My Approach to NaNoWriMo

I’m going to talk a bit about my approach to Nanowrimo this year…

Nano!
Nano!

It may be TMI? Maybe? I’m trying to share. I was talking with someone recently about how much I love Mur Lafferty’s I Should Be Writing podcast. She’s so open and honest. (Or appears she is at least.) I like the ones where she just tells you how she’s feeling and what’s happening even more than the interviews. Like oh, she can do it, not every day is awesome, I can have a bad day and still come back and do ok. I can freak out and panic inside and that doesn’t make me a bad writer or bad whatever. I can keep going.

I’m nervous. I’m stressed. I’m panicked.

A problem

So my first problem is that I’ve been slacking on creative/fiction writing lately. I’ve been writing blog posts, I’ve been editing things, I’ve been critiquing, supporting, I’ve worked on some monstrous writing focused projects at work that have taken a lot of my creative and writing brain and by the time I get home I’m pretty burned out.

So I’ve been slacking on the fiction. I finished up a project nearish the start of October and haven’t bitten off a full new project since then. I’ve made notes on a couple of new projects that I want to work on post NaNo (yay more Smoke Jumpers stuff) but I didn’t start because I wanted to keep my focus on the NaNo project.

Strategy

Um…Just do it?

I can’t wake up any earlier because I’ve been getting up super early to go into work and get extra stuff done. But I’m hoping that lightens up a bit by the middle of this week, then I’ll just keep getting up early and spend that extra first hour working on the novel.

I already have (good) plans for the 1st, but I’m going to carve out at least one hour a night the rest of the week. It might not be enough, it might not be enough to even make it. But I think it should be a good start.

One hour means one hour. Not 15 minutes while doing this or that. It means 4 solid, focused blocks of 15 minutes of writing, which should be entirely doable. I’ll do 4 sprints a night.

Podcast?

I’m set and scheduled for all of November, so I just need to keep up the promotion and other things I do, but hopefully I can let the hunting new work/opportunities slack a little. (I do have some amazing authors with some wonderful stories coming up through the month!)

Project?

I’m doing Jenna’s first book. It is a full rewrite. I normally go into NaNo with a pretty solid idea and usually some planning, that often goes out the window. This time I have basically a really bad outline and an end. Which is what I consider this book to be. The book isn’t bad, it just doesn’t work well…maybe a little bad. Not good…I’m rewriting because I think it has a lot of potential, I just think I left a lot of that potential behind the first pass. I have the second book in the trilogy written and so I know where I want to point my character, and I want to follow a lot of the same path as the first book, but basically not at all…if that makes sense. So I feel both more prepared and less than I ever have.

When/If I Fail

It’s ok.

It’s ok.

It really is ok.

I still have my day job. I still have my home. I still have the wonderful podcast. I still can keep writing it AFTER December 1st.

I know for some people it helps to have hard deadlines and impending doom to finish projects. But I’m already freaking out about failing something I haven’t started yet and have a good track record of finishing despite obstacles and stresses larger than what I anticipate this year.

I know that accepting the consequences of failure make me more likely to succeed.

Why NaNoWriMo?

I’ve been thinking more about NaNo lately and if it is still right for me? I like having a month dedicated/set aside for/focused on novels. Partly because while I usually do a lot of writing I am more often writing shorter pieces, flash, short and novella length stuff for different projects. I like those a lot. But I also like the novels. Having some space carved out for writing those novels is really helpful.

Having the NaNoWriMo community can be helpful. (It is part of why I wanted to try out Scribophile, so see if that could work, I’m still testing that.) A good place to go for support or questions. A good place to go and help someone and feel better because I’ve helped and supported someone else and so yes I can do this. (Yes, knowing I can/am helpful to others makes me feel better about my own chances of success, brain weird.)

So I think that for this year at least NaNoWriMo is still for me because it gives me a chance/a reason to stop and focus on just one novel project.

Next year though I think I’ll shift and maybe give myself a cheat of the weekend before to help prep even if some prep means some writing. I’m too much of a stickler for the rules for my own good sometimes.

If you stuck through all of that, what does NaNo do for you? Problems? Writing? Anything? Can I help you somehow to feel better about my chances of success? Did I mention my brain is weird?

Good luck!

