Tag Archives: Fall

Gearing Up for a 30 Day Workout

nano_09_red_participant_100x100_1“[W]riting is physical,” Natalie Goldberg says in her book, Writing Down the Bones (p.50). I, along with many of my other NaNoWriMo participant colleagues (I think), would agree.

Last year at this time, I dove – head on – into writing. I’d been talking about writing all summer. I registered for a writing class that would take place just after the new year. And, in a rare move contradictory to my no-risk personality, I signed up for NaNoWriMo. Even more surprising, I wrote a somewhat lucid story that inched passed the 50,000 word count. Up until the moment the purple NaNo word meter hit the 50,000 mark and flashed “you’re a winner,” I authored only short, undeveloped stories that barely registered 1000 words.

This year, I signed up for NaNoWriMo by accident. Really. I logged on to my account to check up on an old message in my inbox. When a window full of legalese popped up and asked if I would accept, I thought, sure, I’ve been here before. Click.

Wait. Accept? Accept what? Oh, boy.

I tabbed over to my author info page. Sure enough, that little purple line was back down to zero. It stared me in the face, like a digital taunt, daring me to try again.

I’ve had to remind myself, as the days inch toward November 1st, that NaNoWriMo is another exercise in writing. Natalie Goldberg emphasizes the importance of exercise when she says “[t]he rule for writing practice of “keeping your hand moving,” not stopping, actually is a way to physically break through your mental resistances and cut through the concept that writing is just about ideas and thinking” (p.50). She, of course, means pen-to-paper. But, I believe, in translating her philosophy to hand-to-keyboard, NaNoWriMo offers a 30-day plan to whip my writer’s mind in shape: “cut through” my tendency to think too hard about a story, pound out 2000 words a day (on a good day), and see what becomes of the characters and the work.

NaNoWriMo is initiation by fire for those writers who want to come out of hiding. It’s a test of tolerance and discipline. And, it’s an intervention with your mind’s editor, a reason to send her away for the next 30 days. If writing 50,000 words of one story makes you want to take a nap, if you’d rather dream up your story than put it down on “paper,” remember writing is an art to be learned and practiced. No good story comes out perfect the first time around. I’ve heard it over and over, but my stubborn (sometimes egotistical) mind refuses to listen.

To combat that stubbornness, I’ll take on another 30-day challenge of late nights, fast typing, sweat, and a maybe a few tears. Oh, and fun. NaNoWriMo is supposed to be fun!


Natalie Goldberg, Writing Down the Bones (Boston, MA: Shambhala Publications, Inc, 1986), p. 50.

The Boardwalk.

It’s Wednesday, mid-week, and the sun refuses to cut the chill in the air. But, that’s okay, because the day fits Wednesday’s word.

sorrel. noun: a light reddish-brown color.
(from Wordsmith.org, Today’s word)

Wordsmith chooses their word of the day based on a theme every week. This week’s theme is Autumn colors. There’s more to the definition of sorrel. But, I’m sticking with the color, as colors often match a mood.

File this under Flash Fiction.
It’s difficult to explain how this story surfaced – something about colors in nature leads to healing. For someone who’s a cynic most of the time, that sounds awfully dramatic. Still, that’s where sorrel took me today.


For a long time – after the incident, the accident, the misunderstanding – my body misbehaved.

It twitched and recoiled and my hair fell out.

I stopped listening to the radio. It was easier, that way, to avoid the certain pitch that sent my brain into a momentary spasm, the same way it cringed the first time I heard that pitch. It was the night of the incident, when the second verse switched to the chorus of that song blaring in the background. Or, was it the pitch of the scream that burst from my mind to my mouth but was stopped short by the palm of a hand?

For months after, my eyes bounced from the ground to the horizon and back to the ground. I watched my feet as they moved along the sidewalk, until I caught sight of a rusty grate along the curb. The rust of the grate brought back an image of brown hidden beneath peeling paint on a radiator against the bedroom wall. My eyes darted away from the grate and up to the top of the street. When the sun came out from behind a building, my eyes stung. I blinked, and all I saw was the bedroom. I looked down again in search of my shoes.

I found clumps of hair on my pillow each morning. In the shower, the drain clogged up faster than usual. I wondered, how much more will I lose? My reflection in the mirror resembled a worn painting: frozen in time, the colors faded, a lack of definition. I stared at my wispy hair and my weak reflection and thought in time I might disappear.

But, it was color that brought me back into focus. My sandwich sat, unwrapped but untouched, on a picnic table where ate lunch one day. The leaves rustled and disturbed my cushion of quiet. I turned toward the sound and saw a sign that said “Boardwalk.” I folded my sandwich back up in the plastic wrap and put it in my coat pocket. I followed the boardwalk through swampland and marshland, past cattails as tall as me. An opening in the weeds showed a bright green layer of algae atop a small body of water. I circled the shore to the other side. I sat down near the green under a canopy of trees. I closed my eyes and breathed in the cool, damp air of Fall. The leaves blew together, rose to a crescendo, and again beckoned me to look.

At the edges, the leaves were brown and dry. But further in, close to the lifeblood of the tree, there was gold and red and even green.


I admit, this Wednesday’s word isn’t my favorite. I like the word, but the story needs work. Click the Wordsmith link above yourself, read the definitions of sorrel, and see if the word inspires a better story worthy of your own blog post. If so, shoot me the link in a comment. I’d love to read it.

Do you calendar your creativity?

It’s raining today. And, rain makes me pensive.

When I think too much, I generally come up with too  many questions. Lately, my mind keeps cycling through the same topics, and I’m not coming up with any clear answers. So, my fellow writers, I’m putting my questions out to you.

It’s fall. The leaves are changing. The air is crisp. It’s harvest time.

And, in the writing world, the time is ripe for submissions. Several great literary magazines open their windows for unsolicited manuscripts or essays. Writing contests abound. Where do I start? How do I prioritize? How much quality writing time can I squeeze into my schedule?  I formulate my writing plan on Monday. On Tuesday, I change it.

How do you plan? Or, maybe you don’t. Maybe you just write whenever the story strikes, about whatever rises to the surface. Maybe writing contests and calls for submissions never figure in to your plan.

Really, I want to know.

  • Do you open your calendar at the beginning of the week and pencil in an hour or two of writing every day?
  • Do you work up a stack of great stories you’ve written before you ever look at calls for submissions?
  • Or, do you siphon through the list of writing contests and your favorite literary magazines or sites first, and then challenge yourself to write a story that fits?

Better yet, do you waste your precious writing time trying to figure out your perfect plan for writing?