Troubles in NaNo land…

Staring our the window while I struggle with NaNo Prep I watch these guys.

While working through NaNo Prep 101 for National Novel Writing Month, I ran into a problem. Actually more than one problem. First, I was stuck on developing characters. I do believe it was the title that got me stuck.

Create Complex, Believable Characters
(Strong enough to shoulder a novel and hold your interest)

Nothing like the words complex and believable to make me feel cowed. Also, would my characters be strong enough to “shoulder a novel?”

I worked through it — thanks in part to one of my blogger friends suggesting I look at characters in my own life. There are some real doozies. I landed on a perfect one who was an exciting, close friend who disappeared forever. It was a whirlwind to be in her life but she moved on to more exciting adventures and people.

The next week’s assignment was plotting or outlining. It began with a questionnaire focused on what type of writer you are. Do you need to outline every detail or do you write and let your novel develop on the fly? I fell somewhere in between, not wanting a detailed outline and not wanting to wing it. They (Or AI?) suggested I try the 9-Step Plot Dot.

As NaNoWriMo participant Derek Murphy said in his Plot Dot blog post: “Nearly all fiction follows some version of the classical hero’s journey: a character has an experience, learns something, and is consequently improved. There are turning points and scenes that need to be included in your story—if they are missing it won’t connect with readers in an emotionally powerful way. And it’s a thousand times easier to map them out before you write your book.” We couldn’t have said it better ourselves. Follow this 9-Step structure to discover the tentpoles of your story, and read the whole blog post here for more details and guidance.

https://nanowrimo.org/nano-prep-101

I worked through this without a hitch. Then onto settings. But the settings referred to the plot dots. I thought it would be helpful to print out the plotting I had done. I have a vague idea of settings including Palm Springs, Laguna Beach and Park City. The 9-point plot dot would help me decide where and when the settings would be used.

But when I looked for my plot, I couldn’t find it — let alone print it. I opened up a new file to start again. Then I decided the system must have saved it somewhere. I searched throughout my laptop and realized I had saved and downloaded the prior steps but not my plot. I felt rudderless and wasn’t excited to recreate it. I decided to go through tabs on NaNo Prep and finally found all my files. You’d think they’d be listed under my account, but they were under file/open/my drive. Whew! I’m off and running again. Or, I should say off and writing!

What type of writer or plotter are you? Do you like to write on the fly? Let your characters tell their stories? Or do you prefer to work from a detailed outline?

If I could only remember

Olive with her cat grass.

I’ve been struggling with the NaNo Prep 101 assignments. I can’t quite find my idea or nail down the characters for the writing challenge I signed up for in November where I’m going to write 50,000 words of a novel in 31 days. I’m weeks away and just not thrilled with anything I’ve come up with.

Here’s a description of the first assignment:

Some people struggle to come up with a novel idea that excites them! Some people are idea machines, but have a hard time committing to one. Tackle this week’s exercise to focus on finding inspiration… and then hone in on a few ideas that spark your creative passion.

https://nanowrimo.org/nano-prep-101#week1

Last week I completed the first assignment. I had some inspiration with my characters but struggled through the next week’s tasks:

Week 2: Create Complex, Believable Characters
(Strong enough to shoulder a novel and hold your interest)
Week 2 Exercise: Character Development and Questionnaires
Characters are the active drivers of your story, and a huge part of a first draft is getting to know the characters you’re creating. Get a head start with this exercise!

Last night I had a vivid dream where it was all laid out. I had five characters. I was filling out their backstories, their ages, appearances, mannerisms, pet peeves, desires. It was all coming together. I made progress on the plot and was so excited to write. I was sitting at my laptop, editing, making changes, completing the exercises.

Morning came. Olive the cat jumped on the bed and woke me up. I struggled in my morning pages trying to remember my characters. They floated away out of my mind’s reach. I wonder if they were any good? Or was it my mind working through the process?

Have you ever problem solved or figured out a creative solution in your dreams? Do you usually remember your dreams or not?

About those to do lists….

cloudy desert sky
View from my morning walk. We had clouds, then thunder, lightening and rain yesterday.

I make myself a list each day of what I need to get done. It includes my writing tasks, bill paying, laundry — whatever is on my plate. Why do I list things like grocery shopping and laundry? Because it’s satisfying to cross items off the list with my red pen. I feel like I accomplished something when I get through my list with every single thing completed.