Bird Brain

Birds and brains and bird brain, oh my!

Brain

Memory and the brain endlessly fascinates me. Everything I read about it makes me want to know more.

Forgetting seems like a bad idea, but remembering seems even worse. An article from Sci Am about Why We Forget?

The combination of both forgetting processes means that any message is unlikely to ever remain exactly the way you wrote it.

Read the whole thing but this line really sticks with me. I always try to keep this in mind. I think, but I might be misremembering it.

Birds!

ʻalalā
ʻalalā with it’s brilliant brain

Go watch these videos. This is a from Nature about the species wide tool use in Hawaiian crows. There are 6 videos of ‘Alalās using tools. They are extinct in the wild and only exist in captivity but they still use tools. They make their own, they pick the right one for the job.

I know humans who can’t always do that! Seriously, the videos are mesmerizing. (You have to have a subscription to read the whole article, though your local library may have you covered on that, check, librarians are your friends, but the videos are all there for the watching.)

Lest you think it is just the corvid that has a brilliant bird brain, no dear friend, the pigeon is happy to get in on that too.

I think we need to reconsider the “bird brain” insult. I can’t detect cancer cells on a mammogram. And sometimes I write nonsense…Hm.

 

Travel

Travel. I don’t really like it.

Hermitage
Hermitage – Winter Palace – I’ve been here «© A.Savin, Wikimedia Commons»

Sorry!

I feel like this is a very controversial stance. Or maybe just not a very cool one. At least in my spheres, I hear a lot about travel. How much fun it is, how it makes you a better human being, how it makes you more open to the world, how you haven’t really experienced life until you’ve been to every country. (Maybe exaggerating for effect, a little.)

I’m really glad the people who like it, like it. Good for them. But I want to stay home.

Home…

Home is safe, home is full of routine, safety, consistency, known factors. I know a lot of those are basically dirty words. But the routine of getting the same thing for breakfast? Lets my brain spend the energy it would have spent on that thinking about how Jenna would respond to a statue in her park getting up and challenging her to a duel.

Travel is full of tiny decisions all day long eating away at your brain power and exhausting. Which is fine if you are getting your brain power worth of enjoying spectacular views, or eating amazing new food, or talking with different people, or visiting museums or theme parks. Whatever is the thing that makes you go, oh this is awesome!

Those things just don’t appeal to me. I love the views where I am, and I try to partake in them often. I enjoy surfing through photos of breathtaking locations online. I know it isn’t the same (yet) as being there in person, but I do enjoy that. I try new food, I will go out with a friend to a new place and try new things, I know that is on my agenda and do it. Not all the time, but I do. (My favorite coffee shop changed menus and I’ve been trying a new item each week, I’ll pick one thing and settle on it for 90% of the time after I’ve tried it all.) I talk to people online, it’s manageable! And museums have amazing collections online, with much smaller lines, and just as much detail.

My kind of travel

I do try very hard to expand my world and travel through books, articles, podcasts, and even videos. Exploring what is out there, exploring the inner world, exploring the magical, fantastical, the future.

I read. I listen to a lot of audiobooks. I listen to a lot of podcasts. I can do that while walking along the beautiful local sites. And still come home and sleep safely in my own bed.

It doesn’t make me a bad person. Plenty of other things, sure, but not this. It is also important, I think, to remember that the ability to travel is not something everyone can do. (And don’t talk to me about the magic of working around the world, there are a whole bunch of assumptions that go into that too.) So travel isn’t a magical thing that is the perfect solution for all problems and all human interactions.

I happen to be a person who doesn’t do well with travel. I’m glad that others have the opportunities and take advantage of it. I would also be one of the first people to push someone who has never traveled and has the opportunity to go to another city, state, country, continent GO! Try! Experience. And if you don’t like it? I’ll go out to eat at the new restaurant down the street and we can see how that goes instead.

Messy Roundup

My thoughts are a bit mess this week so it is leading to a bit of a messy roundup.

Have you read blahblahblah

I told you messy. I both love and despise all of the lists about what you should read and what you have to read and what you are a horrible person if you don’t read and what you aren’t a real writer if you don’t read and whatever. They always say more about the people compiling them than anything else.

