When We Expand

When we do big things that require a lot of effort, it’s normal to feel a little let down after the fact.

When we expand, it’s normal to contract a little—to try to go back to the way things used to be. But once we expand, we can’t go back to the way we were. We have to learn to inhabit our new, bigger, life. We need to get used to who we are now.

It takes a little while for that to happen.

I have noticed this expansion—contraction—too spacious—just right—process for many years.

It happens every time I go on a retreat or attend a conference where I focus on just one aspect of myself or my life.

It happens every time my husband and I reach a new level of understanding with each other.

It happens every time I go from seeing myself as a student to seeing myself as a teacher.

It happens every time I complete NaNo. (Go NaNoWrMos!)

It happens every time I try to do something I’m not quite sure I can do—whatever the outcome: Because the catalyst to me being bigger is my effort, not the result.

I have been having this feeling of having a little too much space this week—I’m a little scattered, a little unfocused. Luckily, I’ve been here before so I know what to do.

In this case, I’ve been studying for the Family Medicine boards for months. Last week I traveled to Lancaster, Pennsylvania, to attend a Family Medicine Review Course, where I earned 56 hours of CME credit.

On Monday, I sat for the Family Medicine Recertification Exam. It’s an 8-hour test on general Family Medicine knowledge.

No matter the outcome, I am different for having made the effort to take (and pass!) the exam. I’m bigger.

So this week I’m rattling around inside my life, trying to figure out what to do next.

The only thing I really have to do is give myself permission to process this most recent effort, before moving on to the next.

I’m taking a few deep breaths, taking care of a few mundane chores that were neglected recently, and enjoying having done something difficult.

For everyone who is in the midst of NaNo and for everyone who is tackling some other new project or way of thinking: Can you give yourself permission to take a little time to become this new person? Just allow it to unfold.

When you do, you will honor your process and allow whatever’s next to reveal itself to you in it’s own time, rather than trying to muscle it into reality.

This is the process that works for me. Will it work for you?

Diane MacKinnon, MD, Master Certified Life CoachDiane MacKinnon: Hi, I’m the slacker who’s not doing NaNo this year! But really, you can’t do everything, right? Even though I sometimes (often) convince myself I can do everything, this year I’ve finally faced reality–at least with regard to NaNo! Best wishes to everyone slogging through their daily word counts!

 

 

 

 

Ready, Set, Write!

Ready! Set! Write!

Ready! Set! Write!

Today is November first and the beginning of Nanowrimo –when writers worldwide try to pen a 50,000 novel before the end of the month.

I’m not participating in Nanowrimo this year. The novel I’m working on is fermenting in a box. Instead, I’m working on a book of non-fiction about learning to hunt, and this is the month when I take my newly minted hunting license into the woods. Nevertheless, I applaud everyone who signs up, sits down and writes.

I applaud anyone who sits down and writes.

I applaud anyone who sits down and writes.

Edit that: I applaud everyone who sits down and writes. Regardless of whether or not you sign up for Nanowrimo, here’s encouragement from famous authors for writers of all genres, embarked in projects of all kinds, wherever you are.

Somerset Maugham famously said, There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.

I would go further and say this is true for any book. Writing is an act of discovery, and each story has its own interior logic that dictates how it’s best told. A writer pays attention to what the story needs and makes up the rules as she writes.

That said, there are some rules for writing that apply whatever you write:

"Applying ass to seat" is what you've got to do.

“Applying ass to seat” is what you’ve got to do.

According to Dorothy Parker, Writing is the art of applying the ass to the seat. November’s as good a time to do this as any. A cushion is nice, but not necessary, especially if you’re using a stand-up desk.

Writing is easy: just open a vein and bleed, is most often attributed to sportswriter Red Smith. Remember: it’s a metaphor. It’s also true.

Start somewhere - and always recycle.

Start somewhere – and always recycle.

And perhaps the best advice for those of you embarking on NaNoWriMo today comes from Anne Lamott. Almost all good writing begins with terrible first efforts. You need to start somewhere.

Good words to you – and good luck.

 

At the US-Canadian border on Day 25.

At the US-Canadian border on Day 25.

Deborah Lee Luskin blogs every Wednesday at http://www.deborahleeluskin.com. Currently, she’s posting Lessons from the Long Trail, a 275-mile hike along the spine of the Green Mountains from Massachusetts to Canada. After that, writing seems restful.

