Posts Tagged ‘books’

More Than Words On A Page: My NaNoWriMo Experience

11/12/2018

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It was the last week in November and there I was… Hovering somewhere at about 49,100 words. Just 900 words left and soon I would achieve the unthinkable. I was about to “win” NaNoWriMo. For those unfamiliar, NaNoWriMo (the shortened way of saying ‘National Novel Writing Month’) is an annual challenge where writers around the world dedicate the month of November to working on a novel and reaching a 50,000-word count. For years, I stood looking over the fence at all of these dedicated writers and always thought, “One year I’ll do that…” Finally, after years of lurking, not only did I find myself in the company of these dedicated writers, I was also one of the those who celebrated when my word count crossed over 50K words.

I think one key factor in reaching that goal was my ability to let go of perfection and my inner critic. I let go the idea of doing this whole thing “right” which makes sense since there’s really no right way to write – you only need to sit down and just write. I approached this month of writing with a goal of simply allowing myself to enjoy the writing and creative process, something that I’m practicing more in general. Along with returning to the pure joy of the creative process, I discovered a few other other benefits of participating in NaNoWriMo beyond getting words on the page:

  • I learned how to stop worrying and love the writing process. As a result of letting go of perfection, I also found myself detaching from any other perceived outcomes such as getting published. A few people asked me about this to which I answered with what I’ve already said here. In removing such pressure, I gave myself space and permission to enjoy a creative activity while learning a thing or two about the writing process, like that it can be fun. Who knew?
  • Yours in the struggle. I had a college professor who used to sign off his emails with ‘Yours in the Struggle.’ I thought of him and that signature as I connected with other writers who were right there with me. These “wrimos” who encouraged me to keep pushing forward, one word at a time, really exemplified the spirit of community. As an example, I spent quite a bit of time with @NaNoWordSprints on Twitter where a Sprint Leader would provide writing prompts and we would “sprint” (that is, just write however much you can in a specified timeframe – a fantastic way to run past that pesky inner editor). There was more than one occasion where I thought, “I’ll just pop in for a half hour of sprinting” then several hours later I’d still be exchanging virtual high fives and words of encouragement to other writers. When you’re trying to write, having a little company feels good and this month reminded me of that.
  • Learning to focus on one idea at a time. As someone who can become easily fascinated by new subjects, hobbies, or ideas, I often find myself dreaming up new projects and exploring new interests, which isn’t a terrible trait but it can also be a challenge to manage! Committing to the one story allowed me to really hone in and focus my energy on this one project. Not to say other ideas didn’t still pop up during the month, but I found that taking note of these thoughts would not only help me remember and at the same time, felt like a practice in mindfulness.
  • Speaking of mindfulness… Now that NaNoWriMo is over and I’ve put away my novel for a short break, I find myself continuing to wonder about my main character, her friends, family, and the story itself. Each day, I’m keeping all of my senses alert and open to any detail that might become a thread, however small, in the story that I am trying to create. Sounds a bit like mindfulness, don’t you think?
  • Writing became a habit. I’ve always wanted to be able to call myself a writer but up until this year, I’ve had a hard time doing so. I couldn’t truthfully call myself a writer if I didn’t write often, much less every day. But this month supported me in fostering a habit and need to write. If I don’t at least write a few pages each day – whether professionally or personally – I start to feel itchy.

If you ever dreamt of writing a book or simply need a boost or support to get you started, I do recommend joining the NaNoWriMo community. Visit www.nanowrimo.org to learn more and get inspired! Perhaps even tap me as a writing buddy if you decide to craft your own story in 2019…

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Australian Women Writers Challenge

18/12/2011

As we near the end of another year, I join the likes of many other people trying to figure out how to make their next year more satisfying whether that is through losing weight, doing more volunteer work or one of the million resolutions people can make.

One of my personal challenges for myself in 2012 is to simply read more and diversify the genres that I read. It was shortly after I made this resolution I came across the Australian Women Writers Challenge, a challenge to read and review works by Australian female writers. Having lived in Australia for over four years I realized that I really have not picked up as much Aussie literature as I should have but this will change. In addition to generally picking up more magazines, books and newspapers next year I have signed up (so it’s official) for the Stella level of this challenge, aiming to read at least three books written by Australian women and review at least two of those, which you will find in due course on this blog. I would like to think that over the course of twelve months I can manage to read more than three but I figure that if I can achieve anything more than this will be a happy bonus.

