Give More (#WEverb12)

25: give [CREATE]
What was the best gift you gave someone this year?

I've never been much of a gift-giver. In fact, finding gifts stresses me out and drives me to insanity. For Christmas this year, I pretty much went with gift cards. Except for my parents. This year, my husband and I bought them a Kindle Fire.

Now I am an iPad fan, personally. But that was a little out of my price range to give as a gift. Since I own an iPad, I've not played around with the Kindle Fire much, and trying to figure out the settings on my parents' over the past day is the most I've touched one in my life.

My dad doesn't read a lot of books, nor does he watch movies. But he's a total news junkie (newspapers, news magazines, etc.). My mom, on the other hand, loves movies and TV shows, and loves to read. She also likes to game a bit. So I thought that the Kindle Fire may be just a great gift for them both. I would have loved to have the money to buy them each one, but that was not in our budget this year.

I was a bit worried that neither would want it or use it, etc. And yet, they've been fighting over it since they opened it last night after our Christmas Eve service.

I love it when a gift is immediately used.


Soaking Up the Lessons of 2012 (WEverb Day #18)

Wow, I really got behind in #WEverb12. I could attempt to catch up, or I could ramble on about what's been keeping me from the blog, or just answer today's prompt instead...

Every once in awhile, I mentally hit a brick wall. The past week has been like that for me. I've been so inexplicably exhausted mentally, that I have accomplished nothing. But I've given into my desire for avoiding all adult responsibility with the thought that I am preserving my sanity by doing so.

Anyways, back to today's WEverb prompt: 

18. soak [LISTEN]: What have you soaked in this year? (Baths, sun, ideas?) How did it affect your mentality?

I have been actively seeking to be a better writer this year. Well, I would say, for the past couple of years, that's been my ultimate goal.

At the beginning of 2012, I set a lot of goals (read: New Year's Resolutions) for myself, most of which I didn't meet. Some I did okay on, others were out of my control and others I blatantly gave up on or forgot about (such as being more patient with my anxious dog, or giving up soda). 

In hindsight, they were all good goals to have. But throwing them all at myself at once was perhaps not the correct way to go about it. So over this past year, I've realized that I need to set more reasonable goals at more reasonable pace. 

I've been thinking about resolutions for 2013, and I think what I want to do is set one goal per month for the year. The idea is to accomplish one goal a month, adding a second goal for February after accomplishing one in January. At the end of the year, I'll (hopefully) have accomplished 12 goals, one for each month.

I think if I plan this, my goals will be attainable. Although, I'll have to set goals that can be measured as attainable. I.e. no soda for 30 days, or read 6 books this month, or eat a salad for lunch every day for 30 days, only drink Starbucks 3 times a week, etc.

Instead of setting the goal: read more books this year (which has no real measurable content, since I didn't keep track of how many books I read last year), I want to set a goal of reading 60 books next year (5 books a month!).

I am a goal-oriented person, but when I cannot measure a goal, I cannot tell whether I've obtained it, and I lose interest in it. Also, I think I need to give myself some sort of reward when I obtain my goal...I like getting rewarded. So this should be like a day off of everything, or treating myself to something I've been wanting.

2012 has taught me that I need attainable goals, measurable goals, and rewards for meeting those goals.

So with that in mind, onward to 2013!


The Last Time & A 5-Star Book

Day 12:

I've really struggled coming with an answer for this one. I could say it will be the last year for running a half marathon, but I don't want to commit to that. (The only reason I would say that at all is injury.) 

Then I could suppose that 2012 will be the last full year I'll live in Washington State, but I can't guarantee that, either. So I'm left with random, miscellaneous things. 

Maybe this will be the last year I am an unpublished author? I can only hope.

Day 13: 

Hmm. Another difficult one for me. I've read so much this year, that it's difficult to say which one did the most "speaking."

But after looking back through my Goodreads account, the truth is evident: Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy by Eric Metaxas, is it. This book influenced me significantly. 

It was a long read, one that required a lot of commitment. Had I not been reading it for a book club, I wouldn't have bothered. But it was so worth the effort. In fact, this is the one book this year on Goodreads that I gave 5/5 stars to. That must indicate something.

The reasons this influenced me are many. Not only for Bonhoeffer's faithfulness to God, and the devotion he showed to God and family throughout his life, or the manner in which Bonhoeffer died, but for the way in which he lived each day. He sought God so fervently, that it inspired me in my own walk with Christ by encouraging me to be more faithful in my quiet time. Not to say that this doesn't continue to be a struggle for me, but reading Bonhoeffer's biography inspired me to achieve more. He was only human, after all, and yet a man of God, who was persecuted for His beliefs, and ultimately died for them.


