Having an unexpected morning away from work has left me with the unavoidable conclusion that I must take part in today’s NaNoWriMo 2013 Writing Marathon. I’m extremely behind. I always forget just how difficult I find this competition. It’s never about the writing of words, it’s about allowing the doubt to creep in. Today then, I shall be writing in several short stints in an attempt to catch up. Whether I manage over 8000 words today is another matter, but here’s hoping!
Right now, I hate my book. I hate the way it’s so out of kilter with itself. I hate the way that it’s like wading through treacle just to get to the other side. NaNo will do this to you though – in other, less terrifying months, I would have taken a long break from this and not pushed through. Writing to this kind of deadline – and indeed using the Pomodoro Technique which I’ll talk about elsewhere – has a way of forcing you not to stop just because the going is tough. But it really is tough today, yesterday…in fact for quite a bit of the month so far. And yet, the graphs and the progress bar really does help me press on.
Tomorrow perhaps I won’t hate it as much. Perhaps I shall have navigated the haunted wood and find myself in the daylight once again.
In other news, totally unsurprised to be unsuccessful with the competition. It did its job though with great skill. It got me writing again. I must have done about 40k since July and that is an enormous feat in itself and one of which I am very proud.
It has been a difficult twenty four hours. The start of NaNoWriMo didn’t go to plan and I have precisely zero words to my name. It is hard to say exactly what went wrong, but my dear friend Clare suggested that sometimes the build up to these things can result in this sort of false start. Something similar happened during Camp NaNoWriMo earlier in the year. Last night and this morning I found myself staring out at the world and wondering just what I was supposed to be doing with a whole set of overwhelming emotions that seemed to have blown in in the wake of St Jude’s storm.
This afternoon then, with writing not possible, I embarked upon housework. I managed by the mundane acts of baking something for supper and setting out the ingredients for a cake, to bring myself back to some sort of sanity. I had been praying all day for peace again and so logging on to see that a candle had been lit for me at St Winifred‘s Well in Flintshire, North Wales, felt like a blessing in so many ways.
My friend Callum is visiting Holywell to commemorate the death of Frederick Rolfe, also known as Baron Corvo, whose centenary is at this time. A frankly peculiar character, Rolfe was a writer and artist who spent part of his life living at Holywell where he produced banners for the church there. Some weeks ago Callum was kind enough to send me a copy of a biography of Rolfe along with one of his books, Hadrian the Seventh, after a little contest he held on his blog . In return I have been asked to write a review – good or bad! – of Rolfe’s writing. Seeing as I have yet to read the somewhat daunting tome of a book, I felt that mentioning it here might appease Callum for a little while! He is well known as the authority on Rolfe and can answer your every question on him and many other niche literary topics so do pop on by his page.
It was doubly lovely to have prayers said for me at St Winifride’s Well, as tomorrow it is her feast day. I have been looking for a patron saint for this blog and feel that she is more than appropriate. I am glad then to add a page for St Winifred – Santes Gwenfrewi – which you can check out on the left or here – and to ask for her prayers in keeping me at peace and always sticking to my principals. Sancte Winefrida, Ora Pro Nobis.
It’s been a very busy first half to the autumn term and I’m relishing a quiet afternoon at home by myself. There has been precious little time alone lately and the more I struggle to find it, the more important it becomes. My schedule seems to get busier with each passing week and though I thrive on having plenty to do, I have landed myself in hot water more than once before by not making sure there is ample quiet time.
And so, with our computer having taken a nose dive into oblivion (now returned six weeks later resurrected) I decided earlier this month that it was time to revert to my ever faithful pen and paper to establish clear routines and keep track of work and free time. Yes, I’ve got a filofax. Well, four to be precise but we’ll get to that later. I hadn’t realised in the time that I’d been away from the world of planners that there had developed such a fabulous cult around the things. One only has to look on youtube or search for blogs on the topic to see how the simple leather binder has been turned into an outlet for creativity for many people.
I have started then to use the A5 Domino that my ma bought me as an early Christmas present to keep track of my many teaching appointments and church schedule. I also use it to track personal goals, finances, to work on planning projects and keeping contact lists. Having stepped away from using a computer to produce lots of different documents in different places I am now in a position where I feel more in control as everything is in the same place. If I have an idea about a project that involves me making a phone call, I have the number for the person involved at my fingertips. In meetings I am able to make appointments immediately knowing my timetable in advance, rather than having to say I will schedule something later and then forget it.
At the moment, the most revolutionary thing for me is using my planner to keep track of my writing. So often I find myself getting frustrated because I’m ‘not writing enough.’ I had seen in other people’s beautifully decorated planners that they had made use of tapes, stickers and pens to enhance things. I remembered that I use reward stickers with my students to help them keep on track with practice. I also remembered that I have a huge sticker collection that if I were to admit it, is far more about my slight obsession with the things than it is about my students. So, I have started to give myself reward stickers on my planner pages when I complete certain actions. I have a sticker for completing what are essentially Morning Pages as seen in Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way, but are my own version of them. I have a sticker for working on my current project, another for completing a thousand words of new writing, another for completing the revision of a chapter. I anticipate different stickers as I go through each project.
