek, perfect Japanese visuals that most of us see and think of as quintessentially “Japanese.”  “Wabi-Sabi” looks at the beauty and significance in imperfection, irregularity, or impermanence.  “Wabi” refers to the loneliness and simplicity of living in nature, while “sabi” refers to the withered or rusted, and the beauty and peace that come from age.  Together, they draw the eye to the simple, quiet, understated qualities of life, aging, and impermanence.  In wabi-sabi, an artist is understood to be limited by materials and technology, and general wear and tear are accepted as a natural result of life and function.  Any evidence of that erosion, or repairs to that damage, are highlighted as a focal point of beauty or meditation.  As an example, prized cups for tea ceremonies, while skillfully-made, are often more rough-looking, and may be deliberately chipped.  These mugs are also painted with glazes that by nature change color with repeated exposure to hot water.

I feel that this aesthetic of wabi-sabi is directly related to the gorgeous practices of Kintsugi and Sashiko.

Practiced since the 15th century, “Kintsugi” (“Golden Joinery”), or “Kintsukuroi” (“Golden Repair”), was a popular Japanese artistic technique that was used to repair valuable china.  A lacquer resin would be mixed with a powdered precious metal like silver, gold, or platinum.  This metallic mixture would then be used to fill in and re-join the ceramic shards of the broken piece.  If a large shard were missing, the area could be filled in with the gold lacquer or a shard from a completely different piece (the ceramic equivalent of a patch).  The resulting piece would be a newly-functional bowl or cup with gleaming seams of gold or silver radiating through it.

The effect was so beautiful that kintsugi pieces were used in tea ceremonies and were collected as works of art—some ceramic collectors were accused of deliberately smashing their ceramics in order to increase their collections!

Sashiko is a textile technique that developed around the 17th century in the Japanese working class.  Patchwork was used to repair, strengthen, and insulate clothing, and the use of contrasting threads and fabrics created a strong visual effect.  Potential brides were judged on their sashiko abilities, and firemen wore wet, sashiko-quilted robes for protection when fighting fires. 

Many fabrics and colors are used in sashiko embroidery now, but the classic look was usually of a white thread outlining a dark blue, indigo-dyed patch--indigo at the time was a readily available, long-lasting dye, and was used as a repellant.  A running stitch was used to create the bright, dotted lines around the edges of the patches, as well as the embroidered designs featured on some patches.  Sashiko is most associated now with white-on-blue embroidery that features flowers, animals, and beautiful geometric patterns, but red thread was also occasionally used for some traditional ceremonial pieces.

For some lovely examples of Kintsugi and Sashiko, check out these great google images.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Looming Threats (ROW80 Update)

Quiet week so far.  The writing continues, albeit super slowly...

I never watched the third season of "Avatar."  I've been slowly re-watching the first two "Books," and now I am finally starting "Fire." 

I feel that the threat of a natural or foreign disaster is a common enemy in exciting stories, and Avatar manages to combine them both.  The expansionist Fire Nation is threatening the existence of the two remaining nations, the Earth and Water tribes.  But in the coming months, there will be an eclipse, and then a comet.  The first will block the sun, the Fire Nation's energy source, and the second will re-double their power.  So there is definitely a time limit in place.
In my own story, a plague continues to spread across the "Kingdom," despite the diligent efforts of many healers.  One of those healers is making a rash or brave decision to investigate other stricken towns, in the hopes of figuring out what the common elements are.  But what has kept the select few safe so far?  And can they remain "protected"?  Also, how urgently does she need to find the cure?  I'm still struggling to decide whether the sickness is natural or unnatural, unnatural meaning magical or constructed with harmful (or well-meaning) intent.  There continue to be TOO MANY CHOICES.

ROW80 Update.  To refresh your memory, "A Round of Words in 80 Days" is a set of personal daily/weekly goals, that I am trying to accomplish within a period of 80 days.  It's a sort of friendly online-accountability system--ROW80-ers try to focus on their own writing and self-improvement by setting small, achievable goals, and post twice-weekly status updates.  These updates include successfully achieved goals and goal revisions, but also try to lay out our continuing struggles.

