Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Let the Nanowriming Begin!

Today, the race to 50k begins and this isn't about money; it's about word count.

National Novel Writing Month, a.k.a "Nanowrimo" begins today, November 1st. This is a time when dreamers, procrastinators, and other literary professionals or aspirants strap on their goggles, crack their knuckles, charge their computers, and buy an extra flash drive in hopes of writing 50,000 words of a novel.  If you've always wanted to write, but didn't know how to start - this is the event for you.

Here are a few pointers to get you through the month of "literary abandon."

1.  It's a numbers game.  Don't get hung up on quality, brilliance, or genius - the goal is to push your way through to 50,000 words and to prove to yourself that you're physically able to bang out this many words.

2.  Plot will work itself out.  Yes, it's ideal to have a sense of where Point A begins and where Point B might be, but the thrill of Nanowrimo often lies within the Points of Interest you happen upon along the way.  Let yourself be surprised! Let your characters do "uncharacteristic" things!

3.  Focus.  The Nanowrimo forums can be fun and informative, but beware!  An hour can go by and you will not have boosted your word count a smidge.  Time is of the essence.  You've got 11 months out of the year to resume normal procrastinating activities.  This month is all about focus.

4. Starting is much more difficult than finishing.  In my three attempts at Nanowrimo (two of them successfully completed, thank you very much.), I have found that racking up the word count is much more tedious at the beginning of the month than at the end of the month.  I liken this to exercise.  When you're out of shape, you'll feel sore those first few days, but then the body acclimates and you're good to keep going.  Also, the beginning is where you're finding your voice and direction; trying stuff out.

5.  Beef up your word count ASAP.  In light of Tip #4, aim for a word count that is a bit higher than the 1,667 daily average word count goal.  First, it'll get you firmly on your way to telling your story so that you're not hopelessly floundering by November 10th with a measly 5,000 words.  Secondly, you'll provide some padding (and hope) for those days, like Thanksgiving, when you won't have time to baste the turkey, eat your pie, watch football, and get your word count in.

6.  The first 10,000 words are the most difficult to write.  You'll bang your head on the keyboard more in the beginning than at any other time.  The next 15,000 words are a bit less painful, and once you've hit the 25k mark, well, as they say, "It's all downhill from here."

7.  The finish line is worth it.  The whole event is free, so there's no monetary penalty or incentive associated with Nanowrimo. However, winning - crossing the 50k finish line - and grabbing your Winner's certificate and goodies is awesome!  After one month, you will have put in the effort and thoroughly earned the treats rewarded at the end.

When you do cross the finish line, let me know how your journey was!

Good luck!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Care Now!

Does your insurance cover dental care?
This weekend I caught a snippet on public radio about a nonprofit organization, CareNow! that was hosting a huge, free 4-day health clinic at the L.A. Sports Arena.  Thousands of people showed up (including Dr. Oz, although likely as a supporter rather than as a patient).  Surprisingly, according to the interview, about half of the attendees did have some kind of insurance.  However, their insurance was not sufficient enough to cover all healthcare needs, for example, dental care.

It brings to mind a line in the Declaration of Independence, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."

Access to health care, to me, seems to be an essential element in achieving life, liberty, and happiness.  I worry when health care becomes a commodity - an item for sale - and the cost for it pushes up, making it more and more unattainable.

I am thankful that organizations like CareNow! exist to step in and fill this very visible need.  But I worry, too, about how heavily our nation relies on volunteerism and goodwill to provide essential needs.  Do we have abundance in our nation that can keep the non-profit sector and generous giving afloat?  With the current state of economy, how long can it last?  I think I can say that every single person I know who lives in the U.S. donates some kind of time, talent, or treasure to our societal needs at large.  How much longer will this be sustainable?

For now, I will continue to applaud and support the efforts of those like CareNow!  The urgency is palpable. The need is here and it is now.

Monday, October 24, 2011

TED, Toast, and Gilbert

Some people will claim that good things come in 3s.  For example, if you have a question - throw it out to the world and wait for the answers to come back to you.  If there are three separate instances confirming a certain response, then you know what to do.

My group of three came through the mail last week in one neat little bundle.  On the cover of Toastmaster magazine was a photo of Elizabeth Gilbert and the headline read, "TED TALKS and the World Listens."

Point #1:  My husband has been a member of Toastmasters for about a year and in that time, I have witnessed his confidence and skill grow in public speaking.  I saw him present his fifth speech and flabbergasted, I thought, "Who is this guy?"  I was impressed.  Since that speech, I have been reading the Toastmaster magazine faithfully, which is chocked full of great tips, not only about public speaking, but about leadership, volunteering, and creative ways to make positive change in the world.

Point #2:  This summer I saw a video of a TED talk.  This was my first exposure to TED which is essentially 18-minute talks on a variety of topics with the intention to inspire, question, or think outside the box.  Since TED was placed on my radar, the blips have been steady.  Colleagues mentioned Krista Tippett, who is all over TED and a friend mentions Jill Bolte Taylor and her talk, Stroke of Insight. On my own I discovered Joan Halifax.  If I want to ponder a subject, I know to turn to TED for some thought-provoking discussion.

Point #3:  I think Elizabeth Gilbert is a great writer and I admire how she creates through language.  When I saw that she was giving a talk on creativity, I was quick to click.

So what do all three of these things have in common?

For me, they reflect my values of empowerment, positivity, and passion, all tied up with a bow of authenticity.  All three resonate: practice, be creative, don't be afraid, be curious, ask questions, do the work - and maybe there is a bit of magical dust - some mysterious, yet powerful, stuff binding us together, urging us to do amazing things thought unimagineable - floating around, after all.

That answered my question.  Hopefully it answers some of yours.