 

NaNo 2015 Update

Well, I won. I wrote 50,000 words in November.

On the evening of November 1st, after my son was in bed and the kitchen was cleaned up from supper, I remembered I’d joined NaNo at the last minute and I needed to do my word count.

Even though evening is not my best time for writing, I walked into my office and sat down at my desk. In less than an hour, I’d banged out just over 1667 words on the short story I’ve been thinking about for months.

That was easy, I thought.

Then: Why was it so easy? That’s never happened before.

On November 2nd, the same thing happened. At the end of my day, I just sat down and wrote the words I needed to write to meet my goal. I loved watching my little bar of words meet the slanting line that showed I was on track with my word count.Screen Shot 2015-12-10 at 5.28.12 AM

If I compared my previous NaNo wins (and attempts) to the story of the tortoise and the hare, I was always the hare. This year, I was the tortoise.

The first weekend of NaNo I didn’t meet my word count goals, but by the end of the next week, I’d caught up again. Toward the end of the month, I had more “no words written” days, but I’d already completed so many words I wasn’t willing to give up.

Luckily, I hosted a Write-In at my local library on November 28th, so I was able to really boost my word count while in the company of fellow writers.

Winning NaNo this year was a little anticlimactic. In previous years, I was behind (really behind) most of the month and the question of whether or not I could write 50,000 words in a month took up a lot of room in my mind.

  • When am I going to write?
  • Can I really catch up if I’m this far behind?
  • Why did I sign up for this?
  • Why did I tell people I was doing this?

This year, I just sat down and did it, day after day. No drama, no angst—just get it done.

For the first time ever, I was able to shut off my inner critic, my internal editor, and just write—which made the writing go much faster than my usual pace.

I haven’t looked back at what I wrote yet, but I doubt much of it is usable. But some of it will be.

And that’s the whole point, right? To have something to edit, rather than a blank page.

Which I do.

Thank you, National Novel Writing Month, and all my fellow Wrimos, who did it before me and with me.Screen Shot 2015-11-30 at 10.20.54 AM

Now it’s time to rewrite!

Diane MacKinnon, MD, Master Certified Life CoachDiane MacKinnon, MD: is a writer, blogger, life coach, and family physician. I’m ready to look back over the year and see what I’ve accomplished and what’s on tap for 2016. You?

 

NaNoWriMo or NaNoWriNope?

Print

To NaNo or Not?

NaNoWriMo time is almost here! Most of us have written about the decision to try it, and recorded our success or lack thereof in previous posts. Jamie did a post on her 2015 involvement this past weekend. Because of the New England Crime Bake (next weekend), I’ve always had trouble hitting the 50,000 word mark. Alright, who am I kidding? There are a lot of reasons I haven’t been able to get the badge. Maybe this time will be different–I have a deadline that could use the boost.

I should back up a bit, and explain NaNoWriMo. National Novel Writing Month. It is when thousands of people buckle down, and try to hit the 50,000 word mark on a novel. For many, that is a first draft. For others, it is enough momentum to keep going and finish. As you know from reading this blog, a first draft is just the first step, but it is an important one.

If you are a plotter, and I am a plotter, you should do that work well ahead of November 1. You still have time to get that done before kick off. But whether plotter or pantser (you write by the seat of your pants), don’t forget the AND THEN rule. It helps you propel the story forward. Examples: Ruth has a meeting with Kim. AND THEN they have a fight. AND THEN Kim is found dead. AND THEN Ruth is brought in for questioning. Keep asking yourself the AND THEN question for your main story line, and your subplots.

The second rule of thumb for NaNoWriMo in my opinion? Keep on writing. No time to look back or second guess when you need to average 1666 words a day. When I am trying to get words done, I will use a bracket in the middle of a paragraph, and make myself a note for the next draft. [Find out more about the town] [Add research about rats here] [what was her mother’s name?] Or if I want to skip a part, I’ll type in [write more words]. I know, elegant, isn’t it? Transitions, word choices, detail, the weaving of subplots, all those come with the next draft. Or the next one. The goal of NaNoWriMo is to write a first draft, even a bad one.