SF Signal’s How Well-Read found a new shiny toy at Worlds Without End  which lets you compare and compile lists without end in the SFF realms. There of course was the one that NPR put together that was turned into a fancy flowchart and an even fancier interactive thing.

I love that they can introduce you to new books. I love that they give you a chance to see if you are being broad in your scope. I hate the often prescriptive nature of the lists.  It feels like it is always the same books over and over and over. And the over and over nature of it feels a little like if you don’t like this thing you’re not a real fan. There is also a bit of the whole idea of a true fan that I will explore at some other point in time, but for now. Bullshit. The bullshittiest of bullshit.

messy so messy
Free Will horse from Faisal Akram because when I searched for Free Will this was the best thing that I got…

I have no choice but to write this

Illusion of Free Will I feel a little surprised that this is a new idea apparently? Is this really a new idea? I assume there is something fundamentally different about this than other stuff I’ve read.

There is an idea in some communities (I am really sure there is a Mysterious Universe episode that talks about this but I’m having a hard time finding it so I may be wrong?) that the gap in time is basically where …consciousness lives. Or where the soul lives.

But that our brains sort of back engineer things is very common. Some biases work this way. You make decisions (people are so weird during the full moon!) and then you seek out evidence to support that and dismiss what doesn’t.

*This doesn’t give you the right to be an asshole. Not having free will doesn’t mean you should go out and shoot someone and say you couldn’t help it. You’re just an asshole. Stop being an asshole.

Mesmerizing

This is a round up of things that will make you stare for hours watching how the insides of things work. So engineering gifs basically.

 

Writing Advice, Evolution, and Cheese

A round up of weird stuff this week. I highly recommend all of them but the writing advice is amazing. The cheese is so tasty.

Best Writing Advice

SF Signal Rounds up writing advice

The advice ranges wildly though my favorite?

“It’s okay to write in your underoos.”

Evolution, Reality, and Game Theory

Worth a read about perceptions and the accuracy and reality. Reality is kind of bullshit. Which I already knew but this is a good read. (long and interesting)

Motivational Quotes

Supporting your hopes and dreams. Though I do kind of want an “It’s ok to write in your underoos.” motivational poster now. That’s pretty serious motivation.

From Rolf Beeler a raw milk Vacherin Fribourgeois

Ancient Alpine Cheese

Through chemical analysis of pottery they discovered that alpine cheese has been around since at least Iron Age. Mm mountainey thousands of years old cheese.

Spring Roundup

Spring is here and so I’ve done a spring roundup. Well they are vaguely tied to spring in my head. Emotional intensity, sensory experience, creativity, and of course SMBHs. (What don’t you think of Super Massive Black Holes when you think of spring?)

Reading YA and introverts and emotions

Jocelyn at 52 Letters has a great post about seeing yourself in characters, about emotional reactions, and about the way we expect our characters to be. I highly recommend it.

I’m not sure I have all my thoughts wrangled together on this yet so I may end up looping back to it.

Senses

Computer Generated Logos not entirely a creative AI but similar I think. (There is also an Atlas of Potential Nations, which generates country names and flags.)

Listen – Table Top Audio is a cool audio tool for listening to audio with a specific ambience. Designed for tabletop gaming, but works incredibly well for writing too. (I’ve actually been loving Thunderspace an app for the iphone for rainstorm sounds as well.)

Taste and Smell? – The future of gardening? I really try to keep myself aware of the range of the future. I know I have talked excitedly about the future of ponytail holders. (Because yes, I am the dullest person ever…shut up.) There seems to be a tendency to focus on some of the big things with technology, but it pervades everything, including gardening. I know there are the fancy indoor gardens (which I’m not convinced I could keep alive) but these little pods seem like another step along the path to the future in another way.

Creativity, the brain, and practice

Creativity and the 10,000 hours thing

So in reading this I’m not entirely sure I understand it. I want to say I disagree but I don’t feel like that’s the right phrase, if this is what the science shows then …who am I to disagree. But it sort of doesn’t seem like what he’s saying is entirely backed up.

the techniques of deliberate practice are most applicable to “highly developed fields” such as chess, sports, and musical performance

But is snowboarding a much more highly developed field than civil engineers? Are musicians not creative?