Losing = Gaining (WEverb Days 10 & 11)

Day 10:
I suppose that good-byes are a part of life. I've never really been much affected by them. I'm one of those independent people who rarely get tearful at good-byes, and rarely miss people when they're gone.

Don't get me wrong, I love my friends and family, but I guess I just don't depend on them for my happiness. 

That can go a few ways, I suppose. But that's not the point of this post. 

The point is, I did have to say good-bye to someone this year. 

And I really miss them.

This was not someone that I've known for a long time, relatively speaking. In fact, she was a new friend, one that I've known for less than a year and a half. 

But you know how it is when you meet someone you connect with instantly? Where you totally get that person? Where you love to meet with them and talk with them because they get you, too? 

Yeah. That was this friend.

I knew that she would not be here for long. She and her husband are missionaries, and they're heading to Africa in six months' time. So I knew, when I entered into this friendship, that she would be moving out of the state in a year or so. But what I didn't know was how much I'd enjoy her company.

Conversations, arguments, laughter, book clubs, Bible studies, game nights. Everything was made sweeter with her presence. And now, everything is just a little bit darker.

I know I'll get to see her again. They have plans to visit the States periodically. But who knows where I'll be at that time? Who knows what will happen? 

Yet on the whole, I'm not sad. I feel honored. I have made a friendship which will span the globe, a friendship that will always remain dear to me, no matter how far apart we are.

Day 11:

Oh, what a question. I suppose I could take this one a couple of ways: "richer/poorer" in the sense of personal growth, or "richer/poorer" in the sense of financial status.

The most obvious: financial.

Honestly? I think that's a wash. 

We've had a lot of financial struggles this year. Ceiling leaks (multiple), personal injuries (multiple), dog injuries (multiple), car expenses (multiple)... Lots and lots of things which, independently, don't make much a fuss, but when taken as a whole, cause an awful lot of grief.

So I'm going to say that I'm richer. 

Not the answer you were expecting? 

Well, allow me to explain.

True riches are never financial. Financial gain is nice and all, but money doesn't solve my problems for me. And it's certainly not what I want to focus my life on. It's personal gain and strength of character which truly enriches your life.

All right, the list I just gave above doesn't really sound like gain. And there are days where I agree with that. 

But then I try to remind myself that trials and tribulations build character. 

Who knows how one will respond to a situation except by experiencing it?

So I can rest assured as 2013 approaches, I am stronger because of the trials of 2012. 

In 2012, I have developed a character which has stood the test of tribulations. 

And so I will enter 2013 with unexpected strength, even if it means more trials are there to welcome me.


Creating Triumph out of Hardships (WEverb Day 9)

Photo source.
9. triumph [CREATE]: How were you challenged by a project or goal this year? What did you learn from it?

This year I have been focused mainly on rewriting my work in progress. It's my first "real" novel. I've always written novels (well, since elementary school), but this was the first (and only) one that I have sought publication for. 

Such a goal, I've found, requires an entirely different mindset in writing.

Before, I wrote for my pleasure, for catharsis. Now, I attempt to write for an audience. In the former, I wrote whatever I fancied. In the latter, I must think of plot, character development, word choice, flow, climaxes, resolutions... I can no longer please only myself, but must make the read satisfying to others as well.

So my goal this year was to finish editing my work in progress and seek representation for it.

In working towards this goal, I have been challenged on a daily basis. Every single time I think I am near completion on this novel, I realize how far I am from it. Part of that is the perfectionist in me, wanting a novel to be "perfect" and pleasing in every way, to every reader. But a much larger part of it is that I am still learning. I began my writing journey many years ago, but only got serious a few years ago. I may have some natural talent, but I also realize how much I can improve. There is so much left to learn, I know I will never know it all.

There have been days this year where I cannot bear to look at this novel because I am convinced I have failed in everything I want to accomplish. I have felt like I have too many threads, my characters aren't likable, I don't know my setting well enough, I cannot convey what I intend, I desperately overwrite a scene, I think the reader will miss the point and so I want to give it all away...

Every possible despairing thought about my novel, I think I've had in 2012.

Moments where I have doubted my writing ability and my chance at success, I've had in 2012.

Months where I am convinced no one but my husband will ever want to read it, I've had in 2012.

Days where I want to give up and get a real job, I've had in 2012.

But by sheer determination, stupidity, stubbornness, willfulness, and an itch to write I must scratch, I have plowed on. 

And, although I am not yet finished with my edits, I can see the end in sight. I have found tools to help me on my path, and I have found critique partners who offer valuable feedback.

There is a light at the end of the tunnel. And I soldier on towards it, convinced that my goal is attainable, if only because I refuse to give up.


The Rose Among the Thorns (WEverb Day 5)

5. fellowship [HOPE]: What community has engaged you most this year and what did it you get out of your participation?

