Colorado Loving, NaNoWriMo, and What I’m Thankful For

Belated Happy Thanksgiving to you all! Unfortunately, November became the month that I didn’t write a blog post. *sulks*

And somehow, it’s now already December. HOW. WHAT. WHYYY.

I guess since it’s a new month/THE END OF THE FREAKING YEAR, why not kick it off with the truckload of good energy courtesy of the magical, hectic month that was November? There were many things and many travels, so for organization’s sake, let’s break it down into three parts:

COLORADO:

Because my CPs and I clearly can’t stand to be away from each other for more than five minutes (it’s a problem), we all decided to meet up in gorgeous Colorado for a cabin-in-the-woods style writing retreat in honor of NaNoWriMo! And let me tell you, it may have been the best and worst decision of my life. Best, because I got to actually meet more of my lovely writing buds in person (Amanda, Erin, and Katy), see Maddy and Akshaya after a hardcore month of separation (again, we seriously have a problem), and enjoy the wonderful environment of Colorado with them all! And of course it was also the worst decision, because I NEVER WANTED TO LEAVE.

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Just the casual morning view . . . WTF

Not only was the scenery amazingly gorgeous, but the FOOD. Oh god, I think I more bemoan the fact that I will probably never eat as good as I did there, given that my friends are total food maestros.

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Maddy working some culinary magic, and a great big pitcher of caramel apple sangria

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Fancy grilled cheesing all day every day

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Friendsgiving *salivates*

And of course . . .

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THE BLESSED BAKED BRIE

For the most part, we had very well-balanced and expertly-crafted meals. After living off of mostly coffee and toast since that’s all I can ever seem to make, my body most definitely appreciated how I briefly lived in a cabin filled with fancy-pants chefs. But in the end, I always had the most love for this kind of end-of-the-day spread:

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The happiest of hours!

And we most definitely would not have made it through the day without copious amounts of this:

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CHEESE, GLORIOUS CHEESE

Okay, I’ll stop before this post turns into an impromptu ode to food. But I can’t help but feel so grateful for every meal since they were all such wonderful incentives to get through the day (is that sad?) and fantastic brain fuel for us writers. Although we were left to our own devices for most of the time, we stuck to certain daily rites to help get the productivity going.

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Daily goals board, complete with inspirational quote and decorative art

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Accomplishments board, which may or may not have slid into pure artistic chaos (i.e. Maddy’s celebratory drawing)

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Aw man, how I miss waking up to this usual morning view

And from then on, we would go off into our own writing nooks to get work done, with many a cheese break in between. Many.

But we weren’t just mindless writing machines for this entire trip (though we should’ve tried to be). We saw many animals and shooting stars, sang way too much Disney together, had multiple round-table discussions regarding Avatar and Hogwarts Houses, survived a lil storm called AJAX, went to a super awesome book signing, and a lot more. The evidence is all below.

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Impromptu baby hike in the snowy trails

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AJAX WAS HERE

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That night I slayed Maddy with all the jokes

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LILY AND JAMES SIGHTING ❤ #patronuslove

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Crazy horse with crazy eyes

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The absolute coolest way to plot a novel! Courtesy of the foxy Amanda and Maggie Stiefvater’s tarot cards

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I got to meet MARISSA MEYER. And promptly told her how her blog/journey to publication inspired me SO much in my own journey. I fangirled pretty hard.

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Of course, I couldn’t leave the bookstore without purchasing these beauties

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And then of course, we couldn’t leave the store without taking some pics aka proof that we actually hung out with each other

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I call this one “Random Assortment of Emojis”

Clearly, mayhem in the purest form ensued. It was the greatest way to start the first half of November, and I really wish I had the smarts to build a time machine to go back and do it all over again! Or, maybe just build a teleportation device to see my lovely writer buddies since we’re pretty much scattered all across the country. All in all, this trip taught me two very important things: 1) I have amazing friends. 2) I just have to keep writing.