What this does is help me realise that even though my days are squashed at times, I am getting far more done than I had thought. Things are going ok. I have written at least my morning pages every day this week and a not too shoddy three days out of six I have managed 1k on my book.
I managed to enter the Mslexia competition which is good, though I am fairly philosophical about Jude’s chances of being placed. Part of being a writer though is about completing projects and working to goals and deadlines and I should remind myself that entering this competition was all about that for me, not about winning. I shall try to remember that as I eat Consolation Cake when the winners are announced.
And what about the curate and that lovely colcannon? Well, I found out this week that it is very difficult for me to talk about spiritual or emotional truths face to face with priests. I find it hard to ask questions and hear the answers. It makes me feel out of control or stupid or just too emotional. And so we have come up with a solution. I will email my questions (often long and difficult ones on the nature of God or about the Mass) and she will answer in person over a brew. I hope it works. I have a lot to ask lately. Perhaps I need to find some way of giving myself a reward sticker …
And last but not least, it is NaNoWriMo in less than a week. I am, it has to be said, still in the thick of it with Jude and so I’m not sure that a new project (or even work on The Darkling Wood) is going to be possible. More on that next week as I assess the situation.
I worked until gone one this morning to reach my chosen goal of 30k for this month’s camp nanowrimo and I’m thrilled to have made it. It’s the first time I’ve ever won a nanowrimo so it feels particularly special.
I’m not finished with the story though and with hopes to enter it into the Mslexia women’s fiction competition at the end of September there isn’t much time for a let up. I’m probably well over half way by now, but I can’t quite tell.
Winners’ badges and associated goodies aren’t available until August 5th but you can be sure that when they are I shall be emblazoning this blog with them. If you’d have told me a couple of months ago that I’d be able to get this far and do so much I really wouldn’t have believed you. Child birth and rearing is, as I have discovered, uniquely exhausting and it can feel sometimes that there’s simply no space for anything creative ever again. But I’m living proof that it can be done. My baby is still just about asleep and while he dozes I’ll try and push out another few hundred words.
Or perhaps I’ll take a breather and a well deserved cup of coffee.
Off to the museum on Friday to make butterflies and meadow pictures with my godson, his sister and my nieces and nephew and with my wee boy also in tow. Should be a lark.
There be words! Despite, as ever with Nano, it being a crazy month, I have actually managed to make progress towards my modest 30k goal. I’m running quite a bit behind but I’m not at all worried about this. How could I be worried when this is the most new words I’ve written in some years? I will be surprised if I make it to 30 k, but even if I don’t I shall push forward to the end of a first draft. I feel better in so many ways for having written this month and am relieved to know that a story I had the first glimmers of a few years ago now, is still there. In fact I’d say that, given the composting time since coming up with the initial idea, it has improved. Ripened, as someone once called it.
In other things, yesterday me and my little family took a trip to the seaside with the church. I may post a photo or two in the coming days. There were castles – real and sand varieties, ice-cream, fudge and picnics, japes, larks and very steep hills. The littlest member of our family is still busy catching up on sleep. I think we got the last of the sand out of his ears…
Now, before he wakes up to tell me it’s supper time, I am going to attempt to squeeze a few more words out of the day.
It has been a long while since my last post and it can be difficult to return to a blog or other internet project after such an absence, but return I have.
Since my last post I have become a mother to a little boy who is now four and a half months old. In many ways it is fair to say that my life and that of my husband has changed irreversibly. We are blessed with a beautiful child who is growing and developing at an alarming speed but who is charming in every way and our true delight.
At various points throughout my challenging pregnancy, I found that I questioned how being a mother would affect my sense of self and whether I would actually become a different person after giving birth. Although it can feel like that has happened, it is not really the case. I am as ever I was, with the same interests and worries, but straight in the middle of all that old me, there is a new element which glares like a spotlight and demands to be given full attention. That light shines on everything else and makes me see those old bits of myself from a new angle. It has been alarming at times, but not unwelcome. Becoming a mother feels very much like the next natural step to have taken and I am deeply grateful for my beautiful boy and rejoice in him.
But this last few weeks has been challenging. A young friend of mine recently died following complications arising from an uncommon illness called Behcets. This is not the post in which to write about Ruth – she deserves her own spot – but the grief we have felt at her passing has had knock on effects for all of us. Personally, my hormone levels changed as a response to her death and currently my boy is refusing to breastfeed. This is also causing me to grieve as I miss the intimacy of our feeding times together. Knowing that Our Lady comes to us in many guises I have begun to seek gentle counsel from Maria Lactans, The Nursing Mother of God in the hope that if it is time for me to end this part of my journey through motherhood, she will ease the way. Likewise, if there is still hope that I may continue with breastfeeding for a little time yet, then I pray that by her grace my boy will find the transition back to me an easy one.
In other news I have found my way along the path to Camp NaNoWriMo along with Veronica Laurence who is hiking the trail with me. This Nano ‘Lite’ is the first attempt I’ve made at high speed noveling for some time now and despite a few interruptions along the way, I am pleased with how things are going. I have made a tentative goal of 30,000 words by the end of this month towards finishing the first draft of my other significant project, Jude. I shall update with how it all turns out in due course.