My NaNoWriMo Plans – writing a novel in 30 days!

Today I want to share my NaNoWriMo plans. One of my major goals for 2017 is to write as much as I can. I wanted to complete my memoir about my 11 years in New Zealand, I wanted to start a blog and I want to take part in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month).

If you haven’t heard of NaNoWriMo – it’s a month long challenge to write a 50,000 word novel during November. Spread across the 30 days it averages 1,667 words a day. It’s a big challenge and it’s designed to get you moving. Leave procrastination, self doubt and any crippling fears about your writing at the door and just get on with it.

NaNoWriMo Participant Badge

My first experience with NaNoWriMo was back in 2007

I was in my mid twenties and living in Palmerston North, New Zealand. I worked full time and was engaged. Amazingly I managed to write a 50,000 word romance novel set in New Zealand. I printed and bound my very rough draft and had great plans to edit it but it wasn’t to be. I still have it somewhere.

Even though I didn’t take that novel any further I still found it a very worthwhile experience. For starters I proved to myself that I could write that many words in a month. And I sat down at the computer each day to write. Even when I doubted the quality of my writing – I didn’t let it stop me – I kept going. I learnt that characters really can come alive as you write their story and they can lead you down a very different path. And I realised how much I loved having written. It felt good to be writing. I was so proud of myself when I did my final submission of words on 30th November 2007 and saw my Winner’s certificate!

NaNoWriMo 2007 Winner

A few weeks later we were setting off on a 5 week travelling adventure – I got busy with preparation for our trip and then with the trip itself and by the time we got home and over the jetlag and back into daily routine my novel lay forgotten.

I’ve made tentative NaNoWriMo plans to join in several times since that first experience and have even started a couple of times but 2007 is the only year I completed the challenge.

Why now?

NaNoWriMo is one of those things that I am confronted with each year…I wistfully remember that hard slog of getting those 50,000 words out with my rose tinted glasses…and I wonder if I should give it a go. The timing hasn’t always worked. Life has changed…I’ve gained a husband and a little boy and moved halfway back across the world since 2007.

But when sitting down to figure out what I wanted my goals to look like this year I came back to the NaNoWriMo idea. November was a long way off back then. I knew I wanted to work as hard as I could to develop my writing skills. It felt right to list it as a goal for later in the year.

How I’m Preparing

As October rolled around I logged into the NaNoWriMo site and updated by profile. I joined the local group on Facebook and hope to meet some fellow NaNos face to face by the end of November! I tuned in to a webcast by the NaNoWriMo official team. They talked through some exercises which really helped the ideas to start flowing.

I’ve given my story a fair bit of thought. I bought a whiteboard and post-its and created a list of things I know about my story and questions I had. I wouldn’t say I have a full synopsis but it’s a start!

Can I do it?

As the time has edged closer to the start of November I’ve started second guessing myself.

  • Will I have time?
  • Can I do it?
  • Can I fit it around everything else I have going on?
  • Is it fair to my family?
  • What about getting ready for Christmas?
  • How does it fit with my other goals?
  • Is my idea crap?
  • What if I write myself out and never want to write again?
  • What if I fail at NaNoWriMo when I’ve declared my intent on my blog?

I’ve managed to talk myself back around. So what if I fail? At least I will have tried! And if I declare my intent I am less likely to give up! I love some outer accountability (more on that coming up in November!).

So I’m here – poised with a half baked story idea and no idea where it’s going to lead me. One of the ways I Find the Good Everyday is to challenge myself to step outside of my comfort zone. Attempting to write a 50k novel in 30 days is a way I can do that while working on my goal of becoming a better writer.

I am hoping that on this 10th anniversary of my first NaNoWriMo effort and only completion that I will finally be able to win again!

Here’s to a novel filled November 2017!

If you are have NaNoWriMo plans this year or have attempted it in the past I would love to hear from you – please leave a comment or drop me a line!

Twenty lessons I learnt as a 35 year old

Twenty Lessons I Learnt as a 35 year oldLast week I shared my Achievements since turning 35. I’m proud of what I’ve achieved this last year. I’ve learnt a lot too and today I’d like to share twenty lessons I learnt as a 35 year old.

A while back I had an Astrology reading and was told that the Sun is in my 9th House which means I’m a lifelong learner. I’d agree with that – I often get an interest in something new and do as much as I can to learn all about it. And over the last few years I’ve been trying to learn more about myself and determine my meaning and purpose. That’s how this blog has come about.

Even if you don’t believe in Astrology or Tarot etc I think they can be great for connecting you to your intuition. If you read something that you can link back to your life and present situation I believe it means it’s something you need to be aware of. Finding out that I was born to be a Lifelong Learner made me recognise this within myself. And now I can embrace it and make the most of it!

So it makes sense that when I decided to think about my Achievements as a 35 year old that I also thought about the lessons I learnt as a 35 year old too.

