Emerging from NaNoLand…but only momentarily

Whoa I didn’t realize it had been so long since my last post. Eek.

Well, update: I’m in the middle of my first attempt at NaNoWriMo (translation: National Novel Writing Month). It’s not a script, I realize, but I am learning so much about style and characterization and plot structure–not to mention the immense freedom writing a novel provides next to a feature film script.

For those who have never heard of such a thing as a NaNoWriMo (hubs still pronounces it NaNoREEMo, sweet darling), it’s a challenge to write 50000 words of a novel in 30 days. Madness, I know. But here I sit on Day 17, 30K in and loving every second of it…especially the procrastination parts 🙂

Tonight, I found a new procrastination toy: I Write Like…

You paste a bunch of text into a little box, it analyzes your word choice and style, compares you to a famous author, and spits out a handy dandy official looking badge that says something like this:

2px solid #ddd;font:20px/1.2 Arial,sans-serif;width:380px;padding:5px; background:#F7F7F7; color:#555″>

I write like
Jane Austen

I Write Like by Mémoires, journal software. Analyze your writing!<!– End I Write Like Badge –>

I always knew I liked her 🙂

oooh here’s another good one:

2px solid #ddd;font:20px/1.2 Arial,sans-serif;width:380px;padding:5px; background:#F7F7F7; color:#555″>

I write like
J. D. Salinger

I Write Like by Mémoires, journal software. Analyze your writing!<!– End I Write Like Badge –>

All opposed, say “I”

Can I just be a rebel for a minute? As a writer, I sometimes feel obligated to embrace the elements of story as perfect, absolute, and well-defined.

But I’ve always turned my nose up at the idea of an “antagonist.” Perhaps it’s the way they teach it in small-town public schools, but I feel like I’m “doing it wrong” if my opposing force isn’t a person or group of people. The antagonist of a story can be an entity…

like the government

or the Catholic church.

But even then, those are still groups of people. They can speak for themselves and no matter how twisted or convoluted the reason, they can always justify opposing the main character. Where human enemies are concerned, fellow human characters have some degree of control over their impact on the story. Kill them. Conquer them. Or just get out of their way.

I’ve found I tend toward antagonists that humans have no illusion of control over or justification for. Illness, death, evil, nature, accident. I think the unfairness of it all makes the angst we feel for the character experiencing it deeper and more tangible.

Yes, we always need human antagonists. Bad things can’t just keep happening to everybody all the time. And we need them because they are real to us. We understand humans as antagonists. At some point in life, we all make an enemy or two. And so we enter a story with ideas about what a human antagonist can and cannot do.

But we can’t understand untimely death, or a terminal diagnosis, or what triggers domestic abuse, or a devastating tornado, or a plane crash.

These symptoms of brokenness are the true enemies of the human race. And these are the foes that make the most compelling stories. Why? Because they’re not just the character’s enemies. They are our enemies. A corrupt cop feels like the good cop’s enemy, but cancer feels like my enemy too. These universal opponents connect us to the story in ways no wicked stepmother could dream.

The Hour Defier

Incensed? Provoked? Inspired? Affected? Aroused? Inflamed? Infused? Sparked? Emboldened?

I don’t know if any word quite pins the emotion I experience when I read another startup success story. Especially when it comes from @sarahjbray. The girl is a maven of all things media. She is the Napoleon of digital nations. She is master of the online free world. Her scepter remains unchallenged. When I peruse her latest success at A Small Nation, it literally feels like a hot water balloon filling fast and bursting somewhere in the middle of me. And I’m not the kind to use “literally” liberally.

My heart starts beating and my mind starts racing to the vision of what that dream-come-true moment looks like in my life. Every time I think I’ve got it figured out, that I’m heading in a solitary direction–the one that’s going to take me home to This Is It–the road widens again and the opportunities before me start ticking at my mental fortitude like school kids on a Jenga tower.

