Tuesday was the first day of November and for the first time since 2012 I’m not going to undertake NaNoWriMo. I started doing this marathon drafting challenge when I didn’t yet know how to write novels.
A little over a year after I started this blog, the same time that I left a job I resented in favour of going back to uni. I did my first 50,000 words in a month, and since then I’ve done NaNoWriMo ten times, each time I reached my target. Cumulatively I’ve got 500,000 words from these sprints.
This year, I finished editing a manuscript in the last couple of days of October, and I thought about NaNo. I could have worked on a manuscript I started earlier in the year which is a little under 50k words, for Nano, or I could have started a new project. But instead I decided to start working on fun, possibly a novella or short novel. It’s a story a friend and I came up with for a film, one day we might make it, but novels are my bread and butter, so it seemed easiest to get my thoughts and ideas into a shape by writing it as narrative fiction.
The habits and skills I’ve developed over my years doing NaNo will never leave me. I am so glad I have learned to write first (and fast) and edit later–I find it so much easier to shape something when it’s all there, with an ending, than going over what you did last session, fiddling with it, then switching to write something new. I can sprint now, in half an hour I can get up to 1000 words, something I would never have been able to do before.
It feels strange to leave behind something that has been such a prominent feature in my calendar. I put it in my goals for 2022, but now November is here, I don’t have the energy or the determination to make it work. Last year’s version I aimed for 30k instead of the traditional 50k, and it was still tough. It feels right to let this go.
I’ll probably keep NaPoWriMo, the poem a day challenge in April, as I don’t write much poetry outside of that month. I enjoy the prompts, even when I ignore them, and it’s a good boost to my poetic productivity. For fiction, I don’t need it. I am producing at least one novel a year, which is my aim, and it looks like I’ll be able to continue that for the foreseeable future. There might be a time later where staying inside writing every day seems like a good idea, but it’s not going to happen this year. Post-covid restlessness maybe?
I think it shows growth that I’m not cramming all my output into one month, and instead am able to get 100k or more over spread through the year. Or it might just be that, after ten times, my competitive urge has faded. I also can’t rule out that I got old and tired.
Whatever the reason, I have a fun horror story brewing, perhaps I’ll make a collection, and a half-finished romantic comedy novel to keep my readers entertained after Singular Purpose. What good is being a writer if I’m not entertaining myself first? Comment below if you have any creepy pasta stories rattling around that might make a good addition to my horror collection.
Stay safe, and if you’re in Melbourne try to stay warm and dry until the weather sorts itself out and we get to have a summer of some kind.
I’ve been a bit quiet here on the blog, not for any reason apart from life getting the better of my time, including starting a new day job.
Yesterday I was lucky enough to attend the book launch for my friend and poet, John Lowe’s collection Houndstooth. It was held at Brighton Library, a bit of a trek for me but worth it, and attended by around thirty people, friends, family, fellow writers.
I know John from my poetry group, I’ve workshopped various poems with him for several years, and have enjoyed the opportunity to give and receive feedback.
John was introduced by Chris Ringrose, a poet, academic, and member of our group. His insight were helpful in gaining a deeper understanding of the poetry in the collection.
I decided to mask, even though it’s not required. I go out into the world a lot more these days, I still wear my mask most of the time in large groups and in shops.
It’s too early to claim that we’re back to a pre-plague way of life, and we need to keep safe as we need to but it’s so lovely to be able to go out, to support the arts, especially the work of people I know.
For the last thirty days I have been participating in the NaPoWriMo challenge. I have undertaken this challenge the last few years, and have found it valuable if not always easy.
This year I followed the prompts for each day, all except for the final day as I’m up in Sydney visiting a friend and didn’t have access to the poetry books at home to do a cento. Also, a cento seemed like a lot of work choosing lines from other poems to collate into a new one.
It has been strange travelling in this COVID-conscious world. The daily case numbers in Sydney are comparable to Melbourne, but mask wearing up here is much less common than at home. I guess we’re all still a bit traumatised after our two long lockdowns.
It was strange thinking about getting on a plane to come up here, but once I was there waiting to board it seemed normal. Most people were masked in the terminal, maybe 75%, and they were very clear on the plane that masks were mandatory. It was fully booked, so I wasn’t used to being so close to so many people, but I coped.
I’ve written a few good poems as part of this year’s NaPoWriMo challenge, and a few that might not make the cut. I’m sure you’ll see a few on this blog in the coming months and maybe in the next poetry chapbook I release (no dates for that, it’s still in the concept phase).
I hope you’re all doing well in the change of seasons; the weather has been varied to say the least. At least up here in Sydney I don’t need to worry so much whether I have a jacket and umbrella with me.
April is my poetry writing month, as I undertake the Na/GloPoWriMo a month-long poetry challenge initiated by Maureen Thorson on the model of NaNoWriMo. Each day Maureen presents a prompt, relating to content, or form, or sometimes both.
