5 Tips for First-time NaNoWriMo Writers

I first heard about NaNoWriMo a few years ago. I had to keep asking the person who told me about it to say the name of it – the word being so unfamiliar to my ear. Na-No-Wri-Mo; the abbreviated version of “National Novel Writing Month” where the goal is to write 50,000 words of a novel in the month of November.

Fall is a very busy time for me in my job so it is usually mid-November before I realize that NaNoWriMo is happening and much too late to join. This year I made the decision to do the challenge a few days before it started. I had no outline when I started just the name and occupation of my main character.

I chose to write a mystery because I love reading them and wanted to try to write one. It is very difficult to write a mystery  without an outline which I found when I got to 25,000 words and didn’t know where to go with the story. I had to take time to figure out where to go with the plot before I could continue writing.

One of the reasons that I wanted to do this is that I have another book in progress that I have become stalled on. I thought by writing 50,000 words I would get my writing mojo back. The older we get the more critical we become of ourselves and I had convinced myself that I couldn’t write because I never studied writing in school; had not been paid for my writing; and many other versions of this same line of critical self-talk.

NaNoWriMo urges you to share your writing goal with others to receive encouragement  and solidify the writing commitment that you have  made for yourself.  You may encounter some resistance from friends who too have aspirations to write but who have not fallen through with the dream. When you boldly declare your participation in NaNo, they may make some limiting comments.  Luckily, your fellow NaNo writers will cheer you on as well as writing buddies that you find along the way.

NaNoWriMo also has volunteer MLs who coordinate write-ins and other community events to help keep you motivated during the month. I didn’t attend any of these because my greatest challenge was lack of time and couldn’t afford any additional time to go to these events.

As a first-time NaNoWriMo participant, I wanted to share with you some tips that I learned  along the way.

Time

I learned that you can make time for things that you want to do. I started off writing between 8:30 – 10:30 pm each night after I had finished making dinner and cleaning up. I couldn’t sustain this because it was cutting into my sleep. After writing for two-hour chunks to achieve my daily goal of 1,667 words/day (50,000 divided by 30), my mind would be too alert to fall asleep right away.

After the first week, I found I could make progress towards my daily writing  goal by writing for several 30-minutes writing sprees throughout the day. By limiting my time on social media and TV watching, I had no problem finding time most days.

Write every day even when you think it won’t make a difference because it does. Writing is like dieting, you don’t think that saying “no” to a cookie will make a difference when you are trying to lose 20 lbs but multiple times of saying ” no” will. Just do it.

Life

On the first Friday of NaNoWriMo and exhausted from my work week, I decided to give myself a break and didn’t write. This was a huge mistake because it was difficult to get caught up and make up the additional 1,667 words. It would have been wiser to shoot for a higher daily goal to build in a cushion for days when I had other things going on and had less available time for writing.

On the night of the US elections, I tried to write but only managed a couple of hundred words. I was so discouraged by the short sightedness of some Americans in voting in a narcissist, racist as their President  that I could not write. It took a few days to come out of this funk and I am sure the writing that I did during this time was not very good.

One night, we had friends over for dinner and we had two early Christmas parties in November which limited my writing time on those days. On the last Sunday of the challenge I had to get caught up by writing 5,000 words or I would not make the November 30th deadline.

I wrote 6,000 words which allowed me to get caught up and I finished strongly one day ahead.  I had never written 6,000 words at once and wasn’t sure that I could so I wanted to share with you how I did this. I would decide what I was going to write – like a scene in a movie and would write for one hour. Then, I would take a break for an hour and do something else like vacuum or do the dishes.  (Housework was a victim of NaNoWriMo.)  I continued this process of alternating one hour of writing with one hour of something else until I reached 6,000 words. By breaking it up like this, it did not seem too difficult.

Editing

Letting go of the desire to edit as I wrote and correct typos was one of the hardest things to do. It was freeing to simply let the words flow without self editing which slowed me down and interrupted the creative process.

I wrote a lot of dialogue in the novel which required me to step aside and let the characters reveal themselves. I loved this part and am looking forward to adding some more depth to the characters in my first edit of the draft.

Giving yourself permission to not have it perfect the first time is very liberating.

Technology

Once I started writing in half-hour chunks it became necessary to find a way to do this easily. I had been writing in Word on our desktop computer at home but this became limiting trying to work around my husband’s use of the computer. I also encountered a sticky keyboard three times. The first time it happened, the “w” key became stuck and  wrote line after line of “w’s” across my Word document.  It happened a second time with the letter “u”  a few days later so I bought  a can of pressurized duster spray to clean the keyboard.