NANOWRIMO:

As it’s already December (meep), NaNo has come to its end . . . but that doesn’t mean it’s over in the slightest! People who know me and my pantsing ways can conclude that I LOVE NaNo. It’s helped me finish my novels over the past few years, and this time of the season in general remained a wildly creative period for me. As mentioned before, I was crazy lucky to be able to start off NaNo with a bunch of fantastically creative people. With all those writerly energies just swirling about the cabin, it was impossible not to feel motivated to get work done each and every day.

But this year was a bit different for me. Because I wanted to take the time to get through more revision stuff for pirate fantasy, I was unable to start my shiny new NaNo WIP (which I’m now just affectionately calling phantom fantasy) until mid-November.

And guess what—I did not make it to 50k by the end. Even though I was pounding out alllllll the words everyday, Thanksgiving ultimately brought a sledgehammer to my steady NaNo flow. On the night of November 30th, I ended up with around 37k words. And for a brief moment, I was SUPER down on myself.

How could I have broken my successful NaNo streak? How could I have let the siren call of pies and turkey keep me from losing my wordcount momentum!?

And you know what, I just took a deep breath and a step back. I put a lid on that kind of thinking just as instantly as it started trickling through. I can’t let myself think about this in terms of winning and losing. NaNo is all about progress and pushing yourself. Sure there’s a deadline, but it’s more for motivation’s sake than anything. It’s not like just because November is over that I’m going to stop writing this new novel. Hell no! Nothing could stop me from writing this since I’m still very much in love and excited with the story! And in fact, when I think about it, I didn’t even start writing at the beginning of November—which technically means I haven’t fully completed a NaNo period, but also sheds light on how much I’ve accomplished in just half of a month.

So instead of bullying myself on the morning of December 1st, I gave myself a pat on the back. When it comes down to it, progress is always progress, and I’m so satisfied with how much I’ve made in the month of November regardless of the fact that I’ll probably have to rewrite A LOT of it. All that I’ve written so far has been rewarding enough, all the glorious 37k of it.

Even though I’ve won NaNo in the past, I know hands down that The Year I “Lost” ranks as my favorite—because instead of remembering those past times of achieving all the wordcount goals by toiling away at my computer alone in my room like a hermit cave dweller, I think more about my progress and spending a great chunk of November surrounded by my writing herd.

THANKSGIVING:

Okay, last one. And probably the shortest.

After the Colorado madness in the first half of November, we jumped straight into Thanksgiving afterward. This year, I went to Long Island to visit family, and I came out with many a food coma. It was absolutely wonderful.

But I felt even luckier this year since I technically celebrated Thanksgiving twice—one with family, and one with friends aka my first Friendsgiving! Both gave me the chance to reflect on the wonderful moments of this year, but I don’t think a day goes by where I’m not constantly thankful for all of it. 2015 has been one of the best, most memorable years of my life, by far. I let writing take the front seat, met my amazing group of writing friends who totally get me, and have been able to add a lot more exciting stops on my journey to publication than I ever thought possible. And this year, I feel a lot less alone in it.

It all sounds ridiculously sappy now that I’m typing it out, but it’s true. This is the year I found my herd, and I’m so thankful to be in this with them every step of the way now.

To end this on an even sappier note (because who doesn’t love more sap), I cracked open a fortune cookie shortly after my trip to Colorado. I’m one of those people who LOVES opening fortune cookies, but lately I’ve been getting ridiculous fortunes that have absolutely no relevance to life whatsoever. But when I opened this one, this little gem popped out:

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I know, I’m about the biggest sap master right now, but it just brought the hugest smile on my face to get this fortune in light of all the duds I’d gotten lately! So to my writing cabbages, if you’re reading this, I’m enormously thankful for you all. The proof is most definitely in the fortune cookie.

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Enter the Writing Cave (at your own risk)

No joke.