1. Blog Sketches: Nothing new.
2. Blog Drafts (10+ blog posts for November & December, revised to two ROW80/NaNoWriMo update posts & one crafts-based post per week):  I'm definitely slowing down.  But so far so good!
3. Vlog Idea: Nothing new.
4. Creative Writing: My characters are still fighting a plague.  I've been discussing possible causes with a couple friends, trying to define the rules of the disaster.  The big question to decide is whether there is a master-mind, or whether this has all been the result of a huge, tragic accident...
5. Tweet more Original Content & Reply to more ROW80 posts/comments.  Same.
6. Keep Up with Minimum Exercise Goals: My minimum personal goal is still 3/3/3 (3+ sets each of counter push-offs, planks, and jumping jacks, for 3+ days in a row). I continue to sort of meet this (some exercises and stretches each day, although not necessarily those three in particular).

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Creative Writing Slump (ROW80 Update)


Hi, Everyone!  How are we at the start of Week 3 already??

As some of you may remember, I am combining the "National Novel Writing Month" goal with the "Digital Writing Month" goal--I'm still trying to write 50k this month, but for me that means half my words are in online content, and half are in creative writing.  So far, the blog writing has been much easier--I get to talk about things that have happened, and what they made me think of, while the creative writing is WAY more stymied by choices.

There was a DigiWriMo prompt last week that made me very uncomfortable. I’ve been thinking about it off and on this week.
Here is an excerpt of the challenge:
Digital Writing Prompt: Revealing the Play, not the Polish
(November 10, 2014, by Chris Friend for

For this challenge, we’re getting vulnerable.
    1. Upload your current work in its current form. It’s not finished, and that’s perfect.
    2. Tweet a link to your work. Be sure to use the #digiwrimo hashtag.
    3. You may also want to tweet about how it feels to publicize something that’s still unfinished. Talk about the unfinished nature of your work: What would you like to get from reviewers? What makes this vulnerability awkward or scary?

Art and fruitful living are supposed to be about stepping outside your comfort zone, and considering or experiencing new things. But the idea of putting something rough and awkward online awakens my inner social anxiety bot. It would be misshapen like that, and would represent me--and my work--forever. And it wouldn’t say what I wanted it to say. And yet, at the same time, this anxiety seems kind of silly, since so much of the art I like to make, while also feeding my inner perfectionist, is about letting go of control and embracing the one-of-a-kind imperfect quality that comes with making something by hand, and letting the other person have some control over the interpretation. 

But I still want the control over how it gets put out there…

NaNoWriMo/DigiWriMo/ROW80 Update: I had a lot of time, but I succumbed to gloominess and did not write much this week.

1. Blog Sketches: Still at 15. Not shabby, but this definitely also trailed off this week (I only drew 1 doodle).
2. Blog Drafts (Pre-writing 10+ blog posts for November & December, revised to be two ROW80/NaNoWriMo update posts & one crafts-based post per week):  I continue to be 2 blog-posts ahead.  It is not the "cache of material" I envisioned, but it works.
3. Vlog Idea: I need better lighting, and more energy. This has not progressed.
4. Creative Writing: I’ve written a couple more chapters (scenes, really), but I’m a bit stuck on where to take the story. My characters are fighting a plague, and I’m trying to decide how much of a traditional “hero’s quest” should really be necessary. And whether this should be the main point/arc of the story, or just an interval in the characters' histories.
5. Tweet more Original Content & Reply to more ROW80 posts/comments.  Same. I added up my tweets for Nov 1-14. A huge chunk are, unsurprisingly, commentary and discussion about our writing projects (it's very meta...).  Even with my tweeting (and writing) less this week, my tweets for the month have already passed 5,000. Admittedly, some of those words are “retweeted by @fiberverse” and links (which count as 3-4 words), but that’s part of what twitter is, so I’m trying not to be too self-critical about what to count or edit out for the word count. Also, part of my goal of studying my tweets was to see just how much of my content really was re-posting others’ content.
6. Keep Up with Minimum Exercise Goals: My minimum personal goal is still 3/3/3 (3+ sets each of counter push-offs, planks, and jumping jacks, for 3+ days in a row). Sort of keeping up, but not surpassing, which is a long-term goal.

The big challenge for the week will be pushing past the "Week 2 slump," and figuring out what to do about analyzing and curing my plague.  Some crazy people have already finished the 50k, but I'm trying not to pay too much attention to them this year (with varied success).  And I do appreciate how encouraging everyone is on the various forums!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Dear Plot (ROW80 Update)

I hope everyone is having a nice week? The above sketch is of a super hero researching and solving a problem.  I'm hoping to somehow get my heroine to this stage.  How remains unclear...