The third and final incident happened when the “delete” key got stuck; this was the last straw. I lost an entire page before I could get it to stop. I decided to import my document into Google docs so I could work on it remotely.

I had not used Google docs much before so it took a little while to figure it out but it proved very easy to use and the best part was that it saved the document as I typed. Beautiful. It also had a word count feature which was very important for updating my word count in the NaNoWriMo dashboard.

The NaNoWriMo dashboard and stats were great motivators. It helped me churn out a few hundred more words when I was tired and wanted to stop.

NaNoWriMo Stats | www.holisticsailor.com
Final stats from #NaNoWriMo2016

Supporting Others

The NaNoWriMo community is wonderfully supportive. My treat after accomplishing my daily writing goal was to go on Twitter and seek out other NaNo writers to give them encouragement. I received the same support in return.

Volunteer writers provided useful tips in online forums and in articles making the experience educational as well.

I had a wonderful first-time experience participating in NanNoWriMo and am planning to participate again next year. it was the impetus that I needed to get writing again.   Here are my five tips for someone planning to participate in NaNoWriMo.

  1. Declare your intention to participate to those who will support you. Ignore the naysayers.
  2. Decide what you are going to write about an create an outline before November 1st.
  3. Google docs was a great writing tool for me and you can adjust the settings to access the document while offline.
  4. Write every day. Fifty thousand words seems like an impossible goal to achieve when you are writing 1,667 word a day but it all adds up. Habits are developed after 30 days so after you complete NaNoWriMo you can easily continue to work on your novel.
  5. And the best advice that I can give someone contemplating participating in NaNoWriMo is to just do it. We don’t have forever to achieve our goals, so get going. The satisfaction in achieving this challenge is very motivating.

 

The Loss of Critical Thinking

In the lobby of where we meet for a weekly meditation group were two flipcharts. In bright marker, one posed the question, “What on earth makes you give thanks?” and the other asked, “What on earth makes your heart cry?” Thoughts of cats and dogs and walks in nature came to mind for the happy flipchart and sure enough as I got closer, these answers were prominently written with a little happy face after the word, “dogs.”

I stepped closer to the sad flipchart and in the top left-hand corner were two words, “US elections” followed by “Trump” and then “Trump and Hillary”. How could an election make someone’s heart cry? A democratic election celebrates freedom and our ability to have a voice even if it is a small voice in voting in our political leaders.

The Loss of Critical Thinking | www.holisticsailor.com

Before going any further, I have to qualify that I live in Canada so these elections really shouldn’t concern me, but they do and they obviously are affecting others as evidenced on this flipchart. As our economies become increasing global and our lives intertwined through the ease of social media, the reality that we are all one is difficult to deny.

I am trying to understand how a democratic nation became so polarized.  I want to understand how in this day of freely available information available literally at your fingertips, that some people believe that a 69-year old woman cannot make rational decisions because of hormones.  I want to understand  how you can rationalize that it is alright for a famous person to sexually assault a woman. I want to know if that woman was your sister or mother or friend, would you feel differently about this. I want to understand this so we can avoid this happening in Canada.

Where is your critical thinking America?

Why are you not questioning what you are reading and watching on TV? How is it that you will believe the lies of a reality TV star over the reports of a journalist? Okay wait, some of them are reality TV stars too, but what about the ones who actually studied journalism in school and learned how to fact-check and present a balanced story? And if you don’t agree with their journalistic message, would you not take the time to research the facts for yourself instead of concluding that they are working for the other side or that it is rigged.  And please note, Facebook is a not a news agency with journalists and stuff.

You are so immersed in this, perhaps you can’t see it but I have to tell you, we are wondering what you folks are smoking down there because it sure seems a bit delusional.

I had trouble sleeping after the second debate. The disrespect shown by Mr. Trump to Secretary Clinton was astonishing. On that fact alone, I don’t how a person could vote for him. If a candidate I was planning to vote for talked that disrespectfully to someone, they would lose my vote. What I hear is that you distrust the current administration so much that anything looks better. Shame on both parties for creating a political cesspool that makes a lying, misogynist look like a good candidate.

I remember watching the last elections and being so proud of you for voting in your first Black President only to see that his first task in office was dealing with the near collapse of Wall Street. What a heck of a way to start a new job. The guy that left the job must have been relieved that he got out just in time.