But last week and this week one glaring item stares back at me without a single red line through it. I must be avoiding it. Or to be honest, I feel stuck. So, I put it on the next day’s list where it then floats over to the following day.

I’m not exactly procrastinating. It’s more like I don’t know what to do. I decided to try NaNoWriMo this year.

What is NaNoWriMo?

National Novel Writing Month began in 1999 as a daunting but straightforward challenge: to write 50,000 words of a novel during the thirty days of November.

https://nanowrimo.org/what-is-nanowrimo

I’ve heard about it for years. I have writer friends who have done it. I never have before. I’m working on NaNo Prep 101 so I can start November off and running and write 50,000 words. On my to do list is NaNo Prep. Each day. But I haven’t gotten through the task at hand.

I’m going to try a new strategy. I’m moving NaNo prep to the top of my list. Where I can’t avoid it. Also, I think if I tackle it earlier in the day, tiredness and a lack of motivation won’t take over. Maybe I’ll get it done when my energy is better. It takes energy to make decisions about what to write about and to develop characters. I have an inkling of what I want, but then I second guess myself and chicken out.

Have you ever tried NaNoWriMo? If so, how did it go? Have you written a novel? What did you find to be the easiest and hardest parts?

Gratitude has health benefits

Sunset in the Arizona desert.

I started an evening gratitude journal, which includes an exercise known as “Three Blessings.” Every evening, I write three things I’m thankful for that happened during the day. They may be little things, like something beautiful I saw on a walk, or bigger like a new writing job referral. Then after each, I explain why the moment happened. It’s an exercise I learned about from a book called “Flourish” by Martin E.P. Seligman. In his book, Seligman said that this exercise has been proven to be just as effective as taking anti-depressants in fighting depression! I find it as a nice way to get grounded after a busy day and reflect on everything that is going well.

Unfortunately I’m not consistent with the gratitude journal. I’ll start it up for several weeks, and it goes by the wayside.

I didn’t realize how many benefits being grateful brings to your life until I read “Gratitude yields health and social benefits” by Jenni Stahlmann and Jody Hagaman in the Sarasota Herald Tribune.

Here’s what they had to say in an article published in December 2018. Even though it’s dated, it has some good stuff in it.

Positive emotions such as gratitude open our minds.

With Thanksgiving having passed, we may want a jump start on our New Year’s resolutions. Research shows such a long list of health and social benefits that families might want to focus on cultivating an attitude of gratitude all year long.

Researchers at Northeastern University found that grateful people are more likely to be patient and make wiser decisions.

Gratitude also makes us more likely to take better care of ourselves. In one psychology journal, a study showed that a grateful attitude correlated to a greater willingness to eat healthier foods, exercise more and go to the doctor. Some research even shows that being appreciative boosts willpower.

Counting our blessings before bedtime can also translate to better sleep. One researcher said it may help soothe the nervous system. Not only can gratitude improve our quality of sleep, it can also help us fall asleep faster and sleep longer.

The health benefits of gratitude can’t be overstated. It’s been shown to decrease physical pain, reduce symptoms associated with depression, decrease blood pressure and boost energy levels. In fact, simply cultivating a lifestyle of gratitude can add an average of seven years to your lifespan.

Being grateful also makes us more resilient, less envious, more optimistic, kinder and more social. It’s no wonder that the more grateful a person is, the more likely the person is to have strong social connections, healthier marriages, larger friendship circles and improved networking skills.

Not only does gratitude have the power to transform our health, our social lives and our careers, it can transform our personalities. Research shows that gratitude contributes to a wide range of positive character traits. It makes us humble and it makes us more generous. Together, these traits combat entitlement and self-centeredness. Grateful people are more willing and able to focus on others and can therefore contribute more broadly to their communities.

We the parents have both the opportunity and the obligation to raise children who will have a positive and transformative effect on the future. As we focus on grooming an attitude of gratitude in our kids, we are not only improving their own quality of life but we are helping to change the world one child at a time.

I do believe it’s our duty as parents to instill gratitude as a trait our kids should embrace. One way is to start a gratitude journal. Another tip is to ask your children to name three things they’re grateful for. In the book I’m reading called “Finding Water: The Art of Perseverance” by Julia Cameron, has exercises to list 10 things you cherish. Another day there I was asked to write 10 things I’m thankful for. It’s not a bad thing to do. Reading about the benefits of gratitude makes me want to be more consistent with my journaling.

As parents, I think we need to let our kids and family know how much they mean to us. How grateful we are to have them in our lives.

