I’m Going to Camp!

My son is going to camp this summer, and so am I! Camp NaNoWriMo, that is!

Screen Shot 2015-06-25 at 10.03.00 AMCamp NaNoWriMo is a spin-off from National Novel Writing Month, affectionately known as NaNoWriMo, or even NaNo.

The best part about Camp NaNo, from my perspective, is the ability to choose my own word count. In order to “win” NaNo, you have to write 50,000 words in the month of November. In order to “win” camp NaNo, all you have to do is complete the word count you’ve set for yourself.

And you can change the word count even after July 1st. (At some point you have to let it stand, but I’m not exactly sure what that date is.)

Since I have always found 1,667 words a day to be daunting, no matter how fast I get my fingers to type, I’ve decided to take the attitude that it’s summer, and the living is easy, so why not cut that 50,000 word count in half?

Screen Shot 2015-06-25 at 10.29.15 AMI can do 25,000 words in July, right? There’s even one more day in the month of July than in the month of November, so my daily word count goal is only 807.

If you’ve read some of my other blog posts, you know that I love to set goals. And I love the outside accountability of the (Camp) NaNo community. I’ve signed up, committed to the word count, made a small cash donation to keep it real, and now I’m just waiting for July 1st when I can start watching my word count go up, up, up!

Screen Shot 2015-06-25 at 10.30.00 AMAs an added measure of accountability, I’ve asked to be assigned to a “cabin” with up to 11 other writers who are also writing nonfiction and who have a similar word count. I’ll find out my cabin assignment tomorrow. Can’t wait!

The biggest reason I’ve signed up for Camp NaNo is to put my goal of writing at the forefront of my brain. If I don’t, life will intervene, I’ll do a million other things in July, and I’ll be bummed out at the end of the month when I haven’t done the thing that is most important to me.

Writing is so personal; it’s only for me. It doesn’t benefit my family in any way, so it often gets pushed down the To-Do List until it falls off. Somehow, signing up for something like Camp NaNo helps me keep it at the top of my To Do List, even though it’s still really just for me.

Anyone else out there want to go to camp with me? Camp NaNo, here we come!

Diane MacKinnon, MD, Master Certified Life CoachDiane MacKinnon, MD: is a writer, blogger, life coach, family physician, mother, and grandmother. I’m excited to be coming to a time when I’ll have a little more time to write and I appreciate all the support this community has given me. Happy writing, everyone!

I Went on a Writing Retreat!

I’m back, energized and inspired, from my writing retreat last week. It was a wonderful four days—shorter than I had planned, but it was still a great experience!

I did morning pages for the first time in years (and I’ve kept doing them—some days—since I came home.)

I wrote blog posts—for the first time in the history of my life coaching blog, I have blog posts ready to post weeks in advance of when they will be published.  I have always wanted to be that organized person who posts way in advance and, at least for a little while, I am!

I wrote about my main character in my novel. I’m not sure how much of what I’ve written will be part of the novel itself, but it’s all back-story that I needed to explore. It was really fun to dive into this work and to get to know my protagonist.

I wrote a couple of drafts of a new short story that I hope to eventually submit for publication and sent that off to my critique group for their input.

I created coaching worksheets and planned and outlined my next few life coaching talks. Thinking about my presentations so far in advance allowed me to do see where I need to do more research and how I can incorporate more interactive tools into the presentation (always more fun!)

I relaxed—a lot. I went swimming in the lap pool and I snow-shoed in the frigid mountain air. I sat around the dinner table with my companions and had conversations that felt honest, true, and important.

I was surprised by how many ideas I got for my writing while I was swimming and snow-shoeing. Away from the to-do lists of my daily life, story ideas and blog post ideas kept popping into my head. I plan to try to recreate that opportunity for creativity by consciously clearing my mind before I head out for a run, a walk, or a swim.

By the end of my time away, I realized that the writing retreat was a wonderful gift and I saw that I could still get my writing done once I was home. Most of the writing I did while I was away happened in short bursts. There was only one afternoon where I wrote for 4 hours straight—the rest of the time, I wrote for an hour or two, went and did something else, came back to that piece or moved on to another piece. While I’m not going to have a lot of four-hour blocks of time to write in my near future, I will definitely have 1-2 hours a couple times a week!

Spending this time away concentrating on my writing gives me a feeling that I have a jump on my writing goals for 2014. I’m excited for what the rest of the year will bring.

How can you create a writing retreat for yourself—even if it’s just for a few hours?

Diane MacKinnon, MD, Master Certified Life CoachDiane MacKinnon, MD: is a writer, blogger, mother, life coach, and family physician. I can no longer believe the myth “I need more time to write” because I just had four full days and I still jumped from one thing to another, something I do all the time in my normal, daily life. That’s good news!