I am really trying to make sense of this lunacy that seems to be running through your country and am wondering if there is an epidemic of pre-Zombie craziness afoot because some of your are acting without reason.

The propaganda coming out of Mr. Trump’s mouth is so foul that I can’t help but think that this is a classic struggle between good and evil, darkness and light; Batgirl and the Joker. And then I realized that it is all energy. Passion converted into words and T-shirts and angry sides each convinced that they are right. But there is a difference. This is not reality TV; this is real life.

The “Good” tend to have a passive voice and perhaps thought that this would work itself out and Mr. Trump would never get this far. The “good” are now off their yoga mats and mustering their strong voices because you have picked at the loose thread hanging from the Statute of Liberty’s robe and can’t stop playing with it. You are going to unravel her completely if you keep this up!

Both candidates are in a place of influence and for Mr. Trump to use that influence to incite violence is reckless. Do you know, I was supposed to be in the US on a trip on November 8th but the trip has been postponed due to concerns over civil unrest? Civil unrest! In the United States of America! This is what others are thinking about you.  All of this bickering and manipulation of voters is not making America great; it is making you weak.

You have become desensitized to his crudeness but it is still shocking to my ears. Blindly following his calls for violence without pausing for a moment to check in with your own inner values to ask is this right? Is this true? Where is your critical thinking? When this is all over and you have some distance from the situation perhaps you will be embarrassed by the things that you have said and done. Perhaps not.

And I know that we gave you that Twitter pep talk but we would rather that you not came flooding our border if he gets in. The truth is that it has not always been easy being your neighbour. However, we share the same continent and are seriously worried about you.

So get off your butts – ask questions – think for your selves and make your vote count.

Mildew and the Frog

Ah, spring boat chores. Putting up sails, changing fluids in the diesel engine, airing out the boat and getting rid of green slime everywhere. Over the years that we have owned our boat, I can’t tell you how many hours of our lives we have spent removing mildew and mould from the boat’s  surfaces and finery. One of the more difficult places to get rid of mildew is the Sunbrella canvas.

Sunbrella fabric has a protective coating on it so if you use harsh chemicals and scouring pads you also remove the protective coating. We are conscious of the cleaning products that we use on the boat and use environmentally friendly products whenever possible.  The problem is that many environmentally friendly products do not have the ‘umph’ to get rid of mildew.

A fellow boater told me that he soaks his sail covers overnight  in the tub with bleach to remove mildew. I really try to stay away from bleach because it is so harsh on the environment. I’ve tried vinegar, vinegar + baking soda, baking soda + Blue Dawn with poor results. Out of desperation, I tried a mold and mildew product but the results were mediocre at best.

Enter on the stage – FrogWash. I bought this cleaner for our condo because it was environmentally friendly and could be used for multiple cleaning jobs. Take a look at the label!

Multiple uses for FrogWash | www.holisticsailor.com
Check out all the great uses for FrogWash

Not only could I use one product, I would also have more room in my cupboard and can refill the bottle with a concentrate so less garbage.

After experiencing great results at home, I decide to try it on the boat. Oh my gosh. It is terrific on stainless steel and gives a nice shine to the teak floors. But more importantly it works on mildew. Take a look at the before and after photos of my motor cover.

Before and after using FrogWash | www.holisticsailor.com
I used FrogWash to clean the Sunbrella cover for our outboard motor.

The trick is to follow the instructions. Imagine that! The product works best if you let it sit for a few minutes. You do have to scrub with a soft cloth but it is worth it.