I’m starting my MFA in Script and Screenwriting in January. I know it’s what I’m supposed to be doing. It’s what I’ve been not-so-patiently waiting for these last 3+ years. Not all that long in lifespan terms, I realize. But the Man Upstairs seems to know the rather constricting boundaries of my “longsuffering” tolerance and I am incredibly grateful. I work for a university with one of the best MFA Script programs on the east coast and I get tuition benefits. I couldn’t have made up a better plan!

At the same time, I am pursuing freelance ventures with vigor, thinking about future family plans and asking myself, how does it all work together? I know there’s a Superwoman inside convincing me that I can accomplish everything I want to and still get dinner on the table. But the logistics are starting to get muddied by that little number 24.

That’s the number of hours in a day (in case you forgot). I’ve been trying to create more since I was in high school. Ten years later, I’m no closer than I was as a 14yr old honor student, cheerleader, marching band geek, mime artist, dancer, church volunteer, and choir member. Hmm…PR writer, MFA student, freelance writer, social media advisor, event planner. Looks like I haven’t learned much, does it? Oi vey.

What I have learned in my 10 year career as an Hour Defier is that the only way to make the most of everything I’ve been given is to take this journey one (boldly but carefully placed) step at a time.

Punch Drunk Love

INT. BOOKSTORE CAFE – NIGHT

A young woman approaches the counter, both shoulders laden with bags. She whips a careful eye around the perimeter of the room. No outlets.

GIRL

Tall Pike, please.

BARISTA

I’m sorry, we don’t carry the Pike blend at our location.

GIRL

(perturbed)

A tall house, then.

BARISTA

That’s $1.82

The girl rummages through bag 1 and pulls out a Starbucks gift card.

BARISTA (Cont’d)

I’m sorry ma’am. We don’t take Starbucks giftcards. We’re just a Barnes & Noble cafe, not a real Starbucks.

GIRL

Well, that’s disappointing.

She reluctantly offers the barista her debit card, evidently trying to remember if she even has $1.82 in the account.

BARISTA

Thank you, ma’am. Have a great night.

GIRL

(already walking away)

Sure, thanks.

She steps away from the cafe, into the bookstore, scanning walls for outlets. Other cafe patrons dart her looks as if to say, “Sorry, kid. None here.” She is unmoved. In a far corner, she spots a lone outlet, far from tables or chairs. Her fellow patrons watch in horror as she dares to drag a table and chair to the wall with the outlet and set up shop.

PATRON 1

She can’t do that.

PATRON 2

The manager should come say something.

PATRON 1

I can’t tell if she’s dumb or just playing dumb.

Thus began my first evening writing session at the Barnes & Noble excuse-for-a-starbucks here in Virginia Beach. With a closing time of 10p.m., it is disappointingly the latest-open institution in the city that does not make its primary profit from alcohol. As you can see, the situation was less than ideal. It was only made worse by the fact that the chord to my laptop-which-has-no-battery fried out. -_-

Therefore, my writing session was conducted completely with ink and paper. I tell you, I got more done in those three hours than I would have with a keyboard and wifi any day. It’s amazing what happens when you unplug and focus in on just the story. Details and fact checks can wait. Sometimes you’ve got to boil it down to story. Now I’ve got a new script brewing and am happy to report that improvisation is good for inspiration, apparently.

In light of my little burst of creativity this week, I leave you with this article, posted by Wired4Film.com.

Ladies and gentlemen, “Write Drunk, Edit Sober.”

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Vacationers

The Monday after vacation…an all-over-blah-waste-of-a-day, right? Not so, if you–like me–have learned the secrets of becoming an effective vacationer. I just spent the last week in a six bedroom beach house with 21 people in lovely Corolla, NC. Almost half of those people were between the ages of 5 and 17. By all reason I should be exhausted, at my wit’s end and in need of a vacation from my vacation. But with just enough determination, and the good fortune that my husband’s extended family gets along remarkably well, I feel rested, rejuvenated, and inspired to up the proverbial ante to make the dream of writing every day a reality.

Thus, I bring you:

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Vacationers

1. Plan to plan: If you want to experience a locale’s attractions, you have to plan for it or you’ll drive yourself nuts rushing around or regret not going at all.