Writers who write know that the cave is not all sunshine and rainbows of endless creativity. I mean, I guess it can be in some way. Entering the writing cave can be like a fun, exciting creative pillow you get to fall on when you’re feeling crazy-inspired and productive. Or, it can be a soul-sucking black hole of hours gone and hours spent in pajamas and looking at a screen, typingtypingtyping, and wondering wtf you’re doing. Lucky me, I experience both, and it tends to veer toward the Dementor-like black hole side.

*also, on a Harry Potter note, moment of silence in memory of the Battle of Hogwarts*

I fall into writing caves A LOT. And when I do that, it will be as if I disappeared from the world. Seriously. I’ll pop my head out of the cave for food, of course. But when I’m trapped in that writing-frenzy where I just NEED to work on my story for my own sanity, you will just never hear from me again . . .

Just kidding. While I do hold my writing as my priority, it is healthy and good for the headspace to just step back and venture into the real world sometimes—which I have been doing these past weeks (*snaps for me*) in an effort to keep the writing cave from sucking my soul entirely.

I saw sun, breathed in fresh air, rediscovered civilization . . . okay, too dramatic. But I did go out a bunch of times and met up with old friends who I hadn’t seen in an obscene amount of time (three trillion guesses why), and it felt nice to leave the writer home. However, it was also nice to come back after a few hours away.

Sometimes falling into the writing cave is amazing for when you just need to pound out words and get the story-train chugging along. That’s my favorite writing cave. But sometimes there’s the risk of getting in too deep to a point where you start feeling out of the loop with the world, losing track of reading books, separation anxiety with your computer, or delay catching up on other interests for weeks on end because every free moment is devoted to your story. I’m totally guilty of that, so to be more proactive in trying to poke my head out of the writing cave every so often, here are some updates sans(-ish) writing.

Reading Things: Disclaimer: I am horrendously behind on my Goodreads challenge. What part of me thought that reading 90 books this year would be a good idea? It was super easy in the past, but now not so much. However, I refuse to admit defeat just yet! I recently read a cool graphic novel called Cairo by G. Willow Wilson, a wonderful NA titled Maybe Someday by Colleen Hoover (GREAT recc, Akshaya!! We must discuss!), and I’m currently getting into a YA Fantasy Snow Like Ashes by Sara Raasch. Still, there are soooo many books on the TBR list, though. But to be fair, it is a mountain that cannot be conquered because it keeps growing. Hopefully I can get back into that obsessive reading frenzy as I do with writing to knock out some books on the list.

Television Things: I’ve been watching A LOT of Netflix and Dancing with the Stars, and I am totally not ashamed of it. I love dancing shows and movies, which is an obsession in itself that garners its own post. I’ll probably do another post on my television watches, just because I love lining them all up with funny little gifs. But for the sake of this post, the TV front is still pretty healthy.

Music Things: Further proof that I am obsessed with Dancing with the Stars. Here’s something that’s not on my writing playlist, but I have been listening to it on an unholy repeat because it just makes me so happy. And, of course, DWTS.

Riker and Allison are my faves, just saying. Plus they did a PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN Paso Doble, which made me love them even more. If they don’t win, my tantrum will be heard all across the universe.

Social Media/World Things: Today, William and Kate brought a baby girl into the world! This to me is just sooo crazy, only because when I was last in London I was there during the pivotal time when Prince George was born. And boy was it crazy. The pubs were all celebrating the birth, Buckingham Palace was swarming with crowds right after, and EVERYONE in general was just so excited about the baby that it was like all of London was anxiously pacing in the waiting room as one big family. It’s blows my mind that now they have a princess–I guess it’s infectious because I’m unreasonably excited for them too!

Along with having a ton of other work-related things to do this week, with these updates and all the venturing into the outside world I’ve been doing, it’s been a solid period of not letting the writing cave suck me back in too too much.

Nah man, I’m good