NaNoFeed: Workaholism, sustainability, and toxic standards

For the last few weeks, I have been doing a lot of sleeping. During the day I’ve had very little energy, and have been spending quality time on my couch, reading novels and exploring new reaches on Twitter.

I have felt lazy.

Tonight the tooth flared up — the one that the dentist repaired and then told me would be extracted if it went bad; do not pass go, do not get a root canal. I’m calling in the morning to get that resolved.

But in the meantime, I am finally relaxing (well, and the pain meds help). There was a reason for all of this. I wasn’t lazy.

Lazy. The Demon of Sloth looms large in my perfectionist, first-generation upbringing. No, my parents are not themselves immigrants, but my mother’s family managed to preserve the first-generation mindset, a fair dose of working-class terror, and the accompanying A+ student syndrome for a good four generations. (Click the link for a brilliant discussion on the Of-the-Essence blog.) Most of my close friends are first-generation college students. Certainly both my mentors and my proteges were.

I’m rereading NaNoFeed posts past, and I see the poisonous workings of perfectionism. Achieve 5000 words in a day? Not good enough; 10,000 is the new goal. You will never be good enough, the Demon of Perfectionism whispers. Your work will never be good enough.

So this November I’m taking on two challenges: one, to write with just enough of a safety net (aka outline) to feel as if there’s ground under my feet; the other, to edit past work and get it out there. Even when I can do the first draft, perfectionism can get in the way of the second.

Under all that: strive resolutely to be merely human.

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NaNoFeed: getting in shape for the marathon

Tonight I’m at the Municipal Liaisons’ write-in at Your Mom’s Basement in White Bear Lake, Minnesota. It’s dark and windy outside, with the neon of the strip mall showing in the darkness across the street. Earlier we had lowering grey skies over foliage gone to rust-and-gold, with dry leaves blowing in the street.

Dry enough to whisper, like ghosts.

The darker and colder it gets, the closer I move to the storytelling magic. I’m recovering from three months of illness that left me bone-tired and feeling like a failure because I hadn’t gotten done any of the things on the List of Things to Do. My Work in Progress has dragged along at something less than professional speed.

Tonight I managed 1200 words or so, which made me feel as if I’d come back to life. I know I’m feeling depressed rather than merely sluggish if I walk three miles and still feel crummy. I know that I’m in a real writing slump if I don’t feel like a human after writing a couple of thousand words.

For the last few months, I haven’t managed even a thousand a day. I’ve been reading other people’s novels and short stories. That’s sharpened my editorial eye for the characteristic tics and failings of my own first-draft prose; at the same time, I have to remind myself that I can’t see anybody else’s first draft but my own (well, and the handful of NaNo buddies with whom I exchange raw manuscripts).

The more I write, though, the more capable I feel as a writer.

So tonight, another bout of fiction writing before I bid a fond farewell to these precincts and head home.

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NaNoFeed: In honor of a new writing year

I was a student, and then worked with students, for enough years that each new quarter or semester marked a new schedule, and therefore an opportunity for thinking about how I was going to structure my time.

Talking with a colleague at the Sunday Central Library write-in, I realized that National Novel Writing Month is an important part of my practice as a writer because it lets me take wild chances and establish a new routine for my writing. That 30-day challenge corresponds pretty closely to the 21-28 days it takes to form a new habit.

What do I expect to get out of the November novel writing challenge?

1. A novel manuscript and/or a start on some large-scale projects, both fiction and nonfiction.

2. New and better habits with blogging. Back in 2011, I took the challenge of blogging every day for 30 days. The result was a surprisingly useful real-time record of the ups and downs of writing a novel.

3. Bonding with my old writing friends and making new ones.

4. A chance to examine my own habits as a writer, and to form new ones.

In a word, November 1 is the first day of the new writing year.

Feel free to share your November resolutions and goals below!

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Weekend Writing Warriors, Sunday 26 October 2014 (WIP: Ship’s Heart)

The winter evening had grown blue, and the threatened snow-squall now wrapped the island in its embrace. Veils of snow caught the faint illumination from the banquet-room as the Saiph patronage, from Martisset the Elder and Tethys down to Naime-Yasmin’s fat little twin brothers who had just learned to walk, seated themselves around the banquet tables, each of the six branches like a snowflake. 

The faces, lit in rows of candles, glowed like the figures of the Gate of Hours. 

Martisset was still thinking about the Ship’s Trees. Yes, the game was paused (as real life did not) but she was worried about their health. Three times she’d warned Naime-Yasmin about the gas-exchange, and three times been told that the Captain knew best. 

One of Yasmin’s little brothers reached across Martisset’s lap to the faceted wine-flute, candlelight glimmering in its depths. She arrested the chubby little hand, and moved the vessel out of his reach, as Yuki-Iskri passed behind her, decanting watered wine from the traditional vase.


Weekend Writing Warriors offers a selection of eight-sentence excerpts from many different writers. For the full selection, see here.


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Weekend Writing Warriors, Sunday 26 October 2014 (WIP: Ship’s Heart)

Martisset knew the story, as did every child on Karis. One journey-ship among many had found the Original Jump; no one knew what had happened to the others. One of all the ships that set out from the Original World, after journeying for several generations across trackless interstellar space, found the Jump that brought them to the edge of the Karis system. 

Her people were born, or re-born, out of a singularity. No one alive knew why the journey-ships had set out; the ancestors had carried that tale to their graves. Nor had they spoken of the other ships, though the records of the journey-ship attested to them. The Gate of Hours and the Ships’ Chronometers honored the Original World’s time keeping system, which matched neither the days nor the years of Karis. 

No one knew.

The empty valley stretched around them, filling up with light, until the blue shadows narrowed and vanished, and she could no longer see the plan of Landfall. 


Weekend Writing Warriors offers a selection of eight-sentence excerpts from many different writers. For the full selection, see here.

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Goals: Almost November!

It’s been a very challenging summer. I just moved back into my apartment, following the demolition and reconstruction of my sleeping space to repair damage from mold. I’ve had a nagging cough for the last month, along with many of my writing pals.

But the good news: November is coming! And that means ridiculous writing goals. As a self-employed writer, I’m going to couple those with ridiculous publishing goals. I didn’t make my ambitious timeline for the summer, so it’ll keep me off the streets and out of the pool halls now that autumn is here.

And further good news: I’ve gotten caught up on my reading, and reviews will be following. Soon, I hope.

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Weekend Writing Warriors, Sunday 19 October 2014 (WIP: Ship’s Heart)

Martisset’s ninth name-day was observed in the dark of the moon following the Feast of Landfall. She and her namesake did the devotions in the enclosure of Martis-Mortis.

He instructed her parents to take her to the Shipwrights’ Chapel in Karisalay-Prime, where the most famous statue of the deity resided, commissioned, it was said, by the Great Shipwright herself. “Tethys will bring her there after the Feast of Settlement, while you’re busy with the Ship construction.”

“A pledge,” Martisset the Elder said to Martisset. “If you make Captain, you’ll be expected to offer libation there before you formally accept your commission.”

If you make Captain, he said, but Martisset understood when you make Captain, as we all trust you will. But not without work, not planet-sider as you are.


Weekend Writing Warriors offers a selection of eight-sentence excerpts from many different writers. For the full selection, see here.



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