Twenty lessons i learnt as a 35 year old

Pottery Lessons
Pottery Lessons
  • Writing feels right to me. I feel like I’m meant to be doing it. And it excites me. So I shall be continuing on!
  • Writing helps me process things before I even realise that I’m dealing with them
  • I am a lifelong learner – I always want to be learning about something and I need to give myself plenty of opportunities to do so
  • Being a beginner is exciting and allows me to explore my creativity in a way that feels safe (e.g. pottery lessons)
  • Never underestimate simplicity….in patterns, shapes, words, images
Knowing Myself Better
  • I can self motivate myself to get stuff done when it’s important to me
  • Daring myself to do something scary is a good thing and something awesome usually comes from it
  • Doing something every day is so much easier than a few times a week
  • There are ways to get outer accountability without having to rope other people in (posting to Instagram, starting a blog etc)
  • Procrastination can be a sign my gut is trying to tell me something – I need to ask myself “why am I putting this off?”
Taking Care of Myself
  • Walking helps me make sense of my jumbled thoughts and is great for coming up with ideas
  • Taking time for self care and self nurturing activities makes me more productive in other areas of my life
  • I don’t always have to be going full-pelt to achieve my goals. It’s okay to sit with them for a while when I need a rest. And usually when I get back to it I am refreshed and better able to achieve them
  • I should never underestimate how good it feels to have practiced yoga
  • To ensure I take good care of myself I need to schedule in self care activities
Practical Learnings
  • How to use a potter’s wheel – I’m still very much a novice but have loved learning the basics
  • How to create a website using WordPress (with thanks to my Dad that helped a LOT!)
  • So many yoga poses and a lot more about breathing and the union aspect of yoga
  • How to make kick-ass Triple Chocolate Brownies (thanks to a fantastic kiwi recipe by Chelsea Winter)
  • More about the craft of writing through my work with my memoir and for this blog
I Learnt how to make Kick Ass Brownies
Kick Ass Brownies

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading my twenty lessons I learnt as a 35 year old. What lessons have you learnt recently? Leave a comment or get in touch to let me know.

Morning Pages as a Self Care Tool

I’ve been using Morning Pages as a self care tool since October 2015. The idea of Morning Pages is suggested by Julia Cameron in her book/course “The Artist’s Way”. You can read more about my thoughts on the Artist’s Way and what I learnt from it here.

The idea of morning pages is to journal 3 pages of longhand stream of conscious writing each morning upon waking. Get the thoughts out before the brain even knows they are thoughts. This helps clear the mind to make way for creative ideas and self expression.

How I got started with Morning Pages

Front cover Morning PagesI heard about Morning Pages before I read The Artist’s Way. It was one of those ideas that kept presenting itself to me. The final push that I needed came in the form of an online retreat. Our teacher threw out the idea of Morning Pages and suggested that we adopt them to help get our thoughts and feelings out during the 4 week retreat.

Luckily, thanks to my stationery addiction, I had some unused notebooks looking all pretty and I decided to actually write in them…gasp! And now I love the fact that writing morning pages allows me to buy new notebooks!

So I started.  To begin with I had to set a daily reminder to do it. By the time I’d reached the end of the retreat Morning Pages had become a habit and my first notebook was nearly filled up with words! It’s now second nature and feels weird if I miss it for some reason. Each morning I wake, grab my notebook and pen and fill my pages.

What I write about

I started writing Morning Pages just as we were reaching the decision to leave New Zealand and return to the UK and wrote through:

  • the angst and the stress of reaching that decision and then putting the many hard yards in to get us to the other side of the world
  • telling our family members and friends that we were returning to the UK
  • as we learnt that our beloved dog, Rhett, had cancer and it was the worst kind
  • the grief of attempting to come to terms with that
  • all the organisation required for moving from one side of the world to another
  • spirituality, happiness, unhappiness, grief, love and especially about the mundane daily annoyances of life that can sometimes weigh me down

How I’ve used Morning Pages as a self care tool

Quote Morning PagesGetting it all down on those pages helped me process it all. Some things got repeated A LOT! Some things were written once and forgotten. Themes sprung up and stayed around for a while before being set aside when something else more pressing showed up.

And over time I realised how important these pages were to me. How they helped me Find the Good Everyday. I wrote through so many thoughts, feelings, random things in my head and I came out the other side with a clearer head, usually with a plan for the day and ready to get on with it.

I think Morning Pages were the therapy that got me through a pretty stressful time in my life. I’ve brought in other self nurturing tools since I started them but it started there. That retreat and the suggestion to start writing pages began a new time in my life where I put myself first. Each morning, before I did anything for anyone else, I wrote. I wanted to be a writer and I was doing that as my first action every day.

Inspiring Creativity and Ideas

Julia Cameron suggests that Morning Pages aren’t just for writers and that the writing you do is just a process to clear your mind and free up space for creative endeavours. She suggests that you don’t share the pages with anyone and you don’t read them (at least straight away) so that your inner editor doesn’t get upset and curb you from spilling your darkest secrets onto the page.