This year has been a year of significant growth for me as a writer. I credit this to the unprecedented feedback that I've received from the writing community at Writers' Village University

I've been a member of this group for just over a year now, but I was too timid to use the novel writing forums on the website and post my own novel in its entirety (chapter by chapter, that is, not all at once). But this fall, after a year's membership at WVU, I took a deep breath, and posted my first chapter.

Feedback was overall encouraging. And that was something that I think I needed at this point in my writing. Not to say that my posted chapter was perfect--it was far from it. But the feedback I received gave useful, informed suggestions, many of which I could use. And having multiple sets of eyes really does make a difference. I was stunned with what I missed by being so close to my writing.

Like most (if not all) writers, having someone read your work is both what you long for and what you fear the most. The idea that others won't be enchanted by your characters, or what you meant to express so eloquently came out as over-writing...or a million other of your biggest fears cross your mind the moment before you hit "submit." But you must get over that hurdle. Press the button, and give your writing over to fresh eyes.

Photo Source.
Then comes the waiting. Sometimes, you get your answer right away. And usually, it's not nearly as gushy as you want. But if you can bear to look, you find that there are roses among the thorns. And those rose are some of the most fragrant flowers you've ever smelled, because they offer you hope.

You see, interspersed with words that hurt, pointing out your flaws and shortcomings, are the other words. The words that stick with you longer than the prick of a thorn. These words are the sweet fragrance of flattery. 

I've realized this year, that although the thorns hurt and can draw blood, it's the fragrance I remember. It's the people who validate my writing, and in doing so, validate the fact that I can do this. They have become my cheerleaders, and I hope I'm theirs as well.


WEverb12 Day #4

While on Twitter the other day, I found a new challenge to embark upon for December: WEverb12. What this does is offer a verb (with a question) for each day of December that causes you to reflect upon 2012 and look forward to 2013. So without further ado, I'll begin on the day #4 prompt (because I missed the first three).

4. experiment [GROW]: What did you do in 2012 that you had never done before? Will you do it again?

2012 marked the year of my first ever writers' conference.

Over the weekend of 19-21 October, I flew out to Richmond, Virginia and joined a few hundred writers at the James River Writers' 10th Annual Conference.

I have to admit, I was both terrified and excited about attending this conference. I'd never been to any conference before, and I was signed up for two writers' workshops and a five-minute one-on-one pitch with an agent. Yikes!

It was terrifying. But mostly invigorating.

On Friday, I went to the workshops and put myself out there (terrifying) and met other writers (invigorating). On Saturday, I attended classes (invigorating) and a literary award luncheon (somewhat terrifying). On Sunday, I went to more classes (even more invigorating) and pitched my work-in-progress to a real, live agent (absolutely, 100% terrifying), who asked for my first fifty pages (totally 1000% invigorating).

I would do it again. In a heartbeat, I'd do it again.

The things I learned, the people I met...I'd do it a million times again.

In fact, I'm trying to find a writers' conference closer to me to attend in this coming year.


Coping With the Effects of NaNoWrIMo (Or Life After NaNoWriMo)

Let's face it, NaNoWriMo is a stressful time of the year. 

For most people, 50,000 words in 30 days is a nearly unattainable goal. I'm lucky in that I'm a fast typist, and I have the time to sit down and write when I want/need to. Which resulted in me increasing my goal to a more challenging 80,000 words in 30 days this year.I think every stressful period in life needs to be followed by an opportunity to unwind.

Let's look at some of the symptoms (physical, emotional and behavioral) of stress:
  • headaches
  • muscle tension
  • fatigue
  • anxiety
  • restlessness
  • lack of motivation and/or focus
  • procrastination (the art of putting things off until later and/or ignoring the issue)
  • evasion (or what I like to call filling up your time with other things to avoid that which is stressing you out)
  • overeating or not eating
  • doing nothing (e.g. vegging out in front of the T.V.)
  • drinking, smoking, other drugs
  • withdrawing from activities
  • blowing up at others over inconsequential issues

This are just some of the effects that stress can have on your life.

I'll be the first to admit it--I felt the stress. I felt the fear as November 30th closed in and I still had 12,000 words to write in three days. This November's word count was a big goal for me, a personal best. I had to bring my A-game and blow away my previous record.

Although I felt the fear, I also felt inspired. I am a goal-oriented person, and I enjoy setting new personal bests. (When I go running and get a new PR for a 10K, there's nothing more encouraging than that for me.) So when I realized I was going to set a new PR, I became obsessed with "stalking" other NaNo-ers' word counts. *ashamed* But I found a buddy of mine who had written just over 92,000 words, and I became determined to beat them.