2. Plan not to plan: A vacation isn’t a vacation if you don’t relax. We made sure our week included plenty of time for beaching and lounging (Read: reading and writing).

3. Come with a goal in mind: Mine wasn’t too specific–make the most of each day. That meant not stressing when plans didn’t work out, getting up early to make use of those precious morning hours, and fully engaging in the day’s activity. I can honestly say I have no regrets about how I spent my time.

4. Don’t act your age: I’m in my mid-twenties. Young enough to stay up late and “party hearty” without being judged for it, but old enough to start taking responsibility for what I put into (and therefore get out of) each day. Last week, I went to bed at the same earlier-than-normal time each night and got up at the same earlier-than-normal time each morning. Those early morning hours before the whole house stirred were spent running on the beach, watching the sunrise, visiting local coffee shops, reading books in the hammock, and writing. Why didn’t I think of this before?!

5. Keep up the routine: I got so much out of each day because I did (relatively) the same thing each day. I tried staying up late one night to watch a movie with the rest of the twenty-somethings in our group, but promptly passed out in the first half-hour. (is your jaw on the floor yet? this is so unlike me.)

6. Meld with the locals/lifers: In a place like Corolla, it’s hard to find any locals at all. The whole island is basically a tourist attraction. But there are a few who live close to the Currituck lighthouse or who run the museum at the historical Whalehead Club or who own the coffee shop down the street. Their stories were just as inspirational as watching the sun come up over the ocean or seeing wild horses graze on the dunes.

7. Take it home with you: Not the goofy embroidered visor, the sense of peace, normalcy, and balance you gain from practicing the first 6 habits. For me, balance came home with me in the form of a new sleeping/running/writing schedule that has me up at the same pre-dawn time every morning, uses my lunch hours effectively, and leaves plenty of room for the other loves in my life…like chocolate.

3 Lessons Learned in a Wasted Lunch Hour

Before I committed to writing a blog post over my lunch hour, I should have come up with a decent idea to write about. Instead, I’ve been typing and deleting different sentences over and over again, checking facebook (for inspiration, of course), checking Twitter (also for inspiration), reading emails, and coming back to stare at my blank blog post page.

*sigh*

I should be brimming with ideas, ya know? I just moved to a cool new state and started a cool new job, but all’s been quiet on the writer’s front (ha. double entendre.)

However, this seemingly lost hour may not be totally forgone. I learned a few things.

1. If you’re going to write over your lunch break, do it away from your desk.

Emails pop up. Your files and browser tabs are probably still open. People pass your door and wonder if you’re working and slacking or breaking and working. It’s just not an environment conducive to creativity. I passed a beanbag display at Walmart last night, hesitating about whether it was appropriate for an office or not. I’ve decided to go back and get it if for no other reason but to do my lunch hour writing. My office is pretty small, but there’s enough room for me to step away from my work station, slump down in a comfy bean bag, and type something on my soon-to-be-purchased netbook for an hour, or even half an hour. Next time I do this, I’ll close my door, turn off my work monitor, and transform my little space into a little haven.

2. If you’re going to write over your lunch break, be prepared.

An hour isn’t very long. In fact, it’s super short. And when you know you only have an hour, those 60 minutes seem to spit by like a Nascar commercial. Come to the midday writing session with material. If it’s a blog post, have an idea or a list of ideas to start from. If it’s a story or script, decide beforehand which scene you want to give attention to. If it’s a free write session, don’t over think it. I added “Blog over lunch” to my daily to-do list, but didn’t give enough thought to it to make the hour fruitful…besides preaching at myself through this post.

3. If you’re going to write over your lunch break, write.

“Duh,” yes? Yes. Your social networks can wait til the 3:00 coffee break or the 5:00 shut down. They’ll still be there. Promise. So will your personal emails and the list of random things about which you’ve said “Oh I should Google that.”

Okay so I came out of this hour with a blog post after all. But next time I’m going to spend the whole 60 minutes writing…not just the last 15. 🙂