What are you most grateful for in your life? I’m grateful for my family, friends and the pets and beauty surrounding me. I’m grateful for my new blogging friends.

Happy September first!

My mom and I had a little game where we’d try to be the first person to call and shout Happy (insert month) first! I miss those days. That was before she was in assisted living. Now it’s hard to get her to answer the phone and rare that she calls me.

Mom and me in the early 90s.

When September 1 comes around I get motivated. The long-awaited vacation days are over. It’s time for me to get on with my life and to be productive in whatever that may be. It’s almost like starting New Year’s resolutions.

Maybe it’s because the end of heat is near. After years of desert living, September can still be hot — but we’re down to a few weeks of 100 plus degree weather. Cooler weather feels good and it’s motivating to be able to go outside any time of day.

Maybe it’s because of my years as a swim mom that I’m excited for September. The calendar for swimmers begins in September. It’s a brand new year after two weeks of time off in August. It’s when swimmers may move up in their training groups and a new meet schedule comes out.

It’s the start of the school year, too. Although these days our former school district starts in early August. That would never have worked for us. As a swim family, our vacation started mid-August after the final swim meets. Thank goodness I’m not dealing with school anymore.

So what are my goals for the fall? To write more. To swim consistently at the city pool. To take a photography or drawing class.

I’m ready. Happy September first everyone!

The critters enjoying my backyard.

What are your thoughts about September? Do you like the end of summer? Do you get motivated in the fall? Why or why not?

5 takeaways from vacation

The beach at Padaro Lane, California
Afternoon beach walk.

As my days of vacation dwindle, I find myself focused on what makes me happy. I have a finite number of days — and I want to make sure I don’t waste them. I’ve decided I need to takeaway the optimism I’m feeling on vacation and stir it into my daily life.

I’ve listed what makes me smile on vacation:

ONE

I’ve discovered I need beach time every day. A walk on the beach in the morning. An hour or two in my beach chair reading in the late afternoon. I’m not sure how to incorporate beach time in Arizona, but maybe more visits to the lake? Or, maybe it’s time outside in nature.

TWO

I’ve found satisfaction from writing and working. During the last year of shutdowns, I lost motivation. Freed on vacation, I did an interview and had a story published and it gave me a charge that I haven’t felt for awhile. (Most likely I haven’t felt it because I haven’t been writing and submitting my work.) Clear answer to this. Write more often and submit my work.

THREE

Another thing that I enjoy is playing like a kid. On our morning walk, my husband I discovered the park below our house had two permanent ping pong tables. I love ping pong. My husband loves ping pong. We had a ping pong table in our garage at our old home that got covered with dust with years of neglect. We didn’t move it to Arizona. I foresee a ping pong table on the patio.

Summerland beach park ping pong tables
Concrete ping pong tables at the park above the beach.

FOUR

Reading is a big part of my vacation days. I read on the beach, I read in the middle of the day. I read at night. At home, I can definitely find more time to read.

FIVE

Drawing. As a kid, I spent hours drawing. I drew trees, houses, people, flowers. I loved to sketch. I was very judgmental of my work and felt I wasn’t any good at it. Especially when I compared myself to the two kids in my class who were “artists.” The teachers and kids would ooh and aah over their works. I took drawing and art classes in college as electives because it’s what I liked to do. On vacation, I brought a sketch pad and when I couldn’t find pencils or charcoal, I ordered a small set on Amazon. I like to sketch my surroundings here. I can take an art class, watch youtubes or keep on sketching at home.

Horses on Summerland beach
Horses share our morning walks on the beach.

What pleasures do enjoy on vacation that you can incorporate to your daily life?

Blogging from bed

view of Arizona backyard
View from my bed.

We’ve had thunder and lightening and down pouring rain since 10 p.m. last night. I’m sitting in bed watching the storm. I’ve decided this is a perfect day to blog from bed.

Right now there is a break in the rain, so I might venture out for a walk. But with all the thunder and lightning, I’m not sure it’s safe or the smartest idea. So here I sit, listening to the birds who are beginning to venture out.

It was quite a spectacular show last night — and the night before. The biggest issue is Olive who normally doesn’t meow. She was crying loudly this morning. When she got scared or nervous in the past — due to a pug named Waffles who likes to chase her — she ended up with a UTI. She’s hiding under the guest bed currently and I’m leaving her alone.

I’m enjoying my first monsoon season and blogging from bed!

Monsoon in Arizona
The water is pooling around the house.

Have you ever blogged from bed and for what reasons?