Let's get right to ROW80 ("A Round of Words in 80 Days") goal updates:

1. Blog Sketches: Still fun, still giving me a quick, physically-creative outlet, although the pace has slowed. 15 doodles and counting.
2. Blog Drafts (pre-writing 10+ blog posts for November & December): I’m still keeping up, although still only one or two posts ahead.  I've revised my mental goals to incorporate two ROW80/NaNoWriMo update posts and one crafts-based post per week.
3. Vlog Idea: Nothing new here. Been more focused on blogging and writing.
4. Creative Writing. Things proceed apace! I always tend to start a story, and then trail off with no idea of how to finish it. But this “novella” idea has really caught my fancy, and it’s been really neat to watch it grow. I’m very attached to the characters and the writing style, although I’m trying not to obsess or edit too much. 

I’ve figured out that in Scrivener, one 5-line paragraph is approximately 100 words (and 6 sentences). So whenever I sit down to this project, I’ve been asking myself to “just write one 100-word paragraph (but hopefully, two).” It feels less scary that way. And just like the “one push up” rule that I really like:
If you do just one of something (X), you’re
A) Accomplishing more than zero (Yay!); and
B) Drastically increasing the likelihood that you’ll do more than one, since it’s easier to continue if you’ve already started doing X (Double-Yay!).
5. (Tweet more Original Content &) Reply to more ROW80 posts/comments.  Same. I really appreciate everyone else’s input, so I feel I ought to participate in the reply/interaction phase.
6. Keep Up with Minimum Exercise Goals: My minimum personal goal of 3/3/3 (3 sets each of counter push-offs, planks, and jumping jacks, for 3 days in a row) is still being imperfectly met. I’m doing a little stretching, but I know I need to do more, for mental/physical/psychological well-being, general longevity and the knots in my shoulders. I’m still hoping my writing discipline will carry over into exercise discipline a bit more.
I have only met (and surpassed) the daily minimum once so far. But I think my word counts have been steadily rising (although Monday's writing was very uninspired and short). It feels like I’m constantly 3,500-4,500 words below the marker, though. Some advice I’ve read about keeping up with NaNoWriMo goals:
1) Use one of the online writing sites that give you rewards or penalties, and write until you reach their minimum of 750, or 1,667, etc.
2) White out your font, so that you can’t obsess over how many words you see. I’m not sure if this strategy would work for me, since I like to refer to the chapter I am working on, but I could see how it would turn off your inner editor, and force a more stream-of-consciousness type of writing.
3) I saw this strategy in the NaNoWriMo forum on Reddit in a post by user General_Discord, and I really like it: Turn your novel into 30 short stories (in reality, or just in your mind). Instead of writing a 50k novel, your challenge becomes writing a 1,667 word story every day during the month. Then it’s more like Blogtober, etc. It’s up to you whether you want these stories to feature the same people, or even the same world. I think part of why this strategy appeals to me is that I’ve already been writing very short chapters--each of my “chapters” is a single scene, or a short interval. I switch to a different character’s point of view every 250-1,500 words (whenever I finish the idea or scene in my head). My single character description became three character descriptions, then three character arcs set in two locations, each with their own casts of supporting characters and spacial layouts, using this method.
4) I also typed up  short-hand lists of the characters, locations, and rooms in my Great Hall, because I was starting to get confused. They are not set in stone, but it’s helping me remember who does what, and who’s related to whom (I know a couple people are other character’s “nieces” or “nephews,” even though I haven’t yet figured out how! Also, one of my Elders seems to be the sibling of another character, who doesn’t seem as old in my mind, so I may need some revision down the road). I’m including these notes (columns of names and short phrases) in my word count, since I think it will help me to keep my family trees, etc., in the same document as my writing. I tend to scribble on scraps of paper, and these scraps all get mixed together and shuffled off into corners.

For some added entertainment or energy, check out this NaNoWriMo forum thread, “Dear Plot.” It is a thread of letters from various writers to their missing (or mutating, or progressively darkening) plots:
Short and sweet:
Dear plot,
10K in and you've failed me. Where on earth are you? I miss you and need you. 
Please come back. 
Love, Phillip R 
A much chattier letter, that invites the plot to really sit down and think about what it's doing: 
Dear Plot,
I think we both know where this is headed. I'm cool with that and all, and thank you SO much for letting me get that outline finished, but I'm a little worried that you aren't concerned about whether I come off as a total creep. You don't get to be a horror story this time around. I thought we talked about that. Is something going on? Can I help? Do you want to talk maybe? I'm here listening if you need me.
Please let me write about you without freaking out and hiding in the corner every 300 words. I am not judging you, I promise. We're done with that. Can you maybe tell me about your beginning in a little more detail? Or the characters I haven't fleshed out yet? I need to write about them too. C'mon. I'm way behind on my wordcount.
I don't mean to be pushy here, but keep in mind that I'm your god. You really wanna go there?
Your Only Chance at Existing
For a slightly odder experience, the “Character Graveyard” thread contains short eulogies for characters who have been killed off…and some of the eulogies are preemptive.

