The Empty Page

Rennett StoweThe empty page stares back at me

I tighten my hold on the words
that threaten to escape

For a trickle let out
Would burst the flood gate

The flames uncontrolled
Licking any which way
Causing dimay to kith and kin

A risk I can not take

Stuffing them down
I pick up my pencil
And write what is not as good as it could be
If only the stories could be free

How’s the writing going?

I’m so glad you asked!  I have so much to tell you.  On November 1st an email arrived in my box from Nanowrimo.  I was first introduced to Nanowrimo in July when I joined Campnanowrimo.  The goal in July was to write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days.  I wrote 5,000 that month.   Feeling a bit discouraged, I thought I would finish it on my own – the next month I wrote another 5,000.  Then life hit and I set it aside.

So, when the email arrived from Nanowrimo I wondered if I could finish my rough draft in the month of November.  On a whim I signed up.  I needed to write 1667 words a day to finish on time.  I wrote on day 1 and day 2.  On day 11 I realized I hadn’t written in over a week.

Feeling like somewhat of a failure, again, I wasn’t sure what to do.  I kept making goals and not hitting them.  Poking around on the NaNoWriMo website I came across this pep talk Pep Talk from Stephanie Perkins. Her simple but profound words changed me.

Novels aren’t written by muses who come down through the ceiling and shoot magic through your fingers and out onto your laptop’s keyboard. Before NaNoWriMo, some teensy part of me still believed that because writing is a creative act, it should feel easy. But fairies don’t write novels. They’re written with one simple equation:

Time + Work = Novel

I hadn’t had much success before NaNoWriMo, because I hadn’t been putting in enough time or work.

The light bulb clicked and I realized wishing, wanting and dreaming would never get my book written.  To write I had to show up and do it.  I let a few house cleaning balls drop to the floor, got off Facebook and in one day typed 5000 words.  Then the motivation kicked in and I did another 5000 words the next day.  Soon I was caught up and on schedule to finish November 30th.

And somewhere between the first 5 thousand and the last 5 thousand something magical happened.  The story went from being absolutely positively terrible to not quite so awful.  The first 20 pages of writing felt like an act of torture.  Each new scene in my fictional story sounded like a real life experience with the names changed.  One afternoon sitting in Macaroni Grill, I shared with my husband that I was going to finish this just for the experience I’d get by doing it, but I’d read enough in my life to know it was awful.

Then, literally that evening, when I was doing a #nanowrimosprint on twitter, the characters started taking over the keyboard and I watched as the story began to unfold on computer screen.  It felt like I was reading a book and as my eyes read the page the words magically appeared where the story was blank minutes before.  Each character has so much to say and when I sit down to write I have no idea what they would do or where the story would take me.

I surprised myself when I finished my first rough draft of my 50,000 word Novel two days early on November 28th.  Print

One take away from the process is that all those failed goals were part of the process.  If I hadn’t tried in July, if I hadn’t tried November 1st – I wouldn’t have finished.  Goals – even goals not reached put us one step closer to the end, and that makes them good.

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A Space to Write

I’m generally a neat, organized, fit it in the box kind of girl.  The process of writing, I’m finding is not any of those things.  When I decided I wanted become more serious about writing, I dutifully put a task on my to-do list: Write 30 minutes a day.  I can hear all of you who are further along in this process than me, laughing.

Writing isn’t like shining the sink or cooking dinner.  You can’t be running the kidsFile Sep 14, 9 53 31 AM to soccer, have a cake in the oven and squeeze a few minutes into writing.  At least I can’t.  Writing can’t be rushed. It has to evolve. On the other hand,  if I am not intentional about scheduling time to write on my calendar – it doesn’t happen.

Finding the balance of writing while life is happening all around me is my greatest challenge.  Being a good mom and a writer at the same time don’t seem mesh well.  I have an open door policy, which means I am available for my teens any time they need me.  It also means I’ve been interrupted six  seven times since I started writing this post.

I’ve dreamed about those adult tree houses – one where I could escape to the quiet and my thoughts.  Or how about a boat house on the lake, ahhh.  While we are dreaming – how about a jet that I could fly to exotic places?  Could you imagine writing about the Alps while sitting on top of them? Or hanging out in the Grand Canyon writing for the afternoon.  Or one day on the Atlantic beach and the next on the Pacific?

