Get Your Turtle On

It’s NaNoWriMo, or national novel writing month. For those who don’t know, NaNoWriMo participants attempt to write a 50,000-word manuscript between November 1 and November 30. There are many support groups on line with members offering encouragement and holding each other accountable. NaNoWriMo is a great way to immerse yourself in a project, boost your writing output and end the month with a sense of accomplishment.

However, it’s not for everybody. Even if you go into the month with a solid story outline and a detailed plan of how you’ll find the necessary time to get those words down, it can be stressful. Add in an unexpected life event or a manuscript that refuses to cooperate and the stress factor rises. For writers who are more turtle than hare in their approach, a poor NaNoWriMo experience can leave them feeling defeated.

When it comes to writing, I am definitely more turtle than hare. I wrote about that in a blog post five years ago, and it’s still true today.

Frankly, I’d much rather be the hare. Hares have more dash and flash than turtles.  They’re sleek and fast and productive. Plus, they’re cute. Turtles, not so much. They’re ground creepers. Members of the reptile family. Turtles have thick, leathery skin, an armored shell, and they are slow.  Painfully so.

I can’t remember the last time I received a compliment for going slow. Or gave one out. I like fast. I celebrate fast.  So does our culture. Unless it’s a soup that needs simmering or a garden that needs growing, we embrace fast.  It’s a mark of pride if our kids talk or walk at an early age. If our dogs finish first in agility. If we get our Christmas shopping done in October.  If we write three books a year instead of two. Or two books instead of one.

No wonder the thought of being a turtle held little appeal.  But then I found a book on totem animals and learned something about the symbolism behind turtles.

Turtle wisdom encourages us to slow down, to pace ourselves, and to take a break to look within. The wisdom of the turtle lends us determination, persistence, emotional strength and understanding. It teaches us to travel light, to let go of those things we have outgrown.

Turtle wisdom reassures us that we have all the time in the world, and that we’re always where we’re supposed to be. It encourages us to remember that there is no such thing as failure as long as we’re inching towards our goal.

After reading that, I didn’t mind identifying with the turtle. After all, the turtle is also the symbol for longevity. And I’m in this gig for the long haul.  So, my advice? Get your turtle on and forget about the hare. Next week, some tips for making slow and steady writing progress.

Ready, Set, November

ready_set_goNovember is a month for abbreviations and productivity. At least in my world, it is.

There’s PiBoIdMo, which is short for Picture Book Idea Month. The idea is to come up with a picture book idea every day for the month of November.  There’s also NaNoWriMo, which is short for National Novel Writing Month. The concept is similar though the word count is longer – produce a 50,000 word rough draft of a novel in 30 days. That’s 1666 words a day. Every single day. Weekends included.  Unless you want to take weekends off. In that case, you’ll need to write about 2500 words a day for the next four weeks.

A lot of people sign up for these things. Some people do it every year. A few people I know do both NaNoWriMo and PiBoldMo.   Somewhere in there they find the time to go on social media and post about ideas generated or daily word counts.  And to congratulate or post encouragement to others too.

It’s all good. Really, it is. But, honestly, it makes me tired just thinking about it. And leaves me feeling vaguely guilty. I average 1000 – 1200 words a day four or five days a week. Weekends are for chores, for groceries, for meal planning and all that good stuff.  Even if I intend to write on weekends, I rarely do, though I’ll often find myself mulling a character, a plot twist, or an upcoming scene.

I’d like to change that. For one, I have a novel that’s almost done, and another one to start and finish by March 2015. I have a major feature due at the beginning of December too.  So this November, I’d like to up my productivity and boost my idea quotient. I’d like to clean out my in box and clean off the top of my desk. Hit the gym, stop eating wheat and do 100 push ups every day. Finish my Christmas shopping. And maybe finish the needlepoint that’s been sitting in the closet since 2008 too. In other words, I’d like to kill the month of November.

Just call me LeMeWriMa or Lean Mean Writing Machine.  Or, if you’d rather, go with the pros and check out these sites: http://taralazar.com/piboidmo/     and http://nanowrimo.org/