One of my favorites:
RIP in advance to Allison Morphy. 
I'm sorry Travers will shoot you dead.
He's not, though. 
Also, all the rats. No offense, guys, but you were in the wrong place at the wrong time.

This person experienced less remorse, but still wanted to commemorate the fallen:
R.I.P in advance to the about 100 people that died to the main subject of my novel. Will not be missed, I don't even know your names.
So, what would I write to my own plot right now?:
Dear Plot,
I hope you are well.  You seem a bit all over the place, although the different character arcs might actually be happening in the same world now, so that's great!
What I would really like to know, in proceeding, is whether this spreading plague is of magical or natural origin?  Because that will really effect how H needs to research it and ultimately defeat it. 
I know I could write a little for each possible scenario, to test things out, but I really feel you've been logically progressing in all arcs so far, and I would prefer to pick one type of world and stick with it.  But both do seem attractive.  How are you feeling about this?
Let me know, soon, please!
Thanks, again, and talk to you soon,

Good luck with your own writing! 

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Sunday Check-In (ROW80)

Hello, Everyone!
Well, it was super-chilly in Southern California for the Halloween/Dia de los Muertos weekend, and it rained, and I wore leggings and sweatshirts every day, and everyone around me craved soup (I’ve never seen a line at our favorite Vietnamese place before), and I pulled out more blankets to huddle under, and I missed my parents’ snuggly, warm, fluffy kitties.  The mountain near us was surrounded by thick, gray clouds, and sported the first gorgeously white snow-cover of the year. Much delicious tea and hot cocoa was drunk.
And then all of a sudden, mid-week, a switch flipped back, and it's been high-80’s again ever since (don’t hate us—you probably get gorgeous, *real* seasons, like autumnal foliage and super-green summers!   We do get oodles of warm weather, but we also get a lot of brown scenery and harsh, desert sun…). So now I’m back to getting overheated just sitting in front of the laptop, even with a glass of ice water to keep me company…

NaNoWriMo/DigiWriMo/ROW80 Goal Progress:
To remind you, "A Round of Words in 80 Days" is a goal-system where people publish small, attainable writing and life goals, and twice-weekly updates on said targets, over a period of 80 days.  A lot of the goals in this current 80-day block pertain to "National Novel Writing Month" and "Digital Writing Month," which are popular global challenges to write 50k words (a novel, blog posts, etc.) in the month of November.  See here for a brief overview, as well as links to all the websites.  

I'm still ahead on my ROW80 goals & behind on my NaNoWriMo/DigiWriMo 50k goal...However, if you count revisions for final blog posts, I have still been technically writing every day this month, which is a definite personal accomplishment (when I revised and published my Wednesday blog post, I only ended up netting about 290 words for the day...but it was still more than I had had that morning!).

Also, I taught Scrivener to recognize “vlog” and “blog” (and “NaNoWriMo,” and “DigiWriMo”) as valid words!

1. Blog Sketches: Still on a roll. It’s nice to be drawing regularly again—it’s the only way to keep your hand-eye coordination, and there isn’t a lot of pressure in making the doodles. I’m still trying to use some in every blog-post.  14 doodles and counting.
2. Blog Drafts (pre-writing 10+ blog posts for November & December): This is definitely the slowest part. I’m still easily distracted, so I'm only 2 posts ahead. And whenever I get a nice collection of blog entries, I get impatient to post them more frequently, which kind of defeats the purpose.  But it’s nice to be posting regularly, again—and these ROW80 updates and doodles are also giving me more ideas!
3. Vlog (scripts & shoots): I have not done anything new with my own project idea, but a friend and I did finally shoot a project we had been discussing.  See more below.
4. Creative Writing. I’m still not sure where I’m going with this, but a short character description that I wrote early in the week has slowly become three character descriptions and the beginnings of a story! I’ve adopted a couple plots from the NaNoWriMo Adoption Society, but I don't know how much I'll use either of them…


5. Tweet more Original Content/Reply to ROW80 comments.  Still trying to make more of my tweets contain my own words, even if it's just me quoting someone/something that strikes a chord or entertains me. The Twitter chats have become much-needed, fun social-time (Hello, Twitter-Buddies!). And I really appreciate the ROW80-ers who’ve given me feedback and encouragement, so I feel I ought to attempt the same.
6. NEW-ish: Exercise has been neglected this past week. I still need to do my daily stretches.  I also have a minimum personal goal of 3/3/3 that I need to get back to (3 sets each of counter push-offs, planks, and jumping jacks, for 3 days in a row).