While we are dreaming big – why limit it to the States? I’d love to sit in a cafe in Paris or look over the London Bridge and take in all the sights and sounds, processing them as my fingers flew over the keys. Actually, I wouldn’t mind hanging out on the moon.  How awesome would it be to write about the feel of the dirt first hand!

But, alas – for now, my favorite place to write is in a nook in my bedroom that has a beautiful view of the pond and woods. You’ll usually find me snuggled up on the recliner, feet tucked under me, quilt on my lap, plunking away at my laptop. And reminding myself on the eight interruption that day, how very blessed I am to be a mom with teens who still want to share their lives with me.


The Art of Not Writing

Do you ever have so much in your head that when you sit down to write, you stare at the black screen and have no clue where to start?  All the strands of thoughts are running through your head colliding and bouncing off each other.

Sometimes it’s easy to write.  Subject in hand, you are eager to get started and your fingers fly over the keys.  But then the days come when your heart is heavy and words seem hollow.  How do you write on those days?

So instead, telling yourself it will help you get motivated, do you surf Facebook — until something a friend posts triggers your mind and you head to Amazon and buy that thing you knew you needed — but forgot until this very moment? And while you are on Amazon, you see an add for a book you want to read. You decide to check the library and see if it’s available there.  While at the site for the library you order an audio book that you think you might enjoy. Then you download it and start listening.  Just to check it out and see if you like it. Soon the time available to write has whittled away with nothing to show.  Can you relate?  Yeah. Me too.


Writing Goals: They Keep You Writing

So, it’s been a month since my lofty plans to write 50,000 words in July.  Things didn’t exactly turn out like I envisioned them. But, that’s pretty typical – at least for me. I am reading at least a half hour most days.  I did come up with a title and write 5000 words to a fiction novel.  But, here’s the thing, it feels more like truth than fiction.  I mean, I changed names and details and such, but it’s just not going as easily or smoothly as I expected. Maybe I’m not meant to write fiction.  Or, maybe my dominant  left-side of my brain is being  bossy and not letting my right-side create.

I’ve resisted the urge to make charts – lots of charts.  Charts with characters and plots and all kinds of  fun literary devices.  Maybe, in the end, I’ll find that’s really the kind of writer I am – one who has to think the whole book through before I start.  I don’t know.

But, now, for this project, I’m determined to sit my butt in my chair and let my right-brain write.   That means I have 45,000 to write to reach my goal.  I’ve come to the realization that I probably won’t finish  by the end of July.  But, that’s ok.  My new goal is to finish by the end of August.  The short time period forces me to write and to write a lot without worrying about it being perfect. It accomplishes two things, one it gets me writing and two, by writing I am learning to write.

To reach my original goal I would have had to make sacrifices I wasn’t willing to make. There was a time when I would have sacrificed anything and everything for a goal. But, not this time.  I realized I can not write and be a good mom at the same time.  My teens are growing so awfully fast and I am just not willing to miss a minute of being a part of their lives. With school starting in three weeks, I’m wondering if I will have more time to write once we are in a routine?  Since this is our first year, not homeschooling – I’m just not sure what to expect yet.

The funny thing about writing,, is the lessons you learn along the way.  Like the lesson in being ok with not reaching a goal.  Even though I didn’t reach my goal – I got something done – which is more than I would have if I hadn’t made the goal.


I was super encouraged by a fellow writer who had a goal of publishing her book last summer. Life happened – and she didn’t get it published.  But, she did get it done this summer.  In the end, it’s published and five or ten years from now it won’t matter if it was 2014 or 2015 when she finished it.

And, as a side note, if you homeschool, are thinking about homeschooling or are just curious about what a day in the life of a homeschooler looks like – check out her book “The Raw Homeschool Mom: 100 Days of Honest Homeschooling.”  Reading it is like sitting down with a friend and having her share the goods and the bads of life.

So here are my new August writing goals

1. Finish 50,000 word fiction book

2. Read for 30 minutes a day

3. Blog post at least once a week

How are you doing on your writing goals?  Did you make the progress you expected? Make some new ones for August and let’s change the world one word at a time!