Hangin’ with NHWN

This post is late, but I have a good excuse. No, really! I was up late late last night. LAME you say? Pssh, I was up late on a Google Hangout with the writers of NHWN.

As I’m sure you can tell from our writing, we are nothing if not a diverse group. We are mothers, empty nesters (sort of), we are married, we are single, we are passionate for our respective causes and all of us are overcommitted. This means it’s hard nay, impossible for us to get together face to face. Some of us have never met in person. Last night we were still one down due to illness but, we had a great time.

Once we kicked the tires on Google Hangouts (for the record Diane looks FABULOUS in scuba goggles) we got down to the business of discussing the blog. We were thrilled to discover that we have over 20,000 followers of this blog. Thanks to everyone who takes the time to visit our humble part of the Internet. We talked about some minor tweaks to the blog format.

A screen grab of the NHWN writers on Google Hangouts

Here we are exploring the “features” of Google Hangouts.

We also took some time to share what we are up to individually.

  • Deborah is juggling her regular writing commitments, working on her novel and going to yoga to maintain contact with the outside world.
  • Diane is working on her life coaching business and gently pushing herself in her fiction work while fielding numerous questions from a four year old.
  • Julie is keeping secrets, juggling all of her day jobs and volunteer commitments, oh and writing regularly for two blogs!
  • Jamie is soldiering on in the world of marcomm and stretching her wings in short fiction.
  • Lee picked up gigs writing quarterly essays for The Concord Monitor, and a client who needs help with content development for her web site.
  • Susan, is desperately trying to get rid of the contractors in her house while caring for her dad, writing 2 regular columns and teaching a memoir class.
  • Wendy has hit it big time in the sphere of chicken journalism! She is also the Executive Director of a New Hampshire publication for people with disabilities and a library trustee in her town.

Sadly, Lisa wasn’t feeling well so we missed out on updates from her. Look for more detailed updates from all of us over the next few weeks. We laughed and sipped, our beverage of choice (anything from Jack Daniels to wine, tea or water, I’ll leave it to you to figure out who had what) and we will most definitely Hangout again.

We are all truly grateful for the opportunity to work together and we sincerely appreciate you our readers. Thank you for taking the time to stop by regularly, read our posts and share your thoughts. This blog has been going strong for more than three years. We have almost 900 posts and close to 13,800 comments. We look forward to continuing to explore the art and craft of writing with you.

Lee Laughlin is a writer, wife, and mom, frequently all of those things at once. She blogs at Livefearlesslee.com. She is currently a member of the Concord Monitor Board of Contributors.  Her words have also appeared in a broad range of publications from community newspapers to the Boston Globe.

Thankful for writing one word at a time

Wow, next Monday is Christmas Eve. Where has the year gone? How did the holiday get here so fast? I swear it was just February a minute ago.

I know a few people who haven’t done Christmas shopping or any holiday prep because of the fear of the world ending this Friday. I’ve never been worried about the date, and NASA was nice enough to let a video slip out into the mainstream a bit early to possibly help calm any remaining fears. The video was supposed to hit the Web on 12-22-12. It’s interesting to watch, and only about 4 1/2 minutes long. The Mayans were very intelligent folks and it’s amazing what they did without all the crazy technology we have today.

My Accomplishments List (aka Success Journal) has a lot of nice entries from last week. It’s one of my most productive weeks all year. There’ s a lot of work on my desk and I can get easily stressed about it, but Wendy reminds me “it’ll all get done.” Just saying that to myself a few times slows the heart beats and gets me breathing normally again. Writing gets done faster when I know “it’ll all get done.”

That mindset ‘thing’ is quite powerful. Thanks, Wendy.

I’d like to give shoutouts to my other fellow bloggers today, too.

Susan has beautiful images for this blog. I like this Christmas pic – a lot of elves are relaxing for a bit. I picture them sipping hot chocolate (with marshmallows) and their feet propped up on footrests for some must-needed rest. (See? This is how stories get started)

Lee has gotten me thinking a lot about what I read, what I have read, and what I should be reading, through some of her posts. It blows me away that she, and others, can remember what they read in high school. I’m lucky if I can recall the title of the book I’m currently reading. I track all my books in a spreadsheet, trying to top last year’s number of books read each year, but the fast few years have been low – I don’t count the manuscripts I edit, although maybe I should since I read them 2-3 times each!

Jamie blows me away with her posts – so much great information – and I wonder how she finds the time with all her other projects and personal life. But mostly, she’s quite an inspiration to a self-employed writer!

And there’s Diane, whose posts always seem to come at the right time. I love how she mixes in some coaching techniques here and there. Little tidbits that give me the right nudge seemingly right when I need that particular nudge. We’re going to be helping each other get some short stories published in 2013.