What else?

It’s been fun to be doing this creative push—I really do get energy out of seeing other people being creative and pushing themselves. Watching Twitter and Facebook buddies posting daily during Inktober and Blogtober is really what propelled me into doing creative stuff this month in the first place. It’s so easy to forget, when you’re in an apathetic slump, that being creative spawns more energy and more creative ideas.

I’ve done a couple write-ins with friends, but I still haven’t decided if I want to participate in any of the organized meet-ups (several of the local libraries are supporting daily write-ins). It seems like it would be a strange social/anti-social crowd, a group of people at laptops companionably ignoring each other at best. But it would theoretically be helpful to have outside help with developing self-discipline/accountability.

I have noticed that I will definitely “avoid” one writing assignment (usually the creative writing one), to write a more simple thing (for example: this post was started on Wednesday night, while I was struggling with where to go next with my fiction project!).

A friend who is a NaNo-veteran commented to me mid-week that she didn't think I was "committed to writing a 50k novel," and so I automatically was unlikely to succeed.  I think she was correct.  But I am pleased that I've been knuckling down more and progressing steadily with my creative writing "idea" over the last six days, and it’s been nice to see my word count slowly approaching the NaNo minimums (I say "idea," because I don't exactly know where it's going, but I've been getting just enough inspiration to continue adding to it daily since I started it on November 4th). And I am happy with the prospect of a month’s-worth of writing, evenly split between blog and novella.
And finally: SLIME
Yesterday I got several cream pies to the face, and I got slimed.  Yes, really.  Eleven years ago, some friends and I had shot several short cream-pie skits, and this past year two of us had been knocking around the idea of a new script.  We finally set everything up and shot it on Friday.  There were several awkward dry runs (we could NOT remember our lines), but the shot itself went very smoothly.  By the end, I bore a slight resemblance to a gloppy She-Hulk.
My friend's containment-plan of a kiddy pool over a tarp worked quite well.  Here's a shot of me in the mid-clean-up phase.  I am attempting to shovel the slime into the smaller bucket--it was a relatively successful strategy, despite appearances!
Another shot from a bit later.  This one makes me think of She-Hulk at her side-job of professional painter:
All of the slime (cake batter and food-safe dye) did, in fact, wash out of these clothes!

Good luck to everyone this week, in your writing and crafting endeavors!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Writing Tips

(Or, "Advice I’ve gleaned from fellow Bloggers, NaNoWriMo-ers, and ROW80-ers")

  1. Set small, specific goals.
It’s easy to get discouraged or overwhelmed if you have a huge goal that you are consistently not meeting.  And how can you meet it, anyway, if it’s so undefined?  I find that I shy away from the huge responsibilities like “write a novel,” or “clean the house,” or “clear out your closets.”  But I’m more likely to actually do something if it’s a tangible, focused goal.  The trick seems to be to focus on precise, quantifiable goals, rather than end-products.  Well-defined steps might actually happen, because they are smaller, more tangible tasks that won’t take hours and hours to address.  Tasks that constantly loom over me are huge and scary and vague and are to be avoided at all costs. 

Small goals that only take 15-30 minutes are automatically less threatening, especially if they’re something that you have to get to but don’t anticipate enjoying.  But I’m theoretically supposed to want to write, right?  And 1,667 words a day, while more than I usually write in one sitting, sounds like much less than 50,000 words in a month, right? 

I wrote a long post Saturday night, and then I stayed up late, and I was sooo tired.  It was soooo hard to envision a whole month of writing.  Even 1,667 words seemed like way too much of a hassle.  But if I look at things through a microscope, I do actually want to update my photo gallery, and write about neat things I’ve discovered on the internet, and I want to share my latest cute plushie ideas and my Jane Austen costume--they're fun, and I'm proud of them!  And that leads us to:

  1. Look at things from a different perspective.
We all signed up to do something crazy like NaNoWriMo or DigiWriMo because we technically WANT to write, correct?  Some idea was so inspiring, or fun, or we just wanted to overcome the fear, or we wanted to connect to other creative people.  Last year, people from all over the world contributed to a single novel during DigiWriMo!  What a neat, collaborative, creative, technology-inspired idea!  So why can NaNoWriMo just feel like a guilt-tripping, overwhelming amount of WORK?

