NaNoWriMo: Week One

Woo-hoo! Day two into National Novel Writing Month. How’re we all doing so far, folks? Feeling overwhelmed yet? Exhilarated? I’m right there on the front lines, with you.

I look forward to NaNoWriMo every year there’s availability to participate. It’s really like Christmas in a sense: there’s so much mystery, so many surprises, and an overflow of excitement at the thought of starting – and completing – the 50,000 word goal in such a short amount of time as a meagre 30 days.

Reminds me of  writers, like Stephen King and Lawrence Block, who sneeze and, poof, a full manuscript seemingly appears out of nowhere. They produce volumes of work so quickly, it’s like they never sleep! Genuinely, they are Masters of the Craft.

I’m a slow writer as it is, because I overthink everything and let life drag me around by the back pocket. But the lifestyle of authorship is something so dear and important to me – as I am sure it is to all of you. So when November is near to roll around, I get super giddy and impatient. An excuse to execute my dreams and goals to actually sit down and develop discipline enough to finish something (let alone in a timely fashion) is simply just a beautiful thing.

Writers beware: whether you’re a NaNoNewbie or a celebrated veteran, the risk of burnout is real. As artists we are so hard enough on ourselves as it is, and this time of year brings a LOT of pressure into our lives – not even directly related to NaNoWriMo.

Much like anything we face day-to-day, it’s all about having perspective. We can view NaNoWriMo as a stressful fight against all odds, or we can view NaNoWriMo as a lesson that can teach us how to stay productive. Whether you’re a pantster, like me, or you’ve got a stack of notes on standby, the most important thing is to just have fun.

 

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Five Halloween Writing Prompts

There’s something very 1970s about autumn that I love. Maybe it’s the colours, intertwined with the fact that I live in an old neighbourhood. Whatever the reason, everything about this time of year just fills me to the brim: sharing Thanksgiving dinners with the people who I love; seeing couples out for walks, hand-in-hand, as the different coloured leaves all flutter to the sidewalks around them; the smell of the harvest; and the ominous whisper in the air that ghouls, and witches, and vampires just might be lurking while I sleep.

Halloween is less than two weeks upon us. It’s by far my favourite holiday of the year, due to the fact that I grew up naturally drawn to all things gothic and horror-themed. Not only is it the one time of the year my local Wal-Mart regularly merchandises a semi-wide selection of classic horror movies (usually at an affordable price!), but ideas of house redecoration that rival Morticia Addams can’t help but come to mind.

That, and the excitement for NaNoWriMo starts to kick in.

Yes, National Novel Writing Month is right around the corner. Whether this world-wide bonanza celebrating authorship and the death of procrastination fills you with vigour or dread, there is no better way to bridge the gap between now and November and prepare the creative brain-gears than some Halloween-themed writing prompts.

Obviously, you are free to do one, a couple, or all of them – however long or short you’d like. Doesn’t matter. The important thing is to at least get into the habit of writing by the seam of your pants, because come November, the terror of the word count begins.

1. I awoke to the sound of the baby monitor crackling with a voice comforting my firstborn child. As I adjusted to a new position, my arm brushed against my wife, sleeping next to me. – From Tickld

2. You are frozen with fear. You open your eyes, the tent is dark. But you can feel the heavy weight of a large tarantula covering one eye. Through the other eye you can see the shadows, from the moonlight, of hundreds, if not thousands, of other spiders covering the tent. – From Every Writer’s Resource

3. Write from the perspective of the antagonist. Give them a name and a backstory. What drove them to be the big bad in your horror story? What are their motivations? Do they have any special tattoos or scars or other sorts of branding? Where do they live? What do they have planned for their victims? What is their relationship to one another? – From Needle in the Hay

4. When we bought the house I assumed the scratches on the inside of the basement door were from a dog, but the neighbors say the previous owner didn’t have one. This morning the scratches had multiplied. – From Chicago Now

5. A hiker is trapped in a freak snowstorm but finds shelter in an old cave. As the weeks pass, he grows hungry. Water is not a problem, but he is a meat eater and he begins to look at his lower leg. “There’s a lot of good muscle on the lower leg.” He draws out his knife and prepares to do what’s necessary to survive. – From Letter Pile

Happy writing, my little ghosts and goblins! In the coming weeks we will be delving more into NaNoWriMo, and how to survive thirty days and 50,000 words of literary abandon.

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NEW: Motivation Monday

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Image Credit goes to Bridget Mc Dermott.

Embracing an artist’s life isn’t always roses and daffodils, no matter the field you’re called to. There are so many obstacles in our way: lack of time, family and work obligations, among other responsibilities. Even when we do finally sit down to hone our craft, the inner demons that are The Inner Critic and Artist’s Block rear their ugly heads.