I have been trying to compile a list of what I should read. In addition to signing up for the Stella category I have identified myself as a a ‘Dabbler’ in which I will try to reach out to a variety of genres. Normally I lean towards memoirs and fiction. I would really like to try to read sci-fi / fantasy because this is just one genre that I believe I have not given much of a chance. My partner being a fan of science fiction and fantasy writing has suggested I read and review something by K.E. Mills and /or  Sara Douglass. I also happen to have a Charlotte Wood book The Children on my bookshelf which has been sitting there, unread for the last couple of years so will pick that one up and quite likely wonder why it took me so long to read it (I have a tendency to pick up second hand books at the markets therefore have loads of books on my shelf that are just awaiting to be read!) Also adding to my list of potential reads will be something by Emily Maguire. Emily is one of the writer ambassadors for Room to Read and I have met her a few times. She is a lovely lady and I have read some of her excellent work in the Sydney Morning Herald plus would love to support her since she is so generously contributing some of her time to Room to Read (including helping me put together our bi-monthly newsletter).

I am certain there are heaps of possibilities out there which is why I think reading three books will be no problem and I hope to exceed that. If you’d like to learn more about the challenge and perhaps even sign up, follow this link or click on the image below. What are your favourite books written by Australian women? I would love to hear your suggestions! Until next time, happy reading!

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Save it for a rainy day.

25/09/2011

Of course we all love to have a sunny weekend so that we’re allowed to hit the trails, have a picnic or go the beach. Sometimes though the rain is a welcome interruption to our busy lives. Though many people will go to work on Monday and say “How dreadful was the weather this weekend” I cannot fully agree. I love glorious weather and being outside but as of late life has just been too hectic and I can’t help but feel a little sense of relief as the rain hits window.

One of the reasons why I welcome the grey skies this weekend is for the reading. Certainly there is a calming effect when you are allowed the opportunity to curl up on the sofa, bed or your favourite chair with a book you haven’t been getting to lately because other tasks have been calling. Books are magical no matter what but unfortunately when our lives don’t seem to let up and is like the school yard bully poking at you, books fall to the wayside. When I woke up this morning at 9am while the darkness of the room suggested it was 4 or 5am, I knew it was a day for reading. This made me think of some of my favourite rainy day reads so here are a few suggestions for the next grey weekend (or trip to the beach).

Breakfast at Tiffany's by Truman Capote

Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote: To be fair I just read this story this morning when I woke up so of course the   details and characters are fresh in my mind. I found this classic at a second hand book stall at Glebe Markets ages ago knowing that one day I would get around to it – this is my usual method for buying books. There are countless classics out there that I have not gotten to yet, this being one of them. So what a perfect opportunity to finally pick it up. A short read but packed with some great characters including the protagonist Holly Golightly, a former Hollywood starlet who lives in a New York City brownstone building. One of her neighbours and eventually friend “Fred” first encounters Holly when she buzzes his apartment to let her into the building since she never has a key. From this moment “Fred” voices the story of Holly and life of a socialite. It’s humorous, heartbreaking and can easily be read it in a sitting.

And The Hippos Were Boiled In Their Tanks

And The Hippos Were Boiled In Their Tanks by Jack Kerouac and William S. Burroughs: Written by Kerouac and Burroughs before either became famous, this book remained unpublished for many years. I became really interested in Kerouac and the whole Beat Generation after reading The Dharma Bums so was really delighted to come upon this lesser known title. Burroughs and Kerouac wrote this fictionalized account of a true story in which one of their friends stabbed another. He admitted the crime to them but when neither went to the police after the confession, they were arrested as accessories after the fact. Each chapter alternates between two characters, William Lee (Burroughs) and Mike Ryko (Kerouac), who describe one summer of drinking, drugs and generally drifting in wartime New York City steering toward a crime.

Me Talk Pretty One Day cover

Me Talk Pretty One Dayby David Sedaris:  Or anything by Sedaris will be do. I dare you to pick this one up and not laugh out loud. Not just chuckle but the kind of laughter where you cannot move onto the next sentence because you’re too busy re-reading the last line and trying to get your fits of giggles under control. Sedaris is a master of human observation and he describes this humorously in an autobiographical style and self deprecating manner. The subject matter often revolves around family life, particularly upbringing in middle class Raleigh, North Carolina though his essays are a mix of remembering childhood, the present and everything in between. Once you’ve finished this I also recommend When You Are Engulfed in Flames (where he attempts to quit smoking by going to Tokyo) and Holidays on Ice a collection of short stories with a holiday theme – but certainly not your traditional, heart warming Christmas tales.

So next time you’re faced with a rainy day, do not despair. Pull a neglected book off your book shelf and enjoy catching up with an old friend.