Supermassives

Supermassive Black Holes are spinning the same way

This was a cool story about the possible reasons that supermassive black holes (SMBHs) at the center of the galaxies appear to all spin the same direction. Early fluctuations of the universe seem entirely reasonable for this, but hopefully this can also give us more insight in the long term into the early universe.

Motivation

I’ve been feeling a lack of motivation lately. I think I have hopefully sorted out what was happenings. I had created a gantt chart for all the work I need to be doing, what I need to get done to get the things I’m working on published. This laid things out through 2020 with a novel, two novellas, and an anthology every year, plus record and produce audiobook versions of all of them. Plus the podcast every week.

Sisyphian motivation
Sisyphus is not the motivation I’m looking for. I would like to wake up and look at the mountain I’ve made in the morning.

This might be reasonable if writing was my full time job. It might actually be a bit on the heavy side. But it isn’t my full time job. And I’m ok with that. I’m not planning on making it my full time job so I don’t need to throw every bit of energy I have into it. I need to do it in a sustainable way. I need to be doing something I can do for the next 5 years or more.

I also have this thing where apparently if I can’t do more than what is required or do it faster or better I don’t feel like I’m accomplishing things. So sort of the problem is I need goals that still seem like a lot but are not only achievable but exceedable.

I can tell as I’m thinking about these goals and tasks I feel very demotivated. It is absolutely manifesting in how much I am accomplishing. I ended up spending nearly all of my weekend critiquing work for other people and getting very little of my own work done.

What I’m trying to do is figure out a good way to work and get done what I need, and feel good about it. I don’t want to make myself hate writing. I don’t want to feel bad about what I’m accomplishing.

Much to my ever present dismay I am not a reprogrammable robot. I can’t debug myself. I can’t alter the settings. What I can do is change the way I work to work with the way my brain works. My brain, and yours no doubt, is really good at what it does, and what is does is being very tricksy. It really likes things the way it has decided it likes things.

So I need a new strategy. Smaller, more manageable goals. Though not all small goals. Like I’d really like to get Dangerous Metal recorded and published this year. That seems reasonable as it is really ready to be recorded and published. But maybe I don’t also plan to record and publish Stranded (or whatever I end up calling that one). Maybe I plan for a novel and a Smoke Jumper novella every other year. And then when I can do more? Great!

Oh and also still the podcast which requires finding authors, giving feedback, finding listeners, marketing, writing, recording, producing, and more!

I like doing these things. I like writing. I like recording. I like creating something. I like bringing other people’s creations to life. I want to continue to like these things. I don’t want to have all the fun sucked out of them by constantly feeling like I’m failing at them and then having that feeling made manifest because I’m so busy focusing on that feeling that I don’t actually do the things.

I’m trying to figure out what the right way for me to work is. I think this revelation is another step.

And yes, I hid the gantt chart so I can’t see it anymore.

Related article about the desire to get things done undermining effectiveness

The future and the past

I think a lot about the future and the past. Our future is completely informed by our past. If we weren’t who we were we wouldn’t be who we will be.

3D printing clothing

This will of course be coming and I look forward to it. It is important to note that we will absolutely still need designers.

Some day we will have closets with these printers built in. You might go to a store and work with a designer to make the perfect dress for you. Rather than a tailor you’d have a quick 3d video and everything comes out just for you.

The real trick is going to be in recycling them live. Take the fabric, break it down, and reuse it. Then they will be built into home closets everywhere.

Singularity and the Neural Code

Singularity is a term thrown around quite a bit. I don’t really believe it will be soon. I don’t even think I’ll get to see it in my lifetime. I am a little disappointed by that. I would love to be able to upgrade to virtual. And when the end of my life comes around I’m entirely on board with being tested on.

I also think we may end up reverse engineering the brain before we really understand it. Mapping neuron to neuron without quite understanding all of the parts of it, but that will help us understand.

By Dcrjsr - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0
By Dcrjsr – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0

Ancient Trees

I’m trying to get the last of an edit pass done on the My Woods (which does desperately need a new name) short before April (camp nano). This lead to getting lost in the wikipedia about ancient trees and ancient organisms.

Thousands of years? Easy!

The clonal colonies are also fascinating.

The Future of Banks

Uber Banking

How banking and the Uber economy means layoffs. The “uber” economy leaves a lot of questions about our future.

Apple Bank

Would you bank with Apple?