Thus, I was awake this year when November turned into December, and the NaNoWriMo website cut off my ability to enter my word count at 12:00:00 a.m., December first. Darn it! 

Regardless, I ended the month with 93,464 words. (It should have been 93,511, NaNo!)

Anyways, back to the stress of NaNo. After I entered my final word count (and tried and failed to update it one final time), I promptly turned off my computer and went to bed. I was exhausted. 30 days of madness can (and does) exhaust you.

So December first, I woke about seven hours later (because I can never, ever sleep in), promptly fired up my computer and stared at my NaNo novel with a blank look.

The pressure was gone. I had no words to write. I had no need to write the words. Where was my reward? Where was the purpose?

I still have a few scenes left to write. I wrote 93,511 words and I'm not done. Granted, some of those scenes will be tossed out on their ear, probably entirely, and a solid novel is at least 80,000 words, but I have several thousand words left to write, and NO IDEA WHAT TO SAY.

Conclusions always get me. I've never been good at ending a story. I want it to continue and want to write more meaningless scenes. But what I have left here on my NaNo novel is my conclusion. My climactic scene of...I DON'T KNOW.

I honestly don't know where to end this novel. I have an idea of what's going to happen, the protagonist will reconcile with her inner demons and outer antagonists, but I've no idea how. And I've no idea how to get to that point.


But this post's purpose is getting away from me as I cope with my stress of not knowing what to write by, that's right, procrastinating.

1. My #1 drug of choice for stress is, most definitely, procrastination.

Thus, you could have found me yesterday driving forty-five minutes away to go Christmas shopping, and promptly abandoning that idea when I realized everyone else in the world was also doing their Christmas shopping on the first Sunday in December.

So I reevaluated how I would spend my day, and while completing the final scenes of my NaNo novel was certainly in the back of my mind, I went on to my next coping tactic: evasion.

2. My #2 drug of choice is evasion.

Yes, I returned home...to clean and rearrange my living room.

Huh. Haven't done that in awhile. (So I could, legitimately, make an argument for its necessity...)

Essentially, it boils down to the fact that there was no NaNoing for me yesterday. (Well, I guess it's technically not NaNoing anymore, but simply writing.) I put aside my writing in order to clean house (actually, just one room).

And then, since I was that far into cleaning the house, I decided to catch up on the other tasks which had suffered in November due to NaNo, like the laundry and reading the mail...


Now these were just the two tactics I employed yesterday to avoid completing my NaNo novel. Throughout the month of November, the stress of NaNoWriMo attacked me in other ways. I was afflicted with two migraines, I had significant lack of motivation and/or focus (and spent way too much time on the Internet as a result), I procrastinated, I avoided NaNo by doing other things like walking the dogs or watching T.V., and I think I gained about three or four pounds this past month from obvious overeating and lack of exercise.

So now it's December.

And my NaNo novel is not completed, despite 93,464 words.

I think it's time for me to get in gear and apply some of the things I learned during NaNoWriMo 2012.

Namely, there is no time for writer's block.

So my point is this: stress can have its drawbacks, but stress like NaNoWriMo is a good type of stress. If you set a reasonable goal (for you, not for anyone else, keeping your own personal limitations in mind), then the pressure of having a deadline can be beneficial.

I'm at the point with my NaNo novel where I wish I'd set a higher goal for myself in November and pumped out those final scenes. At least then, I'd have something on the page. Now, I'm faced with combating my own inner demons and completing this novel on sheerly my own willpower.

I may have a lot of self-motivation when it comes to writing (because I love it), and I'll be darned if I let this novel get the best of me, but I also know myself. I know that if I leave this novel and start working on another, I'll get too distracted by that novel and think that I'll forget everything I want to do to that novel and put this novel aside for a looong time.

I don't want to place this novel to the side until it's ready to be rested in its entirety. And I can't do that until the final scenes are written, imperfect though they may be.

So no more procrastination. No more evasion.

NaNo 2012 taught me a few things, and it's time I apply those lessons to real life.

Final word count. That's right. Next year, 100,000 words in 30 days. Yikes.


12 Things I Learned During NaNoWriMo 2012

1. NaNo is not about quality, but quantity.

2. There's no time for writer's block.

3. Coffee only gets you so far.

4. Life WILL get in the way.

5. Setting reasonable goals makes progress seem attainable.

6. Turn off the Internet.

7. Do NOT delete a word. (Just strike thorough it, and it'll still be counted when you validate your novel on November 30th.)

8. Prepare ahead of time.

9. Write now, research later.

10. Do NOT allow yourself to go back and edit.

11. Take notes of changes or ideas that occur to you throughout the month. (You will forget them if you don't.)

12. Never, ever, give up. Even if you're 10,000 words behind on November 30th, a 10,000 day can happen!