Over the weekend, I met someone who confided in me that she is “a writer who doesn’t write”.

Well then, you’re not a writer, I thought.

All of us have that grand opus in our souls that, if only the world could see, we’d die fulfilled. It’s easy to let life distract us, take us for a ride, all while creative expression is pushed further and further away from the forefront.

But if you are determined, dedicated to pursuing the life of an artist – no matter your motivation for doing so, be it stress relief or entrepreneurship – the best, most healthiest, thing to do is become surrounded by mentors and like-minded creatives.

Introducing #MotivationMonday. Your weekly kick in the pants to  spend some time on whatever projects you are struggling with or have dreamed of, via famous quotes from the masters who have come before us.

You can do whatever you set your mind to. We all can. Let this be the start to a week of change – a week of productivity and success for you. No more excuses. Find the time and just do it.

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Admiration of the Self

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I’ve never quite taken the time to admire my body before. You see women and young girls alike do this in the mirror all the time – it is, at least in movies and TV, one of our most favourite past-times, second to chasing after abusive relationships and in deep meditation over which brand and colour of shoes we should buy this week (thankfully, this ugly trend in media is starting to shift, to great degrees of empowerment).

 

But this particular expenditure of time – admiring myself – wasn’t something I really allowed myself to do. Oh, sure, you look yourself over when doing your hair, or makeup, or whatever. You look yourself over when you’re obsessed with finding that invisible (and likely non-existent) speck of lunch between your teeth – but never have I really stopped to look at myself. To confirm myself, let fall away the flaws, to look myself seriously eye-to-eye, smile, and mean it.

 

When you’re going through a personal transformation, be it something major like realizing you’re transgender, or even something super-minor like “what would my hair look straightened today?” (okay somewhat-minor, not really), it can be difficult, sometimes near impossible, to see the bright side of uncertainty.

 

The fact is, life is full of uncertainty. People try to beat this out by indulging in the constant chase that is “knowledge”, in preparation for everything and everything. But what does this produce? Just a bunch of know-it-alls (I’m sorry, apparently they’re called experts) who, despite all their research on various topics, will still find themselves in the midst of “fight of flight” when the very realness of uncertainty comes to knock at their door.

 

On the same coin, we’re so busy as a culture self-fellating when it comes to everything “wrong” with our lives and how we don’t have enough as it is. The consistency in which we compare, contrast, judge, resent, and envy those around us, that we don’t stop enough to really look at ourselves in the mirror and accept where we’re at and, most importantly, love ourselves for where we’re at.

 

Gonna tell you a little story. So buckle in and get your Dollarama-certified reading glasses out. Ready? Got your tea or water in hand? Snacks all good? Aight.

 

Little Glass House

I was born prematurely, with a bucketful of medical issues. My mother’s cesarean brought forth an inky-dinky seven-month fetus so small, I just fit the length of my father’s hand. Underdevelopments, surgeries, complications, all to spend the first two months of my life in an incubator. Doctors were so skeptical of my survival, that my baptism took place at the hospital, with only my parents, my godmother, and the staff present – just in case.

 

But, obviously, things worked out. Whew! Turns out this 2-pounds, 5-ounce premie had been scooped out a fighter, and kicked some major ass, despite all odds.

At the time of this post’s original draft, back in 2014, I found great difficulty in confiding to friends and family about my journey to transition from male to female (which I termed “regeneration”, after binging Doctor Who episodes on Netflix), because, deep down, not being a cis-gendered woman brought me great shame. In the original draft, I wrote: Even when I do eventually come to fully regenerate, I still won’t be a cis-gendered woman. And that really kills. I had become ashamed of the body I fought so hard to keep alive.

 

Journey of Self Acualization

During that time, I’d just delved into the surface of personal development, consuming all superficial forms of “growth”, from personal Facebook feed quotes, to base self-help books, to even shows like FX’s Wilfred, starring Elijah Wood.

 

But it wasn’t enough. Fear had kept me rooted to the ground for a long time. No matter the amount of inspirational quotes, the number of personal pep rallies I’d hosted in my mind, I couldn’t move forward. Even though it was clear what had to be done and what my desires were, when time came to “fight or flight”, I couldn’t budge, couldn’t free myself.

 

Then one day, while scrolling Facebook for daily inspiration, a particular quote macro roved into eyesight and changed my attitude forever:

 

Knowing is not enough; we must Apply.
Willing is not enough; we must Do.
– Bruce Lee

 

Bruce Lee. Master of self discipline. Contemporary of self empowerment. That guy knew what had to be done, wasn’t afraid to get shit done, and didn’t care who was around to see or judge.

