Wednesday, November 14, 2012


By Julie

Mid-month check-in on NaNoWriMo here.

Two weeks ago, I reported on my retreat and also that I was making a goal of writing 30 thousand words on my new novel. Well, November turned into the month of NaNOT about a week ago, so I've revised my goals.

On election eve, I found myself feeling extremely irritable, annoyed by folks who don't normally annoy me, disgusted with the constant bickering and refusal to engage in civil conversation about the direction of our country, and last, but not least for me, anyway, completely bored and frustrated with The Novel That Would Not Be Written.

So I made some changes.

First, I quit Facebook for the rest of November. 

Well, that's not entirely true. 

I quit the Newsfeed. I quit responding. I quit posting statuses several times a day. Mostly, I temporarily just QUIT engaging my brain in any activity there that was making it want to explode unnecessarily. 

I did NOT quit private messaging. I turned off most of my notifications, but did NOT turn off things where I am tagged, so I can respond privately to folks who take the time to personally mention me or speak to me. 

I would be lying if I said I'd been 100% successful at all my quitting. I have peeked in now and then to see if the general mood of things is changing (sometimes yes, sometimes no—it's not time for me to return just yet, and December 1 is probably still a good target, because when my toes still curl 1.2 seconds after I hit the newsfeed, it's a good sign I'm not quite ready ). I glance in now and then on my private groups because I miss my friends and the conversations there, but it has been very healthy for me to stay quiet for now—to simply think about the various questions and statements posted in those groups instead of feeling as though I must immediately and without hesitation voice my (one-hundred-percent-accurate-and-you-must-hear-this-immediately-from-me ... OR-NOT!) opinions. 

A few positives have come out of this experiment:  

  • I am engaging more in "real" conversations through email and private messaging than I have in ages. Conversations where my friends or family and I can speak to each other freely, without worrying what the rest of the world will think. Sure, Facebook threads are real, but think of how loaded they are, too. 
  • Even though I originally thought I would stay away from ALL social media for the rest of the month, I decided to make an intentional and more regular attempt to understand Twitter. As a result, I'm finally enjoying the quick dips I can take there—where I have to be very succinct (140 characters or less!) and completely aware that just about anyone in the world can see what I'm writing, not just "friends" I've given access to. All 800 of them. Yep, 800 of my closest friends, who may or may not be folks I actually remember granting access to my somewhat private life. I think this is a good process for me, three months out from publication of Calling Me Home. It's making me consider who and what I really want to be online.
  • I have been a calmer person than I have been in a long time. I am remembering that I am the one with control over what I read or view or listen to or react to--not the rest of the world. It's good to feel in control of that part of me again.
So there's all that.

The second big change I made is this: I quit writing The Novel That Would Not Be Written.

I learned a few things in the process. Okay, I REMEMBERED a few things in the process:
  • For me (and not necessarily for YOU), if I talk about the story I'm working on too much, it loses its magic. This story lost its magic completely. I had spoken about it not only to my agent, but to friends and family, and sometimes to perfect strangers. And when I'd sit down to work on it, there was no mystery. No special sense of working on something that only I knew about, that only I could write about at this particular moment in time. It was becoming a community project, for lack of a better way to describe it. And this was completely my fault. I have always held my previous stories close to my heart—refusing to talk about them much, if at all, to anyone until I felt an irrevocable connection to them, until I knew that chatting about them with others would only make me MORE excited about them, and not make me completely confused and uncertain about where I was going or WHY. Sometimes until I'd written a complete first draft.
  • It's okay to quit sometimes. If the thing you are trying to do is making you nuts, if it's making you bored and listless and unproductive, it's probably time to really sit down and figure out why. Often (MAYBE more often than NOT) it's just you being human, and you need to buckle up and power through. But sometimes it's not, and you need to quit. I think it's that way with any activity we pursue. Writing isn't special that way. Jobs, hobbies, relationships—they each need to be weighed and considered in this way on occasion. If the activity is making you constantly question yourself, your ability to do valuable things, your identity and your self worth, it might be time to quit.
  • Often, something better is waiting to be discovered in the aftermath. Is it crazy to admit that almost as soon as I quit The Novel That Would Not Be Written, a new idea came to me? Like, within about two hours? Like, it was just waiting there patiently for me to give up on the other? (The bath helped. Showers and baths are proven to be beneficial to writers again and again and again, so why we put them off so long is anyone's guess.) This is an idea that has had me scrambling all week to research certain aspects, eager to record the thoughts fighting for attention in my mind, excited about the voices of characters and situations and themes. And, sometimes better doesn't necessarily mean "the most unique idea ever to strike a writer." I know beyond a doubt that my new idea isn't the most unique idea ever. But I'm excited about it, and I know that nobody else can tell this story in exactly the way I will tell it. So I'm shrugging and moving forward. And I won't be telling you or much of anyone else about it for a while. 
Posted this picture last time. And I'm posting it again.
That's me, being by myself for a while, seeing a little patch of blue sky
through the imperfection. And I kind of like it. :)
I have a book coming out in less than three months—I need to be engaged in a new story before that happens, or a new book may never happen. That's reality for me. I've revised my NaNo goal to ten thousand new words on this shiny new idea instead of thirty thousand words on the The Novel That Would Not Be Written. I am being patient with myself, allowing myself the time I need to research and explore the new things, but also setting myself a manageable goal so I have a solid project going before the book drops.

And I feel good about it. I feel good about both of these changes. 

What's up with you? 


  1. Love this post. I see the world as a writer and the mom of a kid who battles a crippling anxiety disorder. When he was little, I used to push him to fight back against his OCD every day--succeed, succeed, succeed. Now that he's nearly 18, and just survived another debilitating go-round with the anxiety monster, I've learned that some days it's okay to fail. That some days we need to crash, burn, and regroup. Walking away takes just as much courage as pushing on through. Even soldiers know when to retreat…

  2. Enjoyed reading this post. I don't have nearly the distractions that many others have and yet there are times I need to "drop out" for a while and not pressure myself in order to get moving again.

  3. As someone who has quit FBing and, ironically, gotten drawn into figuring out what Twitter is (at the urging of my son), I can completely relate, Julie. I also feel a connection about 'magic lost' when you tell anyone who cares to listen about your story. I think for me, it became a way to validate myself as a 'novelist.' "Why, yes, I am writing a novel. It's about ... " I would answer, because polite people tend to ask. I will heed your advice next go 'round and keep my cards a little closer to my chest. Maybe that magic will keep me drawn into the mystery of watching the story unfold.

  4. Barbara, isn't amazing how we can still be learning new methods with these kids 18 years later? You are such an AMAZING mom, and your Beloved Teenage Delinquent is so lucky to have you! xo

    Brenda, I know you get it!

    Pamela, so at our retreat, if I see your mouth drop open to start talking about the book, should I slap a piece of duct tape over it? I will if you want me to! ;)

    Thanks, friends!


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