I have written poetry since I was an angsty teen, some of my previous work still exists on my old website, as well as in my chapbook, Smells Like Teen Angst, but I often don’t make time for it, outside of April. I’m a member of a poetry workshop/collective, and I have been workshopping poems from last year’s NaPoWriMo all the way up to the start of this year’s challenge.
I’m heading out to the northwest of Melbourne to a writers’ retreat on the weekend. I’m looking forward to the stimulation and to the potential networking opportunities. I hope that I can get value from the content, as I haven’t worked with the organisers before. If nothing else, I will try to enjoy a weekend in the country. Maybe they will have a big bath that I can relax in, or a piano.
In my life outside of writing, I’ve resigned from my day job and will be starting a new day job after Easter. I’ve been working for the same organisation for almost six years, and it feels very strange preparing to leave it now. A lot has changed over that time; I’ve had three different managers, and we’ve been moved around departments a number of times, but a lot has stayed the same too. I won’t go into too many details, but I’m both excited and a little nervous about the new role. It’s with a similar organisation doing a similar job, hopefully with some more seniority.
Many of my colleagues have expressed their gratitude for the work I do, a couple have said I can’t leave, which I assume means something similar. The relationships I’ve forged with the people there have been the highlight, and one of the reasons I’ve been able to stay on so long. I’m sorry to leave the organisation, there will be a bit of messiness in the transition to a new person in my role, but I hope they’ll be able to structure things in a way that benefits everyone.
April seems to be a time for beginnings and endings. Closing one door allows another to open, I’m feeling pumped to find out what’s on the other side of this one. I might even be inspired to put up one of my daily poems too.
Each year I do a little wrap up post about the last twelve months and how they’ve gone for me. 2020 was, as I’m sure it was for many of you, a shit show. 2021 started out hopeful, I went back to working in the office sometimes, I saw a couple of Melbourne Comedy Festival shows and a few band nights and gigs around town.
I even managed to get through the year without testing positive for COVID which is nice; I’m not sure I’ll be able to say the same for next year. Our case numbers are in the thousands per day, but with over 90% of the population vaccinated, it seems hopeful that we’ll be able to stay open even with new variants.
I set my expectations pretty low, after 2020 I wanted to feel confident I would tick some of them off, even if there was another long lockdown. Turns out I was right to be sceptical that our freedom would last; from May until October, we were all stuck inside again and we’re only allowed out now because of high vaccination rates.
Put on a third Melbourne Fringe Festival show (October)*
Wasted Monday performances*
I achieved all my goals, except for the Fringe Show. If I’m honest, I’m not sure I would have done a show this year even without lockdown. There is a lot of joy in putting on a Fringe show, but an enormous amount of work. I’m focussing my energy on my writing, music, and doing some painting as well. I have three murals in my apartment now and have moved on to smaller boards that can be kept or given away to friends.
I took up piano lessons late in 2020, online only at the time since we were still in lockdown then. After a little over a year, I’m enjoying playing and tinkering on the piano. I might even build a repertoire so I can do some open mic nights with the keyboard – although the keyboard’s pretty massive so transporting it will be a pain. My piano teacher has organised two small concerts in 2021 with her adult students, and I have really enjoyed having an audience again, as well as being able to play two or three gigs with Wasted Monday when we were allowed.
My work that can be done at home has been pretty consistent, I have drafted about 80k of a new novel, and I have two novels that will be ready for publication in 2021 (stay turned for title and cover reveals).
Though I did a 30k goal for NaNoWriMo, I’m counting it. It’s been a tough year and my writing practice is pretty solid, so I don’t need to rely on November to make up the lion’s share of my first draft output.
My ankle, which was smashed when I was struck by a car in January 2020, is largely recovered, though there is some long-term damage and it’s never going to be back to the way it was. The biggest issue I have nowadays is chronic back pain, likely a secondary injury from the ankle problem. I find it hard to work when I’m in pain, a sentiment I’m sure many of you share.
I’m pleased to say my relationships–with friends, family and work colleagues–have remained solid for the duration, I am so grateful to have so many fantastic people around me. Even when we couldn’t see anyone in real life, I knew you were all there, at the end of the phone or over text.
My grandmother passed in September, she was 94, so had a good run. The funeral was weird, because we were in lockdown and had only two people in the chapel, and a few more watching online. Most other things have ticked along, in some cases limped along during lockdown, but have largely survived. I feel hopeful that 2022 will be enjoyable, possibly going out of the house more often, perhaps I’ll even be able to have a holiday outside of Victoria.
I wish you all health, happiness, relaxation and fulfilment, for the next year and beyond. The next post will include my new year goals.
It’s a collection of eleven poems, some of which have appeared here on the blog, others which have not been published. I would encourage you all to head over to your preferred ebook supplier and purchase a copy.
I am selling printed zine versions, but these will be only available from me directly, feel free to email me for a copy at 99c (Australian) plus postage.
If you enjoy my poems, I have another poetry chapbook, My Body. No Apology. also available in ebook format from all the usual places.