Personal Example: Decluttering
I am not a hoarder, but I do put way too much emotional meaning into belongings, and it is hard for me to let anything go.  Plus, I might NEED things like extra Q-tips or pretty ribbon, right?  But as I stated in my Sunday post, this last spring I got rid of over 30 bags of belongings.  How did I do it?  Well, to begin with, I knew I was moving.  And the stress of lugging boxes, and punishing other, helpful people by having them lug them for me, can automatically make things less precious (although I still moved plenty--thanks, again!). 

Secondly, I tried to subscribe to the “$20 or less rule.”  If it costs less than $20, and it’s easily replaceable and has no sentimental value, and you won’t need it for months, then it’s not worth the financial and mental effort of packing and storing and moving.  Why keep packing and moving scented soap and tiny glass vases, when I don’t even put them out to be used?  “I might need them?”  Well, I haven’t needed them, yet—I haven’t use scented soap since I had an allergic reaction, and my shelves are already full of books and artwork, and knick-knacks always need to be dusted, and even if I did put out more of my display pieces, I would choose something with more meaning than a $2 vase, anyway…DONATE PILE.  Spice jars and decorative tea boxes?  Now, those, I will use daily.  KEEP.

Thirdly, I started keeping a “Donate” box that I would toss things into, and as soon as it was full it would be taken to the donation center.  And I kept track of how many bags-worth had exited the apartment.  That way I constantly had a feeling of accomplishment and we had an increasingly roomier living-space.  While there was always plenty more clutter to be dealt with, it was really important to morale to see that progress was constantly being made (hence my NaNoWriMo-style progress graph).

Fourthly, a friend suggested that I actively GIVE some of my belongings to friends or acquaintances that I thought WOULD use them.  I donated a box of craft supplies that I had no plans for to a group of friends who make costumes on a regular basis, on the understanding that they were under no obligation to keep anything that didn’t seem useful.  I pulled my childhood stuffed animals out of the box they lived in, hugged them and took a picture of them, and then I donated them to a friend’s toddler on the understanding that if she did not love them, I would get them back.  Using this strategy, I started thinking of the donation bags as going TO someone who would use and enjoy them, instead of AWAY FROM ME.  I was not using those toys or craft supplies. I was preventing someone from enjoying them by keeping them in a box.

Fifthly, I started thinking about sorting through all of my clothes differently.  I pulled out all of the sweaters and dresses that I didn’t wear, and the clothes I’d been meaning to try altering, and I asked myself is someone else would enjoy them more.  Now, this is absolutely not to say that I’m a minimalist now.  I have tons of suitcases of clothes for various situations—one for camping and outdoorsy activities, one for sweaters, one for jackets, a couple garment bags of fancier things.  But “I might need this someday” did become “try on all the cute sweaters and remove the ones that don’t flatter you, because someone else will LOVE them.” “These are cute shoes that actually sort of fit me and it’s hard for me to find shoes and I might wear them someday” became “make a pile of the cute shoes that hurt your feet and therefore never ever ever get worn, and let someone else enjoy them, and you’ll finally be able to fit all of your shoes in one box, woo!” “Sure, you could chop off the bottom of that dress to try making it a shirt, but it’s been sitting there for 2 years, and someone else would look great in that cute dress, and it’s so tight at the mid-section that it always rides up annoyingly anyway.”  Keeping clothes that are comfortable and flattering, and imagining someone else finding a treasure you donated, is way more fun that “letting go of” pretty back-up items.

If you’re participating in NaNoWriMo or DigiWriMo, you’re LETTING yourself be crazy and artistic and uncensored and obsessed about something for an entire month.  And you have the excuse that, well, “you’re a writer!”  If part of your novel feels like a chore, jot down a couple notes about where you think that scene is going, and then go write a character back story or a fight scene instead!  By the time you get back to the first scene, maybe you’ll have solved the mental puzzle and will have a better solution to whatever was torturing you, anyway.  Or you could try purposefully writing a scene that ends differently from your plotted storyline, or is told from a different character's point of view.  Maybe you’ll find that the villain is more interesting than your protagonist, or you’ll learn something about your characters, and who knows, you could always end up using both perspectives in your final novel, or turn one of the alternate versions into a dream sequence if it’s really good.

Or, you could be like me, and try writing NaNoWriMo Rebel-style on several social media platforms, and try to synthesize things you read into your own project.

