Category: NaNoWriMo2016

Volunteering as a First Reader and Writers Weekend 2.0

I’m volunteering some time as a first reader for a couple of small publications. The first is Shotgun! Strange Stories, which I was a first reader for on the current issue, and the other is DeadLights, for which I’ll be a first reader next.

“First reader” is a nicer way of saying I read the slush pile looking for those hidden gems I can pass along for a second read. I don’t read everything that comes in since I’m just volunteering and don’t have unlimited time, just a few every week or so.

It’s enough to give me a little boost of energy to write my own work, which I need. I’m having what I guess they call an existential crisis, layered on top of a midlife crisis, and all that’s layered on top of a powdery core of ennui. It’s tough shaking it off; I need more writing people around me to talk to and go have coffee with. I don’t get that much out in rural Washington state.

But, on a positive note, some writer friends of mine from Seattle are coming into town this weekend for a Writers Weekend 2.0. We spend the weekend immersed in writing at my house. This is the second time we’re doing this; the first time was during NaNoWriMo, and we used the weekend to do sprints, talk shop, and generally give encouragement to one another. So, this one will bring some much needed energy to enliven my flagging focus.

Can You Kill Your Creativity?

You know the saying, “use it or lose it?” I worry that applies to a person’s creativity. I worry it applies to me.

I went through a long period of not writing—at least not writing my own stories, producing work original to me. I wrote for companies, everything from web content to newsletters to promotional articles to press releases. And some of it was creative work, like stories. But the creative stuff was always using some property the company owned, and it was a bit like paid fanfic. I enjoyed the work, enjoyed making a living on it all, and numbed the nagging twitch in the back of my writer-brain by telling myself, “Hey, it’s still all writing.”

But, it’s not the same. Eventually, I numbed that twitch right into a coma, not realizing that the twitch was my own creativity. And when it went under finally and didn’t twitch anymore, I ignored the silence. “I’m still writing. It’s all going to be ok. Still writing….” But that writing was now starting to suffer. Even while numbed my creativity had been desperately gasping through the mannequin prose of press releases and promo copy, making it a little better than it deserved to be, but when it couldn’t get enough air to keep it conscious any longer, it began dying.

Saying my creativity went into a coma is me avoiding a horrible truth, because the reality is that it wasn’t just sleeping in a coma—it was dying. And the parts that died I was never going to get back.

So, here I am in NaNoWriMo, resuscitating that part of me, frantically forcing in the oxygen of attention I foolishly deprived it of for so, so long, hoping it’ll wake up and be like it used to be, back when it vibrated with ideas and exchanged those for the exercise of my attention.

I know it won’t be like it used to be, but I think there’s enough left to build on, to build up something that’ll be different. Maybe it’ll be almost as good as it might have been, had I not tried to suffocate it with neglect.

Total NaNoWriMo words right now: 9,375.

Beginning with Day 3 of NaNoWriMo

What better place to start than the third day of something? I started NaNoWriMo on time, November 1, but I only just decided to start keeping a blog about it today. This decision came primarily because I missed doing any writing on Day 2, so I’m way behind already. I’m looking for this post writing to be a gentle slide back into the real writing work when it feels like that work is going to be really gummy—like today.

This site is not set up yet even; it’s just using an uncustomized template for the moment. It grates to see it, but I’ll stomach it for now. In the past, this would have been a writing distraction, something I’d divert to working on instead of writing, somehow rationalizing that the empty website’s design was more important that writing. You can always do the writing later, right?

You can tell yourself that for a long, long time. I’ve been telling myself I’ll do the writing later for twenty years now, and it finally has to stop.

Here’s me stopping it.

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