I don’t believe for a second that any of the writing in my Morning Pages is suitable for publication but I’ve had some brilliant ideas as a result of them. And when working on a writing project very close to my heart I have read them and referred to them. My Morning Pages are a capture of me, right at certain moments in my life that have been pivotal. It’s raw and messy and it takes me back to who I was right at that moment.

When I got The Artist’s Way and read the section about Morning Pages I realised that I had been doing something quite different from the suggestion. I’d been writing 3 x A5 pages daily. But Julia Cameron talks about 3 pages of letter sized paper (the equivalent in the UK is A4). She talked about 750 words being the magic number where your brain gets bored of writing mundaneness and starts coming out with cracking ideas. So I’ve upped my word count now. I aim to write 5 x A5 pages every day.

Fuelling my love of stationery

Morning Pages journalsI’ve got through 14 notebooks. They are all different sizes and they cost different amounts. My favourite notebooks at the moment are £1 ones from Poundworld. The paper quality is fantastic for the price. And who doesn’t love metallic chevrons!

Morning Pages have also encouraged me to become even more obsessed with pens! I’ve now got several fountain pens and my favourite for my daily writing is my Lamy Safari with pink or green ink.

Morning Pages have improved my life greatly and I’d recommend them if you haven’t given them a go. You can see more about what Julia Cameron has to say about morning pages here.

Do you use Morning Pages as a self care tool? I’d love to hear from you if you’re an avid fan of morning pages or just starting out. Leave a comment or contact me to get in touch.

More Journalling Ideas

If you’re looking for some prompts and ideas to develop your journalling practice have a look at Find Your Happy. It’s a journalling workbook with twenty one prompts designed to take 10 minutes or less. Each prompt will help you find more joy in your everyday. You can read about how it came together here. And buy a copy here.

How The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron helps me Find the Good Everyday

The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron has woven its way into my day to day life and is helping me Find the Good Everyday.

What is The Artist’s Way?

Artist's Way by Julia Cameron

At the start of 2017 I worked my way through The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. It’s a book written as a 12 week course to help you creatively.
The tagline on the book reads “a course in discovering and recovering your creative self”.

The book is aimed at artists of every genre. A lot of the tasks involve writing so it’s ideally placed for someone wanting to stretch their writing muscles. But the ideas and tasks are designed for anyone who wants to develop creatively.

I chose to use the book to help me develop as a writer. One of the main teachings of the book – Morning Pages – had been a daily habit for me for around 15 months before I read and worked my way through the rest of the book. My success with Morning Pages helped me decide to commit to working my way through the whole course/book.

How I completed the work

Starting early January and  finishing in April, I worked on the book over about 14 weeks. I completed all the tasks that were set each week. Some were fun, some easy and some challenging. Some held me back (hence why it took me longer than the 12 weeks) and I had to make myself sit down and work through them.

Before I started the book I scheduled time in my calendar every Monday for a couple of hours to start work on that week.

Artists Way Week 2 Checklist

Each week I would start off by reading the week’s chapter and create a checklist of actions in my notepad. The checklist of actions always started with “Read the chapter” so I had a nice, easy win early on! I’d detail on the checklist any exercises within the chapter and then add the tasks (by number and a brief title) from the end of the chapter. Once the chapter was read and checklist written I’d work my way through it all. Some weeks I flew through the activities. Other weeks I had to keep returning to them. For tasks where I was required to do a daily activity I’d set it as a calendar item or reminder on my phone to ensure I remembered.

What I learnt

I took some key learnings from the book and I think they will continue to serve me well over my lifetime. There are several things I now do regularly as a result of the book. These are:

I loved Cameron’s links between creativity and spirituality. There’s an essay called “Attention” that explains that sometimes it requires something bad to happen in order for us to be able to pay close attention to the world around us. This  really resonated with me.

Snippet from the Artists Way

Having read reviews of the book I think the spirituality link and all the references to God (Cameron defines this as Good Orderly Direction) put some people off. I went into it with an open mind and was glad I did. The essays made me stop and think many times. And there are some I’ve repeatedly read because they’ve struck a chord with me.

Where it’s led me

My idea for this blog came from my work with The Artist’s Way. A seed was planted when I was working my way through the tasks. At the time I wished several times that I was blogging so I could do a weekly review, discuss tasks and have a record of how I was feeling through the whole experience. But I decided at the time to keep my focus on the course rather than divide my attention.

I’ve also spent the last few months working on my memoir/life story about my time in New Zealand. I had started the project before The Artist’s Way and enjoyed returning to it and continuing once I’d completed the course. Many of the things I read in The Artist’s Way helped me to cultivate my story.

Quote from the Artists Way

Over the coming weeks I will share more about my biggest takeaways from The Artist’s Way.

Have you read The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron? What did you think? Or are you keen to read it now? You can leave a comment below or contact me if you’d like to share your thoughts.

You can find out more about Julia Cameron and The Artist’s Way here.