  1. “Learn to Fail Small”
As Kait Nolan says in this blog post, we tend to think of goals as “all or nothing,” which is very discouraging and not very helpful.  Instead, we should accept that life happens, we didn’t achieve a specific goal that one time, and move on.  Either accept that the goal was unrealistic and change it, or move on, and simply try not to compound that failure.  If you don’t write that day, make sure that you write the next day, so that you haven’t “failed” two days in a row.  And remember that you’re still making progress.  Try not to sabotage your goals, and focus on the now and the joy of writing and being creative, instead of the potential pay-off or the possible obstacles.  According to some sources, starting anywhere primes your brain and makes it more likely that you will continue or even finish the task.  And while some studies suggest that looking at something as a failure can prime you to give up completely, re-framing that scenario to focus on your accomplishments can keep you focused and motivated (see this list of the interesting studies that Kait Nolan is referring to).

4. When in doubt, borrow or accept help.
If you do a search on Twitter for #NaNoWriMo or #DigiWriMo, or you go to one of their websites, you can find dozens of ideas for writing or transmedia projects.  Maybe one of them will catch your attention.  Or you can ask other participants for advice or feedback.  And if you're working on a piece of fiction, there's a lovely forum where you can "Adopt" characters and plot suggestions that writers have lovingly "donated."  You can find the Adoption Society forum here.

Whether the idea germinated in your brain or someone else's, anything you write or create will automatically become a unique piece.  In art, we often call this "appropriation"--although keep in mind that it's important to acknowledge anyone who's influenced your work.  It's also important to learn the difference between appropriation and plagiarism!

DigiWriMo/ROW80 Goal Progress:
I'm currently ahead on my ROW80 goals, & behind on my NaNoWriMo/DigiWriMo 50k goal...

1. Blog Sketches: 10 sketches in 4 days!  So far so good.  Not sure I have enough ideas to keep doing “Fall” or “November” drawings, but we'll see.  I am also still trying to use the blog material to inspire at least one sketch per (written) blog post--at this rate, some sketches may continue to be posted independently.
2. Blog Drafts: Pre-writing blog posts for November & December: On track so far (3 done), although it’s only the first week—I am trying to move away from writing about writing, and back to writing about crafting.  But obviously the writing is a bit of a focal point this month, so we'll see.
3. Vlog (scripts & shoots): I have not done anything new with this.
4. NEW: Creative Writing. I wrote a character description that feels like the start of a story.  I have no idea what to do with her...
5. NEW: Tweet more Original Content.  I love re-tweeting, but I would like to continue making more of my tweets contain my own words, even if it's just me live-tweeting a movie, or quoting an author.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

On NaNoWriMo, DigiWriMo, & Write-A-Thons

Nov. 1st, 2014
I’ve been browsing online all day, jumping from blog to blog, learning about all of the different kinds of “write-a-thons” that are going on right now.

In October, as many of you may have seen, we had “Inktober” and “Blogtober,” a lovely pair of challenges where people tried to complete a drawing or a blog post every day.  It was neat to see people sharing their creativity all over Twitter, Tumblr, and Facebook.

And, of course, starting today, thousands of people all over the world will be participating in “National Novel Writing Month” (also referred to as "NaNoWriMo"), a challenge to churn out a 50,000 word rough draft of a novel that takes place every November.  NaNoWriMo has also started having “Writing Camps” in other months, where people can set their own goals.

Then there’s another write-every-day push that takes place every April, which is called the “A to Z Challenge.”  Writers write on different topics that are inspired by each letter of the alphabet (the participants skip every Sunday, so that they have built-in rest days and exactly 26 days to blog).  This challenge can of course be done in any month, if you need a little extra inspiration or whimsy, although I do think that knowing that you have a whole community working at the same time as you can be encouraging when your mental energy is lagging.

The marathon that I am currently considering is called “Digital Writing Month” ("DigiWriMo").  It’s a more recent version of NaNoWriMo which also takes place in November, but which seems to be a little more flexible.  Participants can choose whether social media content, like Twitter tweets and Blog posts, should also count towards their 50,000 word writing goal.  For example, one person counted the 10,000+ words in tweets and the 32,000+ words that he churned out in emails every month towards his baseline 50,000 word goal—and his overarching goal was to be more conscious about WHAT he wrote (link here).  Another person might only count scripts, or poetry (some DigiWriMo-ers try to tweet haikus!).

