Journeys in Writing – What is NaNoWriMo anyway?

So, we’ve come to the time of year when it’s time to start thinking about NaNoWriMo again.

This is what I’ve been reading in blogs all over the place, but I’ve only just really decided to take part myself. In fact, I only heard about it for the first time this summer. For those of you who don’t know (I didn’t at first, and man was it confusing..? Surprisingly few blog posts actually explain it! Thank goodness for google!) NaNoWriMo is short of National Novel Writing Month. The challenge is to write a 50,000 word novel from scratch in 30 days. No mean feat!

A few months ago, I would have passed this off as wishful thinking. How could I even hope to achieve that? Me! I never finish anything, unless there is an obligatory, unavoidable and imminently looming deadline on the horizon. And even then it’s a struggle! How could I possibly achieve something so demanding, for which the only consequences of failure would be personal disappointment?

But this time I’m really determined. By putting it out there in this blog post (eep!) I hope to make myself accountable, and therefore spur myself on to actually achieve this. I’ve even been avidly perusing the internet for any advice that can be gleaned from there (I never learn!). Of course, not all of it’s useful, but I have found some great stuff on Kristen Lamb’s blog, which is definitely worth a read.

And if it’s too hard? Well, nothing worth having is ever easy, and no worthwhile achievement can ever be gained without working for it.

And if I fail? Well, at least I’ll have gained something! And there’s always next year…

What about you? Is anyone else doing NaNoWriMo? Any advice or encouragements? I’d love to hear from you.

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Journeys in Learning – The Trouble with Advice

Sometimes, being new at something is really hard.

It is hard to jump into something feeling like everyone knows more about that something than you do. It can be very tempting, instead of diving into that something and working at it until you get better, to try and find every piece of advice you can about it. This is certainly what I tend to do.

In some ways, finding out how to do something from more experienced people is a great thing. It provides important signposts for the journey, and helps you know what to expect, and if you’re on the right track. The trouble is, most advice you find on the internet (which is where I get most of mine!), or even in books, will not be tailor made for your needs. It is near enough impossible to find a piece of universal advice that will suit every person and every nuance of situation, even if it seems to be quite specific to your problem.

Allow me to give you an example.

This summer, having decided (rather tentatively) to give writing a try, it was my first instinct to plunge head-first into an overwhelming ocean of writing advice, from authors, publishers, bloggers, even newspapers and magazines. I soon found, however, that, rather than making me feel prepared to begin my actual journey as a writer, it was making me feel disheartened and inadequate. Take this article for example:

http://www.theguardian.com/books/2010/feb/20/ten-rules-for-writing-fiction-part-one

It’s a huge list of writing tips proffered by successful authors. You don’t actually have to click on the link (it’s a pretty sizeable list, and that’s only part one!), because I’ve picked out just a few pieces of advice to illustrate my point:

“Trust your reader. Not everything needs to be explained. If you really know something, and breathe life into it, they’ll know it too.”

“Write only when you have something to say.”

“Remember you love writing. It wouldn’t be worth it if you didn’t. If the love fades, do what you need to and get it back.”

How on earth do I breathe life into something? Am I over-explaining things? How do I trust a reader when I don’t really believe anyone will ever read this?

Do I really have something to say? Is what I’m about to write good/important/worthy enough to even put into words?

Do I really love writing enough to make this work? What if I don’t want this enough? Am I just kidding myself???

Do you see what I’m getting at? None of those were bad pieces of advice, quite the opposite. But it’s my reaction to them that is the problem. What immediately springs to mind is not how I can incorporate these into my writing, but rather all the ways I can possibly fail to do so. This may just be my insecurities talking (when do they ever shut up?). But I’ve found that my writing (and peace of mind) is much more content when I shut out others’ advice (I’ve already read enough of it to last me a lifetime!) and just WRITE!

Now I just need to take my own advice…

Journeys in Upheaval – In with the New

Today finds me writing a blog post much later than I would have liked (yet again). As I mentioned in my previous post, I have moved abroad as part of my language degree, and am currently residing in the small town of Lemgo, Germany. While this is certainly a convenient, and in parts true, reason for my silence, there are definitely other factors involved.

I started a separate blog, following a request from my sister, to document my experiences and keep everyone at home up to date with what I’ve been doing. (If you’re interested, you can find it here at http://yearabroadfuntimes.blogspot.de/ ) However, posting on this blog, along with another writing commitment and a teaching job, has been taking up a lot of writing head-space. Not only that, but I’ve found that it’s a lot easier to write a simple description of what I’ve been doing than it is to delve a bit deeper. The purpose of the other blog is just to keep people informed of where I am physically rather than emotionally, which is where these two blogs differ.

Here are some things that have changed since arriving, things that haven’t made it onto my other blog, either because they’re irrelevant to its purpose (as a means to inform rather than evaluate), or they’re simply too personal:

Writing

This is one thing that is particularly annoying me. Before I came, I had a significant writing project on the go, one that I was excited about, and was really hoping to see to completion. Since arriving, this project has hit a road-block, which I can’t seem to shift. Why have I stopped writing?* Does this mean I’m really not cut out to pursue this as my career after all? I certainly hope that’s not the case!

Language

What I’m about to say may seem strange, since I’ve spoken German for 8 years (or is it 9?) and learning the language is the whole point of coming. But it is still the absolute hardest thing about being here. Never before have I so appreciated the ability to express my thoughts without much restriction, to express my personality and desires, and to use nuance to imply my emotions. These are definitely things I took for granted before. And I just can’t do them in the same way in German. This, I’m sure, will get better with time. But for now I’m stuck…

Faith

This is a hard thing to admit. It’s always tempting to put up a front and pretend everything’s fine, so as not to discourage others. But the fact is, even the most faithful Christians have doubts, and I certainly fall far below them.  I’m in a faith-rut of my own making. I know that God’s still there, that He’s still faithful to me. But how do I get close to Him again?

So there you have it. My current biggest struggles. I must admit, they were much harder to put into writing than I’d anticipated! It’s certainly a lot easier to write about my day-to-day experiences, rather than my innermost thoughts!

Does anyone have any advice? Or anything at all that could help me? And what are you struggling with at the moment?

*I haven’t stopped altogether! I’m just making frustratingly little progress with my project. And by ‘frustratingly little progress’, I actually mean none at all! Oops.