Deborah brings a lot of writing experience to the blog. I ‘met’ Deborah through her book “Into the Wilderness” when I interviewed her for my blog and reviewed the book. I like the glimpses she gives us into Vermont. I don’t get to the state nearly as often as I should. I didn’t actually meet her until this past July.

Julie, Julie, Julie – thank you so much for joining this blog. You bring your pep and theatre and mystery writer perspective here and it’s quite enjoyable. I know you have a busy year ahead as President of Sisters in Crime-New England and being on the committee for the New England Crime Bake conference in November — nevermind all your StageSource commitments!

I love being a contributor on this blog, and thank you Readers for being our audience. Your feedback keeps us going and keeps us writing, which is the goal. Always feel free to let us know if there’s something you’d like to know more about and we’ll get it covered for you.

I raise my glass and toast you all — thank you for letting me into your lives one word at a time.

Lisa J Jackson writerLisa J. Jackson is a New England-region journalist and a year-round chocolate and iced coffee lover. She loves working with words, and helping others with their own. As Lisa Haselton, she writes fiction, co-blogs about mystery-related writing topics at Pen, Ink, and Crimes, has an award-winning blog for book reviews and author interviews, and is a chat moderator at The Writer’s Chatroom. Connect with her on LinkedInFacebook, or Twitter

Favorite Writing Books

Lisa J. Jackson and I were talking about our favorite writing books recently. There are some books that I have read over and over again because I learn something new every time, and there are books that I have only recently found, but have gotten me excited to go to the page. Those are the books I buy rather than download to my Kindle because they sit on the bookshelves in my office like old friends ready to start a new conversation any time I wish. Lisa feels the same way about her faves, so we thought we’d share them with you.


Diane’s List

  1. Bird By Bird, by Anne LamottBird By Bird, by Anne Lamotte. This is the first writing book I reach for when I’m having doubts about myself as a writer or just need inspiration. It’s so funny and fun, and full of practical tips. It’s worth it for the poem by Philip Lopate on page 11 alone, but the concept of “Sh**ty First Drafts” was also extremely helpful for me when I started writing again as an adult.
  2. Life's Companion: Journal Writing as a Spiritual Quest, by Christina BaldwinLife’s Companion: Journal Writing as a Spiritual Quest, by Christina Baldwin. This book gave me permission to journal–something I was compelled to do anyway, since the age of 11, but I always felt like I was wasting time until I read this book. It made me realize how valuable my journaling practice has been in my life. My thoughts go in circles when I am just thinking them, but there is something about the implied dialogue of journaling that allows my thoughts to move forward and resolve when I write them down.
  3. No Plot, No Problem, by Chris BatyNo Plot? No Problem! by Chris Baty. I think this little book is a very practical approach to a first draft. It’s humorous and quirky, and I turn to it when I need inspiration to just get the words on the page. It helps me let go of my perfectionism. I’ve only completed NaNo once (in 2008), but with this book I can take that challenge any month of the year!

Lisa’s ListOutwitting Writer's Block

  1. Outwitting Writer’s Block and Other Problems of the Pen by Jenna Glatzer. I have this book so marked up with post-it flags that I can barely flip the pages. What initially caught my attention with this book is the word “Outwitting”. For some reason, that really appeals to me and then since it was a book for writers, I had to pick it up. I enjoy the conversational tone, the exercises, and just the fun I have each time I open this book. If the author’s name sounds familiar, you may be familiar with http://www.absolutewrite.com – Jenna is the founder and editor of the site.
  2. File…Don’t Pile! For People Who Write by Pat Dorff, Edith Fine, and Judith File Don't Pile coverJosephson. I don’t even know if you can find it any more, but it’s one I’ve kept for several years. The title says it all. I still have piles, but I feel they are more organized than before I read this book (and I’ve read it a few times to glean new ideas after I get a couple ideas incorporated into my life.)
  3. The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron (book and associated journal book). I find this an awesome resource for consist journaling. When I first used the book, I also bought the companion book of journal pages – it was large and heavy and I loved writing on the pages. I filled 2 of The Artist's Way coverthe large books before switching to smaller notebooks. It wasn’t the same, but lighter and smaller notebooks are more portable! I admit I haven’t written morning pages in a while, but this is definitely a strong recommendation for spilling out the thoughts in your mind, especially first thing in the morning. Wake up, write to clean out the cobwebs and then have a productive day!
  4. I also recommend Bird by Bird that Diane mentions above.

What are your go-to writing books?


Diane MacKinnon, MD, is currently a full-time mother, part-time life coach. She is a Master Certified Life Coach, trained by Martha Beck, among others. She is passionate about her son, her writing and using her mind to create a wonderful present moment.  Find her life coaching blog at http://www.dianemackinnon.com/blog.