I also discovered “A Round of Words in 80 Days” (#ROW80).  This global challenge seems very attractive in that it encourages more of a lifestyle of writing or creating, as opposed to a short-burst marathon per se.  Participants set their own personal goals for the 80-day period (the current block is October 6th to December 25th).  These often pertain to writing (e.g. “I will write 250 words every morning, or for half an hour, whichever ends sooner,” or “I will publish 3 blog posts a week”), but can also include personal goals, such as researching how to put out a newsletter, or walking 4 times a week.  Then they link their blog to all of the other participants’ blogs (through a Linkytool or by using the hashtag #ROW80 in Twitter).  The participants all post updates on their goals twice-weekly on their blogs, including whether they have modified any, and they can also use the links to check on each other and offer feedback, advice, and encouragement.  This challenge also seems to be very forgiving, in that people can join a round at any time, and everyone is free to modify their goals as they test them out.

I can see the appeal of NaNoWriMo and DigiWriMo, in that they encourage you to take the plunge, to make a controlled burst of uncensored effort when you know that others around the world are also trying.  You try to jump past the fear, since you won’t actually ever have to show anyone what you’ve made, and you also know that there is a tangible endpoint in sight.  On the other hand, ROW80 gives you much more flexibility, both in terms of what kind of goals you prefer to concentrate on, as well as how you want to fit creativity and writing into your regular life on a more long-term level.

I tried NaNoWriMo for the first time last year.  My friends have been doing it for over a decade, and I always thought it was a neat idea, but the timing just seemed so terrible.  I had extra shifts at work, or I only remembered that NaNoWriMo was going on halfway through the month, or I had social obligations, etc.  Last year, I started a few days late, but I did actually try—and I “failed."  I did not reach 50,000 words, but on the other hand, I had finally stepped off of the sidelines.

It was hard.  I was not able to make myself write every day, and I watched my totals slip farther and farther behind the necessary daily minimums and the global and regional averages.   I might have made it if I’d knuckled down during the last week, but by then I had burned out. 

So I never got my “victory badge.”  But I had participated in a global effort to be creative, right?  And I’d worked on an idea I’d never actually devoted time to before, right?

I did find the experience useful, though. I learned that I didn’t have the personal tools to focus on a single idea, however fluid, for an entire month, much less for every day in that month.  And I learned that I burned out when “having to write," especially to reach an ever-rising marker.

I also really enjoyed having the tangible progress graph.  I am a person who likes and needs to see progress to stay motivated and energized.  I like to be able to tick off boxes when I have accomplished a task, and to see a growing collection of check-marks.  I actually used NaNoWriMo as my inspiration this spring, when I went on a major de-cluttering spree.  I made a graph that showed me the growing totals of bags of “stuff” that I had removed from my house—Over the course of a month, I know that I donated, recycled, or threw out over 30 bags-worth!  The graph really helped me keep things in a positive perspective—yes, I still had too many belongings squirreled away, but on the other hand, I knew that I had succeeded in making a significant dent—that I had been able to keep forging ahead and making difficult choices, that I had cleared out some much-needed physical and mental space...

So I’m sitting here in a living room with a couple of friends, all of us with our laptops on our laps and surrounded by mugs of warm tea (it's been a cold, rainy day).  They're writing and thinking about NaNoWriMo projects (both are revising/continuing previous NaNoWriMo novels), while I'm still trying to figure out what exactly I will be focusing on this month.  I have the advantage this year in that I am actually starting on November 1st, along with everyone else!  I think that I will start out by trying to accomplish #DigiWriMo (50,000 words in various digital formats), with an eye to making some #ROW80 goals along the way.  But I may track it as a #NaNoWriMo project, so I can have my snazzy graph! (Are you following all of that?)

My Current Goals:
I have a couple story ideas knocking about my head, but none of them seem particularly well-fleshed-out.  And my blog has been languishing a bit—I had some camera difficulties, and it was hard to keep up the enthusiasm for my tutorials, photo galleries, and Etsy posts, without being able to add new pictures.  So I think that I will concentrate on updating certain areas of my photo galleries, and as my main writing/creative goals, I will attempt to:
1. Stock up on blog entries for November and December. 
2. I really enjoy having sketches as the headers of each post, so I plan to make some more of these. 
3. I have been playing around with a couple vlog script ideas that I would like to flesh out more and actually try shooting
But to quote Lily from the movie “Eagle vs. Shark,” “that could change.”

Are you participating in NaNoWriMo or DigiWriMo?  How detailed are your goals?  Are they more concerned with writing, or with publishing, or with trying something new?  Let me know!