Ah, spring boat chores. Putting up sails, changing fluids in the diesel engine, airing out the boat and getting rid of green slime everywhere. Over the years that we have owned our boat, I can't tell you how many hours of our lives we have spent removing mildew and mould from the boat's surfaces and finery. One of the more difficult places to get rid of mildew is the Sunbrella canvas. Sunbrella fabric has a protective coating on it so if you use harsh chemicals and scouring pads you also remove the protective coating. We are conscious of the cleaning products that we use on the boat and use environmentally friendly products whenever possible. The problem is that many environmentally friendly products do not have the 'umph' to get rid of mildew. A fellow boater told me that he soaks his sail covers overnight in the tub with bleach to remove mildew. I really try to stay away from bleach because it is so harsh on the environment. I've tried vinegar, vinegar + baking soda, baking soda + Blue Dawn with poor results. Out of desperation, I tried a mold and mildew product but the results were mediocre at best. Enter on the stage - Frog. I bought this cleaner for our condo because it was environmentally friendly and could be used for multiple cleaning jobs. Take a look at the label! Not only could I use one product, I would also have more room in my cupboard and can refill the bottle with a concentrate so less garbage. After experiencing great results at home, I decide to try it on the boat. Oh my gosh. It is terrific on stainless steel and gives a nice shine to the teak floors. But more importantly it works on mildew. Take a look at the before and after photos of my motor cover. The trick is to follow the instructions. Imagine that! The product works best if you let it sit for a few minutes. You do have to scrub with a soft cloth but it is worth it. In Victoria, I buy Frog at Capitol Iron on 1900 Store Street. Note to self: don't Google "frog cleaning". Gross! Instead, Google "frog cleaning product" or check out their website here: http://www.frogwash.ca/. Frog Wash is made by Zen FarmZ Environmental Solutions Inc. in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.
FrogWash – a great cleaner to get rid of mildew

In Victoria, I buy Frog at Capitol Iron on 1900 Store Street. Note to self: don’t Google “frog cleaning”. Gross! Instead, Google “frog cleaning product” or check out their website.  Frog Wash is made by Zen FarmZ Environmental Solutions Inc. in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.

 

Good Enough

You’re moving along nicely in your life and out of the recesses of your mind comes this little voice that starts whispering terrible things about you. “Who do you think you are?” “You’re not smart enough” “Pretty enough.” “You’re not good enough.”

Where the hell does this voice come from?  It can’t be ego; it’s too busy walking around like a peacock in full feathers. Is there such a thing as the anti-ego who’s sole purpose is to destroy any sense of accomplishment that you have felt?

Is it perhaps a crueler version of imposter syndrome? It’ s one thing to think you are not as good as your colleagues and that someone is going to find you out, but it’s an entirely different game when your inner self – the self that you rely on to make big decisions – is telling you that you are a  loser.

Amy Poehler in her book, “Yes Please” refers to it as the “demon voice”. I don’t think we are born with it otherwise we would see toddlers running around wondering if their diapers made them look fat. They don’t seem to have a care in the world as long as their fed, loved and have warm, dry clothes on. And sleep. Those suckers need a lot of sleep. Hmmm, I could be speaking about my 55-year old self come to think of it. I like those things too but luckily – no diapers yet.

So it safe to assume that we learn this somewhere along the way because I am having a hard time believing that we are possessed by demonic voices. But Amy is correct in that it is a voice of some origin and it talks to you like a best friend but make no mistake, it is not your friend. This voice can turn your day around in an instant with self-doubt, fear and loathing even when you are not in Las Vegas.

Through competition we learn that in order for someone to win, someone else must lose.  I am not an overly competitive person.  I was never interested in board games where there was a winner and several losers. I was much more interested in games or activities where everyone was able to participate equally. I like to compete with myself and have expectations that with practice I will improve. I think this is confusing to people because when they see a person going after something with focus, they automatically assume that they are competitive.

So we still haven’t answered the question. Who is telling us that we are not good enough? Could it be from our desire to be liked and to fit in? Do we learn that it is safer to keep our thoughts to ourselves in order to avoid ridicule or exclusion from a group? Does this stifling of our true voice allow the negative voice to speak louder?

How can we stop the bully within? I know my internal bully can say some really nasty stuff sometimes. Does everyone have an internal bully that makes them question everything? If this is true, are we all just playing a part in an imaginary script? That seems pretty pointless and definitely not original. Should I get all bent out of shape worrying about what you may or may not think of me?

Where do I find balance between sensitivity to your feelings and the self confidence to not be influenced by your judgements of me? I know, you’re saying, “So many questions Tara, but where are the answers?”

Henri Nouwen quote | www.holisticsailor.comI think it comes down to self reflection and recognizing the spark of divine that lives inside. I like to think of it as a God spark: a little sprinkling of fairy dust if you will. When I become aware of the God spark in me, then I also have to recognize the God spark in you.

How do we get so numb and far away from this truth: anesthetized from our very existence? At some level, we know that we are missing something and try to fill this void with external things. They only leave us feeling more lost and mask the bright light within.

The way out of this cave is to find your own inner light and shine it like a big flashlight on others so that they too, might see the light within. Do not underestimate the power of your inner light in the middle of a dark room.