Every year, I use NaNoWriMo as an opportunity to challenge myself. This year, it is to finish plotting book 3, get the scene cards into Scrivener(goal of the scene, people in it, and which story line it serves), and then start book 3 of my series. First draft goal is in January, but if I can get the foundation built by Sunday, who knows? NaNoWriMo is just the kick in my pants I need to get started.

Who’s in?

Report on Camp NaNoWriMo

Hey, Everyone! I’m back! Camp was great! I’m a little sunburned and a lot tired, but I had a wonderful time!

Seriously, though, I’m glad I went to Camp NaNoWriMo this summer. I learned a few things:

  1. It’s easy to say you’re going to write 25,000 words (or whatever your word goal is), it’s hard to actually do it.
  1. Writing every day is hard. (I wrote most days, but not every day.) I’m not a multi-tasker, so finding the time to write at least 807 words a day was difficult. I knew it was going to be—that’s one of the reasons I signed up to do Camp NaNo—I wanted the accountability to force me to write more than I’ve been writing lately.
  1. Screen Shot 2015-08-06 at 1.51.46 PMEven with a deadline like NaNo, I don’t write every day. While I wrote something most days, I didn’t work on this project every day. I worked on my Camp NaNo project in chunks on certain days when I had more time (or made more time, which seems more accurate to me.)
  1. Some things had to fall off my To-Do list in order to accomplish this goal. Most days I feel that I’m only doing the things I really need to do, but I had to cut the list even more in order to make this goal.
  1. 50,000 words in November may not be a realistic goal for me right now.

I’ve been looking forward to winning NaNo (the official NaNo in November) ever since I had to bail on it in 2009 when I had my son (who was due at the end of November) on October 29th. But I don’t know if I can write 50,000 words on one writing project in November. If I sign up for NaNo, I want to win. So I need to really think about whether or not I can accomplish this goal this year.

Screen Shot 2015-08-06 at 2.36.39 PM

I’m proud of myself for meeting my word goal for Camp NaNo (25,000 words) and I’m even more proud of the fact that I’ve won NaNo (written 50,000 words) twice in the past.

I’m going to print out my current project and start editing while I consider whether or not I’ll keep editing or attempt NaNo in November.

Did you meet your writing goal for July?

Diane MacKinnon, MD, Master Certified Life CoachDiane MacKinnon, MD, is a writer, blogger, life coach, and family physician. You can find more of her writing at www.dianemackinnon.com/blog.

 

 

 

Inspiration for Non-Fiction

This month, I’ve been working on a nonfiction book that’s been in my mind for many years. I have a (self-imposed) word count deadline that is pushing me to get back to it (click here to read post about this), but I wanted to pause that project to write a little bit here about my inspirations.

With fiction, it seems like inspiration can come from anywhere. Many authors have written about where they get their inspiration, including my colleagues here at Write to Live—Live to Write.

But with nonfiction, where do you start? I’ve been thinking about this book for many years, and have notes scattered in many places. How do I begin to put it together?

I started with all the reasons I feel inspired to write on this topic:

  • I wrote about who I think will benefit from this book (that’s still in my head.)
  • I wrote about how I hope the reader will be different after they read my book.
  • I wrote about why I want to write this book.
  • I wrote down my highest intention for writing this book.
  • I wrote down some of the memories of times when I could have used a book like the one I’m planning to write.
  • I wrote down some of the coping mechanisms, tools, skills, and resources I’ve used that might help my reader.

After that, I looked for inspiration in more concrete ways:

  • I went back to my old journals and used what I wrote in the past to springboard new thoughts for the book.
  • I reread articles I’d saved that inspired passion, disgust, or wonder in me and resurrected those emotions as I reread them. I wrote (fast and furiously) as I experienced those emotions again.

Lastly, I just turned off the internal editor and let it all flow.

Back in June, before I started Camp NaNo, I made the decision to let go of needing to know how the book will look in its final form. I don’t know if it’ll be a memoir, a self-help book, a combination of the two, or something completely different than either. For the moment, I don’t need to know.

All is need is a little inspiration.

Where do you get your inspiration for your nonfiction project?

Diane MacKinnon, MD, Master Certified Life CoachDiane MacKinnon, MD: writer, blogger, life coach, family physician. You can read my life coaching blog here. 

 

 

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!