reflections on a year

The sidewalk screams happy birthday with a thin but potentially dangerous layer of black ice. I get it, 2016; you have a sadistic sense of humor.

One year ago, I had more than a few lessons to learn in my journey toward enlightenment, and ice played the part of catalyst. I had to experience trauma so I could let in the light. Elective surgery, emergency surgery, three months in a wheelchair, a year of physical therapy, financial stress, and an ulcer. But in the midst of the dark, I grew closer to my sister, deepened bonds with my “sister friends,” started writing a third novel, published an opinion piece in the Washington Post, found my center, and in ten days, I’ll be sunning on a beach in Hawaii.

The greatest lessons: I can’t do everything alone, it’s okay to show vulnerability, and people want to help. This morning’s ice was a nice reminder. Slick sidewalks and roads stretched between me and the yoga class I had to teach. Two blocks away, I burst into tears and froze in place but Nancy hugged me until my breath calmed and led the way, baby step by baby step.

Ice aside, I can’t say I woke up feeling different. I still greeted the morning from the fog of a crazy dream. (Jojo from the Bachelorette was president-elect, except she looked like Anna Kendrick, and I was contemplating making a play for the chief of staff job, sacrificing my flexibility with the kids for a position in the White House because my country needed me.) The ice will melt, my relationships will continue to grow, the wine will taste delicious. And I will shine the light within me.

Namaste.

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NaNoWriMo: when failure is success

A few years ago, my writer friend, I’ll call her Pav, asked if I was participating in NaNoWriMo. I grew up in the 70s, so I thought she was saying Na-Nu Na-Nu, and if you have to look that up, you’re too young to read my blog.

NaNoWriMo —short for National Novel Writing Month— always falls in November. Because absolutely nothing big happens in November, us creative types have gobs of extra time to commit to the challenge of writing 50,000 words in 30 days. (For those who don’t speak word count, that’s about 200 pages of a book.) The “rules”state that a writer starts with a fresh page and a great idea and lets the goal spur along the creative process, with the comfort of knowing lots of other neurotic writers are struggling right along with you.

In late summer, I started work on a new novel. Then my efforts stalled, not for lack of a storyline, but because I wasn’t dedicating time to write. I decided I needed NaNoWriMo to return my focus to the work and develop the habit of scheduling writing time into my day. (Also to fire up my competitive spirit even though I broke the start with a blank page rule.)

I set a daily goal of 1700 words, but in the first week, tried to outdo that pace to account for visitors at Thanksgiving and other distractions. I ended up with two zero-word days (Thursday after the election and Monday before Thanksgiving). I had one 3062-word day, which was exhausting (especially since I also baked two pies the same day). In the end, on my last day, I wrote 3,058 words, ending the challenge 362 words short of the goal.

At first I was disappointed. I failed. (You can imagine the hysterics. “I’m never going to be a published author.”) But I took a step back and viewed my accomplishment from a different angle. I started off NaNoWriMo with a hodgepodge of words and scenes with the ultimate goal of ending the challenge with the first draft of a novel. I achieved that goal. Now I get to cut. And edit. And pare down the times I added a bunch of “that” phrases to boost my word count. Kidding on the last point. Sort of.

Hey, we are motivated by what we are motivated by, and word count goals work for me. The days I found hard to make my 1700, I cut huge passages or left placeholders because the scene hadn’t come to me. I had the ending written when I started this process, but my story went in a different direction. Now I need to fix it.

The challenge over, I feel a little rutterless today, but my novel deserves a night away from me. Goal number one for tomorrow: begin to rewrite the end.