 

The fact is, uncertainty got the best of me. Even though I wanted more out of life, and knew I was meant for greater purpose, I was not applying myself. I was not putting into practice  tools like vulnerability that, deep down, would help me to grow in the way I needed to.

 

It’s true. I do talk to Wilfred – He’s the only one actually helping me

The best example of this is the season 2 episode of Wilfred, when Ryan consumes that imported self-reflection weed when he’s trying to figure out why Kristen’s baby freaks him out.

 

In the episode, Ryan’s high brings him to a plane of subconscious existence, where he’s met by a spirit guide. Ryan is very willing to allow himself to be led by the spirit guide. But Wilfred appears, representing Ryan’s resistance and denial, self-hate and pride – fear of the unknown – so desperate to tug Ryan back to what was safe, what was known. It’s a strange dichotomy, considering in the reality of the show, Wilfred constantly pushes Ryan out of his comfort zone, hell or high water, to guide him on a path of self acceptance and authenticity.

 

For most people, letting go of yourself is drowned out by  the torrential need need for control, the sense of fearful self-consciousness, the want to be liked and validated. It’s like attempting to keep atop a bucking rodeo bronco. But what it all comes down to is self-confidence. And most of us, while confident in certain areas in our lives, are not at all confident when it comes to our souls, our personal expression, who we truly are in the presence of others – especially in the presence of uncertainty.

 

So one day after having read that Bruce Lee quote, I made a vow to at least try to exorcize these inner demons. People do this in a dozen-thousand different ways: blogging, making art, meditating (which is a wonderful habit that you should really consider investing in).

 

What did I do? I smoked a load of weed and decided to get dressed.

 

Seriously. When it comes to the ideology of personal development the quote that “weed shows you who you are” stands firmly true in most every case. I’m not going to wax poetic on the benefits of toking – because, let’s be honest, Cheech and Chong’s fan base do enough of that already on the duo’s respective Facebook pages – but what I will say is that marijuana put me in tune with me – intense negative feelings, insecurities, self-destructive thoughts – complete awareness of depression. These were the demons that needed to be tangled with.

 

The Power of Self Compels You

My choice of wardrobe had every little bit a part in this downward spiral of toxicity in my life. Usually I throw on jeans, a t-shirt, and sometimes some plaid flannel. I’d fall into “guy mode” and automatically fit the behavioral bill in an attempt at “survival”, whatever that meant.

 

But that day, I decided to wear whatever in the blue blazing hell I damn well wanted to. There were old goth clothes I’d only worn a couple of times, that no longer really fit anymore. I said fuck it and put them on, anyway. When I took a look in my parents’ full-sized closet mirrors, I froze for a moment. Paused, like a movie.

 

The person who stared back wore a fearless expression. Her eyes were confident, hard-set, with a resting bitch face that could send Agatha Trunchbull, herself, out a classroom window. This reflection wasn’t anybody I’d recognized before. She looked damn good. A smile broke across her face. She was confident as all fuck.

 

I’ve never felt confident in my life, and I could see it so clearly in my eyes, my posture. I looked like a strong woman. An empowered woman. I looked myself in the eye. These were my eyes. They were not sad eyes. These were the eyes of confidence. I saw before me a woman who was sure of herself, who accepted herself as she was – flaws and all. Despite the “threat” of uncertainty, this woman didn’t even bat a goddamn eye.

 

My reflection smiled at me, and meant it.

 

Just Leap off the Edge, My Love – and Fly

If you’re a person who struggles with self acceptance, who wants desperately to find fulfillment in self-love but doesn’t know how to achieve it, don’t despair. We’re all in this together. All it takes is a solid look in the mirror. It’s easy to focus on the negative aspects of our bodies, be we cis-gendered or transgendered. But that sort of focus doesn’t help. Work towards seeing yourself for you, not judgmental of whatever stares back in your reflection, and stand tall in that.

 

Stand tall in your you-ness. Accept yourself for who you are, for where your at. Don’t let the fear of uncertainty get you between its claws. It takes a lot of hard work and a ton of dedication, but it IS POSSIBLE to break free, to shine in your you-ness.

 

All it takes is the courage to stand in front of the mirror and tell whatever stares back that self-appointed love and acceptance are readily available.

 

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Short story “Judah Starling” now available on Amazon Kindle

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Hot off the press! Check out my short story “Walk With Me, Judah Starling” now available on Amazon’s kindle service! KDP Unlimited subscribers read for free. 😉

“Judah Starling” is a story about purgatory and the afterlife. Heavy stuff that will make a reader think after they’re done with it. LOTS of room for interpretation, and that’s how stories like this should go. One of my personal favourites; I’m super proud of this piece (as I am all my work), and I hope it comes to be a favourite of yours, too.

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